Referral Marketing for Small Business

Why Referral Incentives Fail

If only it was this simple... Find someone who really likes what you sell and pay them a few bucks or give 'em something cool (everybody wants a free iPad, right?) every time they bring you a new client.

Too bad referral incentives almost never work.

There are two underlying reasons:

#1 - Most people are uncomfortable with the self-interest that's injected into their recommendation of your business. They worry that if they disclose the incentive they'll hurt their relationship with the person being referred. And if they keep it a secret...they worry that they'll be found out.

#2 - The oft-overlooked reason these schemes fail is that selling is hard when you do it for a living, have training and experience. It's nearly impossible when you're part-time, virtually unpaid and completely un-trained.

The idea behind incentives is good...align your client's self-interest with your own.

But there are more elegant, more effective ways to create the alignment.

marketing consultant  Steve Gordon

Do you have a track to run on?

Virtually all businesses start in belly-to-belly sales mode. There's almost no way around it...if YOU can't sell what you've got, sitting across the table from a good prospect, how in the world will you get a sales letter or a website to do it for you?

Most businesses that survive the first phase of growth--zero to $750k--do so on the back of the entrepreneur's ability to hustle and make sales.

That's where things start to fall apart. The business starts to get more complex, and needs more management attention. At the same time, the entrepreneur needs to hustle faster and faster to keep the growth going.

Somewhere between $750k and $1.5-million there's an invisible brick wall. And hitting it hurts!

The only way around is to figure out how to scale up the acquisition of clients...

To get double the clients with half the effort.

But how, exactly, is that done?

There are 43,562 ways to get a client...which one will work for you?

And there's the trap...you don't know. You try the first 73 and can't seem to make progress.

Really what you need is one (maybe two or three) that you can master.

You need a track to run on...with lanes that keep you focused. Where all you have to do is know...today, here's the one step I need to take to get closer to the finish line.

marketing consultant steve gordon

P.S. I'm often asked what's the fastest way to get clients. If you know more than two people on the planet, the answer is referrals. If you need a FAST track to run on right now, I've built one just for you here.

80/20 Referrals

I'm a serious student of the 80/20 principle. It says that 80% of the results are created by 20% of the inputs. I've found it to exist in every part of my business and my life...

Including the development of referrals.

Three strategies drive 80/20 referrals...

#1. Authority - You want more referrals with less effort...you want leverage? Become an authority. Not just in knowledge, but create the "stuff" of authority...a book, a speech, something that satisfies our pre-wired notions of what makes someone authoritative.

#2. Ease of Referring - Referring YOU is hard.

You're scary...to a referred prospect facing a first meeting with you, the sign of a successful meeting is it ending with his wallet lighter than when he arrived.

But you, "packaged" in something less threatening--a book, or webinar, or CD--is easier, no chance of a "wallet-ectomy" if I pass on your book.

#3. Specificity - Want to guarantee you'll get zero referrals? Ask a client if they know "anybody" who might need your help. I've never met anybody, who knew anybody, named "anybody."

Do a little bit of legwork for your client and put a list in front of them of people they should know. Let 'em pick who you should meet like they'd pick lunch off a Chinese menu.

One of my private clients put these three strategies together yesterday to grab 11 referrals in 90 minutes from a single client...the first time he tried it.

Click Here

marketing consultant steve gordon
 

How to get referrals with media

Yesterday, I talked about media... Specifically, the kind of media you own.

So what does media have to do with referrals?

You don't advertise for referrals, after all.

But being a media mogul has a curious hidden benefit...

People want to be "in the media."

They want to be the feature story. In the the spotlight...the center of attention.

And when you're a media mogul, you've got hot real estate to offer the prospect's ego.

Let's say you want to reach all the customers of the biggest consultant in your fair city.

You could schmooze her at every chamber of commerce mixer for the next three years in hopes of creating a "mutually beneficial relationship."

Or you could just ask to interview her for your media platform.

Which one sounds easier? Which one will that successful consultant see as valuable (to her)?

And which way might just give her something to share with her clients to remind them all why they hired her? (And in sharing...she introduces you.)

Best of all, you can skip three years of chamber mixers and spend some time with your family!

The simple, step-by-step process for getting referrals with your own media platform is at:

Click Here

marketing consultant steve gordon
 

PS - Aside from referrals, there's one other HUGE benefit to using interviews in your own media...you don't have to create content!

The Most Valuable Thing I Do Every Day

Like you my days are packed and running over...never enough time to get it "all" done. But there is one thing that I do everyday that I wouldn't give up if you paid me.

It's the one thing that makes it all work.

And, since this is a marketing letter, I'll tell you a little secret...it's the one thing that makes every one of my marketing pieces work.

My little, most valuable, secret is this...

A simple 3x5 card.

Each night I make a list of the things that must be done the next day on this little card and that's part of the magic...but the card is essential.

I used to try to stay focused with an app...

Before that a planner (I've tried them all).

But nothing has aided me in creating more progress, profound progress than this simple little half-cent notecard.

Here's why...

No room for clutter.

There are only 10 lines (I usually use half).

I get 5 slots to advance my corner of the world forward each day.

Not a PDTL of 30 or GTD lists of hundreds, but 5 slots.

The truth I've discovered...If you're doing more than about 5 things a day you're probably not doing much important work.

