Before I tell you the name of this social network, think for a second about your marketing budget.
How much are you investing in Facebook? Twitter? LinkedIn?
Don’t think just in terms of money.
How much time are you investing in each of those?
If you could get 93% of the results with a single social network, are you willing to invest your time and money where you can get the best results for the least amount of effort?
According to research by the Keller Fay Group, only 7 percent of word of mouth occurs online. The other 93% occurs offline.
You know… Face-to-face, people talking to other people.
In other words, if you want to grow your business with more referrals, you may need to start focusing your energy on getting your customers to start talking about you OFFLINE.
How to leverage the original social network
It comes down to this, how do you get your customers to talk about your business and tell their friends?
The book, Contagious: Why Things Catch On, by Jonah Berger lists out a 6 step process he calls STEPPS to make your ideas interesting so people want to talk more about them and tell others. It’s loaded with examples of contagious ideas like:
- A “secret” bar in NYC that does no advertising and you enter through a secret door in a phone booth.
- The book company that sends 2 copies of pre-print books to prominent figures whom it would like to receive an endorsement. The second book is for them to share with a colleague to get them used to recommending it.
- The discount luxury goods website that ditched the standard online discount retailer and replaced it with a “members only” online discount luxury retailer that you have to be accepted into.
- The gourmet Philadelphia restaurant that offered a $100 cheesesteak sandwich to get people talking about their new restaurant. They got featured in USA Today because of it.
These are all great ideas, however let me break it down with some simple actions you can take in any service-based business.
3-Step Process to get Your Customers Talking about You
- Ask – Find out which customers LOVE you and which are just satisfied. Online survey’s are a great, low-cost way to do this with your customer base.
- Segment – Find out which customers have already recommended you and which would never recommend you.
- Develop Exclusivity – Give a limited number of special offers and services to your top customers for them to share with their friends and family.
In one Nebraska business, we sent out written surveys with self-addressed return envelopes to over 3,000 of their current customers. On it was also a link to complete the survey online. About 1/3 of respondents opted for the online survey. At last count, we had around 450 responses.
This provided a gold mine of information, however the most important question was:
- How likely are you to recommend us to your friends and family? The answers ranged from, “I’d never recommend you.” to “I’ve already recommended you.”
This business had 97.4% of respondents say they would recommend them. The other 2.6% were neutral. No one said they would not recommend them!
Another part of this survey was to find out how each customer preferred for us to communicate with them.
- Social Networks
For this particular business, not a single customer wanted us to communicate with them via Facebook or G+. However 49.6% preferred email with another 36% choosing a phone call and 12.8% requesting a text.
Your market and customers may be different which is why you need to ask. It’s not just about what you say, but how you get your message to them.
Now that you know who has already recommended you and who is very likely to recommend you, focus on those groups. These people are basically telling you, “I love your business and service and will gladly tell others if you make it easy for me.”
These are your Brand Lovers. All they need is a little friendly assistance and some easy ways to communicate to others what makes your business unique.
In the survey, 32% of respondents said they had already recommended the business. Another 47.2% said they are “extremely likely.”
Let me put this into perspective.
In a business with about 3,000 customers, 450 people responded to a survey in which almost HALF of those people, about 212 customers, are ready and willing to recommend their services but NEVER have.
That’s over 200 people who can be out “selling” their products and services if we just tell them how.
Now that you have your list of people who have recommended you and those “extremely likely” to recommend you but never have, your goal is to figure out how to get them talking about you.
Here are a few ideas:
- Offer Preferred Customer deals. Give your preferred customers 1 card per year to give to a friend with offers that no one else has. The only way to get this “secret” deal is by knowing a preferred customer. Since you’re only giving them 1 it makes it even more exclusive so they have to consider who they really want to tell about your business. Test with different quantities.
- Offer Insider Only landing pages. Picture this. John Smith is one of your customers who said he is extremely likely to recommend you. So you send him a couple of cards each year with his name and your business on it, a website with a landing page like http://mybusiness.com/john-smith, and a QR code. On it is an exclusive deal just for his friends. This deal isn’t advertised anywhere else. It’s John Smith’s deal to offer to a couple of friends per year. Scarcity is just as powerful as exclusivity to have people clambering to join and talk about you.
- Provide free, useful, interesting gifts. Most people entertain friends and family at their home. So what if you provided them with something to talk about? A unique mug with fun facts (think Snapple). An entertaining BBQ apron or spatula. A cool brain teaser for their coffee table. If it can relate to the benefits of your services, even better. The goal is a conversation starter that may just lead into why that customer does business with you.
Try to offer the special offer cards without providing any gifts or benefits in return to your current customer. Actually tell them that.
“We don’t want to bribe you. If you’re happy with our services, then here’s an easy way to help your friends with some money-saving deals. If you’re not happy, then please tell us.”
People know a bribe when they see one.
However, if someone asks you if you know who can help them with a kitchen remodel, you have no reservations in telling them who to call and who to avoid. The same is true for your preferred mechanic, plumber, air conditioner repairman, insurance agent, dry cleaner or water treatment dealer.
Now imagine you follow that up with a sincere,
“Bryan’s Plumbing is the best. They’re always on time and charge a fair price. Because I’m a good customer, they gave me this card with a special deal on it to give to a friend. You can’t find this deal anywhere else and I don’t get anything in return for sharing this with you. I know you’ll be happy with them so you might as well use my deal and save yourself a few bucks.”
Helping a friend with an exclusive, scarce deal because they will honestly appreciate it, is often much more motivational than a $50 referral fee or credit.
You should have a record of your preferred customers so that the cards aren’t really necessary. If someone calls up and says, “John Smith said I need to talk to you,” then give them the John Smith Special.
Did a web expert just tell you to kick it old school?
It seems somewhat ironic and even counter-intuitive that the owner of an internet marketing business is telling you the opposite of what all the talking heads are.
If the message isn’t crystal clear yet, don’t waste your time and money with online social networks unless your ideal customers want you to.
For many small, service-based businesses your business is… uh… Boring. Your customers may not really care to like their plumber’s Facebook page. This isn’t an opinion. This is what hundreds of customers have told us so you need to Ask your customers how they want you to communicate with them.
In reality, the best way to determine which local service company to use is still the old fashioned method of asking your friends.
You may just find out that 47% of your customers are “extremely likely to recommend you to friends and family” and just need a little reminder and guidance on how to do so.
To your success in developing better relationships with your customers, Bryan
P.S. If you want real, actionable ways to generate more leads online for your business, sign-up for my email news in the footer below.