And if you get those five things done...the right five things, mountains step aside, seas part and forests yield to your advance.

Not a bad return on a half-cent a day investment.

Steve

PS - Attracting top quality clients is always at the top of my list and should be on yours as well. My simple, authentic and effective method for getting mountains of referrals and great clients is at referralsonautopilot.com.

Try it risk-free for 60-days.

Networking and Sex

Get your mind out of the gutter… We're talking about the noun not the verb today.

I had no idea, but apparently men and women approach business networking differently.

Who knew?

Yes it seems we men simply want to get to the point (i.e. the money).

And the ladies want a relationship (among other things).

Now, lest you think I'm simply making up these outrageous theorems I spoke with a very smart lady named Hazel Walker who, along with a couple of gents, figured all of this out and wrote it down in an excellent book titled…

Business Networking and Sex: It's not what you think

Oh…and those gents she worked with: Dr. Ivan Misner (founder of BNI) and Frank DeRafelle, Jr.

The trio surveyed 12,000 business people to discover their perceptions about networking.

The results are fascinating…and guaranteed to help improve your (business) results with members of the opposite sex.

Now, about that conversation I had with Ms. Walker…I recorded the whole thing. In precisely 44-minutes and 26-seconds she tells all.

[powerpress]

Steve

PS - Get the book…read the book. It's both funny and profitable. And connect with Hazel Walker at HazelWalker.com (be sure to grab her e-book 26 Strategies for Increased Referrals).

One plus one = ten

Last week, I had a phone call with a friend and as we do most of the time, it was free range… We were all over the place, talking about his business and mine.

About 30-minutes into the call, I got what (in all modesty) is a great idea.

One that helps him…

Helps my clients and prospects…

And will help me.

Everybody wins.

That's one plus one = 10. (I call that new marketing math!)

Are you having free range conversations with your entrepreneurial friends?

I recommend them on a regular basis.

Steve

P.S. One other way to get "new marketing math"…work with me one-on-one.

Take the first (no-cost) step here >>

Why you're not getting more referrals

Yesterday I on-boarded a new client and at the end of the meeting he turned and said "Now I need to ask you for some referrals." As he uttered those words you could feel the dynamic in the room change…in an instant.

It's not that I don't want to give him referrals…I do and I will. It's how he asked.

When you ask like that, it's more about you than me.

And when it's about you, not me…you're not communicating in the language I prefer. The "let's talk about me language."

Now…don't judge me a narcissist just yet, because you KNOW you think that way too…and so do your clients.

Asking in the way my client did was a one way transfer of value. He got it all, and I got nothing. And, most importantly, he didn't offer my contacts any particular value upon introduction.

Sure he's good at what he does…yes, when I refer him he'll do a good job…but that alone isn't enough to earn an introduction.

I'll bet you're asking your clients in this same way…it's common.

And you're probably not getting as many quality referrals as you'd like.

The fix for this pesky little referral problem is to orchestrate the referral. Have a "ceremony", a process, something special and valuable for both your client and the person they introduce you to.

For this new client, we'll create a "referral kit" with some really valuable information in it…information that can only be had if you're introduced by a friend (like being one of the cool kids).

Then, he won't have to beg for something…he'll be giving something valuable.

Big difference.

Not getting the referrals you should? I can fix that.

Take the first step here (it's free) >>

A Sweet Way to Get More Referrals

I have a sweet spot (pun intended) in my heart for Krispy Kreme doughnuts. This weekend my folks were in town and Dad loves to bring boxes full of the melt-in-your-mouth goodies for our kids.

(Side note: Krispy Kreme has a "Hot Doughnuts Now" app...it'll use GPS to locate the nearest store with fresh diet busting goodness...it's on my iPhone...don't judge)

So Mom and Dad show up and stuck to the top of the box of doughnuts was an excellent example of how to orchestrate a referral...a 1-page flyer with holiday gift tags.

You know, the ones you stick on presents, except the back of each of these tags had a free offer. Some gave the recipient a free cup of coffee, others, a free doughnut. No purchase necessary...just a freebie.

Do you think Krispy Kreme customers will give them to friends & family? You bet (I may refer myself a few times too).

That's how you ORCHESTRATE referrals.

Orchestrated referrals are predictable...they can be systematized and they are far more effective than simply asking.

Imagine if the teenage clerk that's selling the doughnuts asked you if you knew anyone who might like some doughnuts...

You might think of one person (on a good day).

But when you get 12 totally free gifts to give away, you're likely to pass them on. That's 12 referrals, less effort on the part of the business and greater chance of success.

So here's your challenge...how can you adapt this idea to orchestrate referrals in your business? (It can be applied to ANY business with the right imagination.)

Steve Gordon

P.S. I specialize in adapting great marketing ideas from one business and "installing" them in yours. To find out how you can get my help click here.

 

Automate Your Marketing...Dominate Your Market

Here's a special treat...I recently attended a day-long workshop with marketing guru Dan Kennedy. My friend, client and superstar sales pro, John Curry joined me. On the trip home we decided to turn on the recorder and recap the entire day, including our key takeaways from the day.

I hope you enjoy this special edition of the Small Business Marketing Clinic...I know you'll get valuable ideas.

Listen Online:

[powerpress]

Post a comment below with the idea that you think will have the most impact in your business...

How to Get More Referrals in 3 Steps a Day

I'm asked regularly by business people about referrals...mostly how they can get more. I hate to disappoint you, but there is no magic bullet that will suddenly unleash a torrent of referrals. No, in my experience the businesses that get get lots of referrals making giving a HABIT (note the emphasis...it's really important!).

Last week I had the opportunity to share my daily networking habits...the one's that lead to referrals...with 50 business owners and sales professionals. Here's a short (12 minute) video of the presentation.

Please share your most effective networking and referral habits in the comments.

[youtube=http://youtu.be/_UkXZYvfLy4&w=530&rel=0]

The Scariest Thing in Your Business

The scariest number in your business...**one** (of anything)

One largest customer...if any ONE client is more than 20% of your revenue...you're just asking to suffer. One day, that client will leave...and you could experience a B.E.E. (Business Ending Event). One supplier (of anything)...if you've got just one source of anything you need to make your operation run...sooner or later they'll screw up but you'll be the one with egg on your face.

One product or service to sell...yes this is scary (think CPA's and tax preparers under Herman Cain's 9-9-9 plan) but it's more foolish. Your clients have more than one need. If you're not giving them "what's next", you're leaving big money on the table.

One key employee, with your business in her head...can hit the door or get hit by a bus. Either way, your business, your income and a portion of your wealth leave with her. Have a backup.

One key system...computers are great, but they break, get viruses, files get deleted...stuff happens. (It's happened to me in the last 12 months...but...heeding my own advice I had a backup...lost less than 24 hours of time...and no data).

THE SCARIEST ONE OF ALL...

ONLY one way to get new clients...

Do you remember the days of broadcast fax? You know, you'd come to work in the morning and there'd be 17 faxes selling something, waiting for you. Businesses...BIG Businesses...were built using broadcast fax.

Then one day the FCC said "Hey, stop doing that!" And those businesses (that had just the one way of making sales) went away.

Ditto for telemarketing (the do-not-call-list), Infomercials (they're back now, but went away in the 80's)...

If you get all of your business from _______________ (fill in the blank...word of mouth, referrals, direct mail, the Interwebs, etc.) you're at risk.

You may not even know it...success "lulls" you to sleep...until the monster is upon you!

The only protection from this MOST HIDEOUS BUSINESS KILLING MONSTER is building an army of client getting robots to protect your business.

Ready to build your army? Now's your chance...the next Clients on Autopilot Monthly Briefing launches tomorrow to subscribers ONLY.

Not a subscriber yet...not to worry...you can still get in, until Midnight (Eastern) tonight.

Click here to get this blowout briefing!

Steve Gordon

P.S I credit Dan Kennedy for teaching me this truth first...but I needed to take extra credit in the school of hard knocks before I "got it." My education was EXPENSIVE...you can get yours the easy way. Click here to subscribe.

The Ugly Truth About Referrals

Referrals, referrals, referrals... Boy have I been getting a lot of questions about referrals!

  • How do I get more referrals?
  • Why would someone refer me? (good question)
  • What's the best way to get referrals?
  • Don't people get annoyed when I ask for a referral?

For the love of Mike, what is the big hang up with referrals?

Then it hit me...

I said to myself..."Self: They're all thinking about it the wrong way and they don't know it."

Your clients don't refer you to do YOU a favor. They do it to make themselves FEEL GOOD. It's totally selfish.

Think about the last time you recommended a great restaurant to a friend. You probably went on and on about how the edamame was perfectly crisp and the pinot noir was especially smooth.

And you felt good inside because you were turning your friend on to a great experience.

So...when you give great service and ask for referrals you give your clients the opportunity to feel good. Why wouldn't you want to do that for each and every client?

As I outline in my popular 7 Deadly Marketing Sins e-book...there are four reasons you're not getting all the referrals you want:

  1. You're uncomfortable asking (hopefully I've destroyed that mental barrier with the example above)
  2. You don't know how to ask. (the words you use make all the difference)
  3. You don't know when to ask. Timing is everything. Too early and you're not proven...too late and they've lost the mood.
  4. You don't make asking for referrals part of your marketing/selling/fulfillment system. i.e. A line item on the check list of "103 Things we do for each and every client."

Just my two cents...Let me know what's holding you back from getting more referral business? Post in the comments.

How to Get Heaping Buckets of Free PR in Less Than 5 Minutes a Day

Would some free PR help you get more clients? You bet!

But you’re not getting the PR you’d like to have for one simple reason…you don’t know how to get it…you don’t know what to say…and you don’t know who to talk to (OK that’s three reasons).

There’s plenty of information out there (according to Google there are a mere 314 million webpages that will help you). The problem is knowing what actually works.

Most of the popular advice is garbage. For example:

  • Submit online press releases
  • Be an expert at something
  • Friend reporters on Facebook
  • Host events for local charities
  • Be real (yes there is an actual article that suggests the key to getting press is to “be real”)
  • Develop relationships with reporters
  • Create a captivating media kit

Honestly, do you have time to write a press release once or twice a week on the chance that it’ll catch a reporter’s eye? Of course not!

If you had the time, you’d already be doing it.

The problem with all of these approaches is that they force you to chase cold media leads. That’s no good…you want red hot reporters, writing on a topic where you can add value to their audience and most importantly…on deadline!

The problem is how to find them…

Well, I’ve got a solution for you. But before I share it I need your commitment (without commitment these tips will not work for you).

Your Marketing Commitment

Repeat after me: “I (state your name) will devote 5 minutes of my day to finding free PR for my business.”

That’s it. Can you do it?

Red Hot Media Leads Delivered to Your Inbox Four Times A Day

I’m going to share with you my secret source for getting lots of free PR opportunities. In the last 30 days I’ve been interviewed twice and have another in the works. Not a bad month considering it took just five minutes a day…and only on weekdays.

OK, here’s the secret…subscribe to two reporter “matchmaking services” (both are free):

1. Help A Reporter Out - HARO, as it’s affectionately called, is a connector of reporters looking for experts and experts looking for interviews. It’s free to register as an expert. When you do, you’ll receive 3 emails a day (morning, noon and evening). Each email includes dozens of press requests organized by topic. Each listing has all of the information you need to respond to the opportunity. You’ll see requests from the Wall Street Journal next to requests from small blog sites.

2. Reporter Connection - Like HARO, Reporter Connection links reporters and experts. When you register for free you’ll get one email each day with listings. As with HARO, the details of the request and the contact information for the reporter are right in each email. This is especially convenient…I’ve responded to some requests right from my iPhone.

That’s four lists of reporters looking for experts like you, five days a week. I know you can make hay with that!

The key is to read list shortly after it arrives. I get them on my iPhone and triage them during those few minutes between other activities. Each email takes just 30 seconds to scan for gold nuggets of PR. If you find something on topic click the link to view the full listing (further down in the same email).

Be sure to note the deadline (occasionally you’ll see one due that same day). If you’ve got a relevant response set aside some time later that day or the next to write your “pitch.”

Unlike writing press releases, your pitches to these reporters must be brief. I landed one last week and the reporter required all responses be less than 500 characters (not 500 words).

That’s great…you’re busy, the reporter’s busy so cut to the chase.

You’ll probably be a bit nervous when you send in your first pitch. Don’t worry about it, just respond.

I’ve found the key to getting media consistently is to respond through HARO and Reporter Connection regularly. Do your best, but focus on persistence, not perfection. As you land more interviews you’ll get better at crafting winning pitches. Give yourself time to get good.

How to Use HARO and Reporter Connection To Get More Clients

HARO and Reporter Connection are great for finding PR for your business. But if you stop there you’re cheating yourself.

Do you think your prospects and clients might like some free press for their business too? You bet!

Don’t just read those daily emails with your business in mind…look for opportunities to get your prospects and clients some press too.

My goal is to find one opportunity a day for someone in my network. Then I just forward them the email and tell them how to respond if they want to. I don’t know how many respond, but I do know that I am a much more valuable resource to my prospects, clients and network because they know I can connect them with press opportunities. They tell me so.

The truth is, I’d do it even if it didn’t help me attract clients because it just makes me feel good…and it’ll make you feel good too.

And remember so far you’ve invested 5 minutes of time and zero dollars.

But I’m A Local Business, Why Do I Want Press From Somewhere Else?

That’s a fair question…here’s a better than fair answer.

You want all the press you can get. Even if it’s in the Timbuktu Times. Here’s why…

It validates your business in the eyes of your prospects and clients.

If the media is turning to you on a regular basis because of your expertise your position in the minds of your prospects and clients will be elevated to expert status…and then celebrity expert status.

“But my prospects don’t read the Timbuktu Times!”

That’s OK, they don’t need to…You’re going to tell them about the interview.

The best example I’ve ever seen of this technique is at Five Guys Burgers. Find one near you, go get a burger, and while you’re standing in line, or standing in the restroom or walking in the hall to the restroom or sitting at your table…or…or…all you see are newspaper and magazine clips from all over the country talking about the burgers.

The burgers don’t have to be that great…but you’ll believe they are that great. It’s right there in print. It must be true!

They have done a masterful job of showing social proof to validate your decision to eat there. And they’ve shown you that Five Guys is a place people are talking about. The suggestion is “you should be talking about them too.”

And I’ll bet you will.

Being in the news is newsworthy. Tell your customers like Five Guys does or send them the clip of the article in the mail. Email a link to your email list…post it on Facebook…tweet it…link it on LinkedIn and put it on your website.

Every time you’re featured in the press it’s an excuse to talk to your prospects, customers and referral alliances. You’d be crazy not to use the excuse to stay in front of them.

This marketing strategy is easy, free and it works. So stop wasting time trying to get business through social media and start getting exposure in actual media.

One of my favorite quotes from Donald Trump is “Be somebody and be somewhere.” Being talked about in the press positions you as “somebody.”

Go sign up for HARO and Reporter Connection and then post a comment to let me know!

The Lazy Man's Way to Get More Clients

I know that to get more clients and grow my business I need to work hard and work consistently to introduce my business to potential clients. But I have to admit...I don't like hard work. And I like repetitive, monotonous work even less! But I need clients, just like you. So I create systems to attract them to me, automatically.

Each system is like a little lead generation engine. Once I get a system running I only need to spend a few minutes a week keeping it up...and it produces new prospects week in and week out. Automatic lead generation is cool!

The crazy thing is that it's so easy to do, once you know how to do it. So I've put together a video that shows you exactly how one of my little "lead generation engines" works. Watch it, then create one in your business!

%CODE1%

Here's the link I shared in the video to get my marketing automation system.

How will you this idea in your business? Post in the comments!

22 Simple Actions You Can Take Today To Position Your Business For Breakthrough Growth

There are over 11,000 business books published each year. In all of them there’s one thing missing: ACTION! Without action all the knowledge in the world is useless.

As a business owner you don’t need more ideas, you need focus. Today, I’ve made it easy for you…I’ve listed 22 actions you can take today to position your business for breakthrough growth. Implement them all or implement just one…but implement something!

Each of these actions compounds on the others so you’ll get better results the more you implement.

Action #1: Create a Customer List (60 minutes)

If you do nothing else do this! Your customer list is the only real asset in your business. Think about that for a moment and let it sink in. You may own equipment and real estate and according to your accountant they are assets…but in reality, the only assets you have are the relationships you have with the people who are willing to give you money in return for service. Without that one primary asset, you don’t have a business. So start paying close attention to your customer list…it’s the most valuable thing you own.

If your list is in Quickbooks…get it out. Quickbooks is for accounting. You need a marketing list. I recommend using Highrise if you’re just getting started with your list, or Infusionsoft if you’re ready to leap to the next level. Infusionsoft will automate all of your marketing and fulfillment processes…it’s what I use to power my business.

Action #2: Create a Written Process for Getting Contact Information From Every Customer (20 minutes)

What good’s a list if you don’t have a way to grow it. In my experience businesses divide into two categories—1) The businesses that bill their customers after the fact; 2) Transactional businesses that deliver the goods and get paid at the same time. Businesses that bill customers almost always have a decent customer list…if not, they don’t get paid. Transactional businesses mostly ignore the value of a customer list.

If you’re not collecting customer contact information come up with a reason for needing it (it makes it less creepy when you ask). Here’s a hint…you don’t need a good reason, just a reason. At a minimum collect name and email. Ideally you’ll collect name, email, mailing address, phone (and maybe their Twitter handle).

With your list in hand, and a process for growing it you now have the keys to instant sales…just send a message to the list when you need some extra cash.

Action #3: Make a List of Everything You Can Guarantee (15 minutes)

Most small businesses fear guarantees. Afraid that they’ll be taken advantage of. The reality is that only a very small number of customers ever claim a guarantee. Your risk is small in offering a guarantee…but the perceived risk reduction in the client’s eyes can make selling much easier.

You don’t have to guarantee your product or service or it’s results. It’s best if you can, but you can guarantee anything. Here are a few examples:

  • Guarantee that your phone will be answered by a real, live human.
  • Guarantee that you’ll return customer calls on the same day.
  • Guarantee that you’re service people will arrive when promised.
  • Guarantee that your quoted price will be the final price.
  • Guarantee that a particular item is always in stock.

If you stop to think about it the list is endless. Guarantee satisfaction, and offer money back if possible. But if you’re not comfortable with that, guarantee as many pieces as you can.

Action #4: Sign-up for an Email Marketing Service With an Autoresponder (15 minutes)

Email marketing is one of the most effective ways you can market your business. National studies have shown year after year that email marketing delivers more than a 40:1 return on investment. That’s more than double the next best marketing method. If you’ve completed Actions 1 and 2 and are growing your list, you’re crazy if you don’t have a way to do email marketing.

If you’re thinking, e-newsletter, you’re only half right. I do think e-newsletters, sent weekly or bi-weekly, are an essential part of your marketing mix, but the real power in email marketing is automation. With automation, you can capture a new lead and send them a series of educational messages over time…automatically (even while you sit on the beach sipping a margarita).

If you’re looking for a solid email marketing service, I recommend iContact, Aweber or Infusionsoft.

Action #5: Make a List of Your Clients’ Pains and Your Cures (30 minutes)

Forget about what you do for clients and how you do it for a moment. Think about the biggest complaints and challenges your clients face. Even if it’s outside your domain…those are the things they’d pay to have solved. Then make a list of your cures to each pain. Your clients don’t want your service or product…they want the cure for the pain they feel.

You may find that your current offering doesn’t cure the pain…it only goes halfway. How can you be the whole cure? What would you have to add? What would it be worth to your clients?

Action #6: Start Tracking Lifetime Client Value (20 minutes)

In your client list, start tracking the value of each transaction that your client completes. Keep a running total for each client. Over time you’ll be able to calculate an average value of a client over the life of their interaction with you. Knowing this one number can drive your entire business. If you know what a new client is worth in total it changes how you look at every investment in your business…especially your marketing.

Knowing Lifetime Client Value will give you clear insight into the value of your list. Think about how you can use this knowledge…Let’s say that you know each client is worth, on average, $10,000 over 5 years. And you know that for every 20 leads you get, one becomes a client. That means each lead is worth $500. That’s pretty good motivation for filling the pipeline with leads don’t you think?

Action #7: Stop Worrying About the Cost of Marketing and Focus on ROI (5 minutes)

I understand that marketing can be expensive…especially in a tough economy. But marketing is an investment, meant to grow your most valuable asset (your client list). The appropriate number to watch is ROI—Return on Investment. Focusing on ROI is a decision more than an action, so just do it, make the decision.

When you do, you’ll find that your marketing will move from being a fuzzy part of your business to a highly tracked and measurable area of focus for you. To get maximum ROI from your marketing, place small bets, keep the winners, cut the losers and let your winning marketing campaigns compound.

Action #8: Signup for a Press Notification Service (5 minutes)

Getting free publicity can be a huge boon to your business. And there’s a little secret most business owners don’t understand…the press needs your story. Yes, it’s true…there’s a reporter out there right now on deadline and she needs you. The trick is finding the reporter.

Here are two services that bring those hungry reporters right to your inbox:

  1. Help A Reporter Out HARO, as it’s called is a free service that reporters use to post requests for experts to interview for their stories. All you’ve got to do is go to the HARO website and create your free account. You’ll get three short emails each day with listings of press opportunities and the contact information for the reporter.
  2. Reporter Connection Reporter Connection works much like HARO. It too is free and will send you one email per day with listings.

Just scan these emails when they come in and when you see an opportunity to provide great information, click and respond.

Action #9: Make a List of E-newsletters, Blogs and Podcasts in Your Niche (30 minutes)

Your search for free publicity shouldn’t end with traditional media. There are millions of websites that publish information on a daily basis. I guarantee there are some publishing in your industry (or in your prospect’s industries). These sites usually have highly targeted audiences. And the owners of these sites need content to keep their readers satisfied. Take a look at the site and the types of articles they publish. Write up your idea for an article and call the owner and pitch the idea. To find blogs use Google Blog Search.

And be sure to look for podcasts on iTunes. These are great places to land an interview. Just remember to provide high quality, educational content and keep the sales pitch subtle.

Don’t think it’ll help…listen to how E-Letter Subscriber and business broker John Kraft leveraged niche media to drive real business…

John said all it took was a short conversation with the marketing manager at TravelHost, a company that sells business opportunities. TravelHost sends a daily video to about 2500 business brokers (they’ve created their own media outlet…more about that in a moment). John is working with laid off mid-level and senior state employees to find them businesses to buy…that’s unique and newsworthy. It’s also the kind of information that other brokers want to know. He made it easy for TravelHost to talk about him…he gave them what they needed.

As a result John says he got 5 calls within a week, landed one new listing and three additional leads in under a month (in case you don’t know, that’s big results in John’s business).

One reason for the big results from a relatively small press opportunity is that niche press is targeted. If John had the same information published in the local paper I’d guess his results wouldn’t be as good…even though the audience is 50 times larger. And it would have been harder to land that newspaper article.

So being observant and understanding the audience + a couple of phone calls = profitable new business (and the side benefit of lots of exposure). Do you think you could spare an hour a month to get some great niche press?

Action #10: Create a 5 Step Follow-up Campaign For New Prospects (90 minutes)

Never let a new prospect fall through the cracks…write 5 short emails to educate and help your prospects move to a buying decision.

  1. Email Day 1: Thanks for dropping in…did we answer all your questions
  2. Email Day 3: Answers to questions (answer 5 frequently asked questions)
  3. Email Day 5: Client testimonials
  4. Email Day 7: Special Offer (I like adding bonuses that expire on Day 10, rather than discounting)
  5. Email Day 10: Last chance…

Action #11: Write a 5 Step New Client Welcome Campaign (90 minutes)

Don’t make the mistake of stopping your marketing when the client buys. Use an automatic welcome campaign to give the client confidence that they made the right choice.

  1. Email Day 1: Congratulations on your purchase (confirm in their minds that they made the right decision…fights buyer’s remorse)
  2. Email Day 3: Important resources – Tell ’em how to best interact with your business and how to get help if they ever need it
  3. Email Day 5: Client success stories – send stories of happy clients who got great results and reassure them that their results are around the corner
  4. Email Day 10: Ask for referrals (introductions to friends, family, co-workers)
  5. Email Day 21: Ask for a testimonial

This sequence does a lot…it helps avert buyer’s remorse, automatically asks for referrals and gathers testimonials.

Action #12: Setup a Google Place Page for Your Business (30 minutes)

Google has created millions of free webpages for local businesses all across the country. If you haven’t claimed yours yet you need to, pronto! Google’s Place Pages are one page listings for local businesses hosted by Google. If you’ve ever searched for a local business and seen the map showing business locations, then you’ve seen a local search. If you’re a local business this is your listing in the new phone book.

To claim your Place Page go to Google Local Business Center. You’ll need a free Google account (your Gmail account will work) to log in. Then you can search to see if Google has created a page for you. If not, you can easily create one.

Be sure to add complete information. Your page will serve you better if you’re thorough. Remember to add photos and videos from YouTube, too.

When you’re done, send an email with a link to your shiny new Place Page to your best clients and ask them to write a review for you.

Action #13: Search for Online Reviews of Your Business (20 Minutes)

Your online reputation is more important than ever…and it’s spread all over the web. Go to Google and search for “Your business name reviews” and you’ll get a picture of what’s out there. You’ll also want to go to Yelp.com, Angie’s List (requires a small fee) and your Google Place Page (see Action #12).

I’ve had two clients do this and find some really damaging reviews posted about them (in both cases we suspect the reviews were posted by competitors). Once we found them we were able to combat them by asking happy clients to post their own positive reviews.

A word of caution…as with all things in life, honesty is the best policy. Don’t post fake reviews. Get real reviews from satisfied clients…you’ll get better long-term results.

Action #14: Schedule 1 Day A Week For Client Attraction (30 minutes)

This is a practice I learned from top marketer Fabienne Frederickson and it’s paid dividends ever since. Now, I know what you’re thinking…“I can’t possibly devote a day a week to marketing.” I thought that too..and then I did it. Just make the decision to do it, start blocking off your marketing day (I prefer Monday) two or three weeks out on your calendar. Chances are that you don’t have much scheduled that far out. Once you block it off be sure to defend that time. It’s essential to consistently growing your business.

Can’t do an entire day? No problem. Block off 90-120 minutes first thing every morning. Then fill that time with actions that get more clients.

Action #15: Create a Facebook Page for Your Business (30 minutes)

If you don’t already have a fan page, go ahead, make one. Just login to Facebook under your personal profile. Then go to Facebook’s Pages guide. You’ll need a graphic designer to create a profile photo for your business (if you need a good one, send me an email and I’ll introduce you to mine). Before you invite your friends to “Like” your page, put 3-5 informational posts on the page. You don’t want guests coming to an empty page…they won’t stick around.

Be sure to add 5 photos (in addition to your profile image). These show across the top and give you an opportunity to brand your page or create images that promote a specific product or service.

Now invite all of your friends to “Like” your page. Now the real work begins…creating content so good it’ll spread.

Action #16: Start a Facebook Ad Campaign (25 minutes)

Facebook has one of the easiest advertising platforms around. In just a few minutes you can have an ad campaign up and running driving leads to your Facebook Page or your website. You can target based on a number of demographics, but the most valuable feature is targeting based on what a person “Likes” on Facebook. Using this targeting you can drill down by interest to find people who have already said they are interested in your topic.

With a Facebook ad campaign you can pay-per-click (you pay a small amount each time someone clicks on your ad) or you can pay per 1000 impressions. I recommend starting with pay-per-click.You bid on ad space and I’ve seen bids range from a dime a click to several dollar a click depending on the interests you’re trying to target. You can set your maximum daily spend. Once your campaign hits this amount each day your ads stop running…this is a failsafe to make sure you don’t go broke. I typically set the limit at $10 or $20 dollars to start (during testing).

You create your ad copy…you’ve got a 25 character headline and a 135 character ad body to work with. Keep it right to the point…and make sure to include a call to action. You’ll also want to include a photo. Please, do not use your logo! Use a photo of a human face. My testing shows that photos of people (smiling women to be specific) get a greater response than any other type of picture.

Action #17: Get One Powerful Testimonial (45 minutes)

Great testimonials can do all of the selling for you. Take out a piece of paper and write down the name of your best, happiest client. Get ‘em on the phone and tell them you’re collecting client stories and you’d like to feature theirs on your website (they’ll be flattered). There are two types of testimonials…the first: Feel Good Testimonials do just that, they make you feel good because the client is telling how nice you are and what a pleasure you are to work with. Feel good testimonials may make you feel good, but they leave your bank account empty.

The type of testimonial you want is a Results Testimonial. In a Results Testimonial you want your client to cover 4 things:

  1. The situation they were in before they started working with you.
  2. How they came to find you (what other options did they try, without result first).
  3. The great results they now enjoy after working with you or using your product.
  4. Would they recommend you to others facing the same situation.

If you can get the testimonial on video, those are always the best, most credible. If you get a written testimonial be sure to include the client’s full name, city they live in, telephone or email (with their permission) and photo. Avoid anonymous testimonials, they’re not credible.

Action #18: Develop One New Idea Your Competitors Wouldn’t Dare Do (90 minutes)

If you sit and think for a little while you’ll stumble upon one (or more) ideas that are considered taboo in your industry. Those ideas are the perfect place to go to separate yourself from your customers. In my last business, we guaranteed response time for our crews…and offered to pay the client 1-hour of our fee if we were late. Guarantees in that industry were unheard of…and we had a number of competitors ask us if we were nuts for offering it. (By the way, if your competitors think one of your marketing ideas is crazy that’s a clue that you’re headed in the right direction.)

That one idea lead to $50,000 in business and we never needed to pay out a dime on the guarantee…not a bad ROI on an idea our competitors wouldn’t dare try.

Action #19: Make a Top 10 List (30 Minutes)

I’m a big believer in the power of networking to grow your business…and to grow personally. But most people go about it haphazardly. If you’re systematic about networking you can get amazing results in no time at all. My secret weapon for getting more clients by networking is my Top 10 List.

I keep the names of the 10 businesses or individuals I’m trying to meet and gain as clients on this list. When I meet with a networking contact I share it and ask if they know anyone on the list. If they do I ask for an introduction…and I almost always get at least one. It is without a doubt the fastest way to expand your network.

Action #20: Read (60 minutes, repeat daily)

A 2007 Washington Post article reports that half of Americans read less than four books a year and an astonishing 27% didn’t read even one book during the study period in 2006. Look around at the successful people you know. If you compare the size of their personal library to the size of their TV, you’ll see the library is (much) bigger. There is a direct correlation between your income and how much and what you read.

Reading four romance novels a week won’t get you any further along, but reading a great business or success book each week (or even just one a month) will get your mind focused on the principles of business and life that lead to success. The value in these books are the principles that they reveal. If you can take the principles and apply them, you’ll move forward.

Dr. Tom Hill taught me a system to read a book a day (I don’t usually hit that number, but I’m probably in the top 5% or 10% of readers based on the Washington Post story)…here’s how it goes:

  1. Read the back cover and the inside of the jacket. Look for the other authors who are recommending the book. They may be authors you’ll want to check out later.
  1. Read the table of contents.
  1. Read the front matter.
  1. Read the first and last chapter in their entirety.
  1. Read the first few pages and last few pages of each chapter in between.
  1. Make notes about the principles revealed in the book.

Here’s Dr. Hill’s thoughts on why this approach is effective:

  • When you read a non-fiction book you usually want to learn the principles the author is using to get some result. That’s the focus.
  • The principles of most books are outlined in the table of contents, the first and last chapters and the beginning and end of each chapter.
  • The middle of most chapters is fluff and stories…you only want the principles.
  • The testimonials and front matter give you a clue into who has influenced the author’s writing and points you to other resources. You will generally get a glimpse of the author’s background and learn how they came to the knowledge they’re sharing.

As Dr. Hill correctly notes: The winners in business and in life are the people who learn and apply the most number of proven principles. Reading is your path to acquiring them.

Here’s my short list of must reads for entrepreneurs:

  1. The Bible (I don’t care what you believe in, but the principles outlined throughout the Bible have proven to be effective in life and business.)
  2. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill (I’m currently reading his recently published Outwitting the Devil and it’s worthy of your time as well).
  3. No B.S. Time Management for Entrepreneurs and No B.S. Ruthless Management of People and Profits by Dan Kennedy
  4. Duct Tape Marketing by John Jantsch
  5. Blue Ocean Strategy by Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne
  6. Influence by Robert Cialdini
  7. Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi

Action 21: Send a Card (10 minutes)

Send someone who you’ve interacted with this week a card or personal note. It shows gratitude and it sets you sets you apart from 99% of business people, who, if they do anything, send an email. I send cards on a regular basis to thank people, to say “nice to meet you” and to generate leads and open doors when I can’t find any other way in.

President George H.W. Bush credits sending a “nice to meet you” card to everyone he ever met as being one of the keys to his success. President Ronald Reagan was known to sit up at night and write “Thank You Grams” every night. I figure if it’s good enough for two men who’ve held the highest office in the land…it’s good enough for me.

Action #22: Take Massive Action (all day, every day)

I admit this isn’t a quick action, but it’s the difference between being wildly successful in your business and being mediocre. So don’t read this article and set it aside. Don’t read and do one thing. Figure out how to do 10 or 15 or all of these things. That’s taking massive action and it works. It’s getting the odds in your favor. Not everything you try will give you all of the results that you want, but in total, by acting on many fronts and at many levels you’ll get everything you want and more.

So go get after it!

What would you add to the list? I’d like you to share just one quick action in the comments that you do that make a big difference in your business.

Thanks to Corbett Barr of Think Traffic for the inspiration for this article.

Referrals - The 3 Step Plan Every Business Owner Needs to Know

Referral Engine Marketing Next to selling more to your current clients, referral marketing is the easiest sale of all. But most small business owners approach it as though it’s rain falling from the sky—they have no control over referrals, they just hope it comes when they need it.

Hope is not a strategy…

If you want more referrals, the good news is that they are just 3 simple steps away…

Step 1. Ask for referrals!

Ok, I know that seems a little simplistic (and it is…we’ll talk about how to ask in a moment) but seriously, if you want more referrals, ASK!

The trick is in knowing how to ask. For most of the business owners I work with there are four barriers to getting more referrals.

The Barriers to Getting Referrals

1. You’re uncomfortable asking for referrals (for some people it not discomfort…it’s downright fear). It’s OK. In fact it’s totally normal to be uncomfortable…even afraid to ask for referrals.

You don’t want to offend your client by begging for more business after you’ve already taken their money, right? I mean, really…it’s like saying you’re just not enough for me, I need more.

If you feel that way about asking for referrals you are far from alone. But your fears are unfounded. In his latest book Referral Engine, John Jantsch shares research that proves we humans are “wired to refer.”

If you think about it, sending someone you care about to a great resource makes YOU feel good and makes you valuable to the other person. It’s a win-win. So your clients need to refer you.

By referring you to others your clients confirm their decision to use you in their own minds. You can actually increase client satisfaction by asking for referrals.

2. You don’t know how to ask. The words you use when you ask for a referral matter greatly. Use the wrong words and you sound selfish, sleezy or worse…desperate.

As I coach business owners to get more referrals, the easiest way I’ve found is to simply ask your clients for introductions.

And be specific about who you want to be introduced to…name names if you can. (I’ll talk about the importance of being specific in a moment.)

3. You don’t know when to ask. Timing is everything. Should you ask at the moment the ink dries on the contract, at the end of the project or somewhere in between?

One of my clients makes a habit of asking anytime a client thanks him for his work. It goes something like this:

Client: “Thank you so much for taking care of this for me…”

You: “You’re welcome. I’m glad you feel good about our work together. Tell me, do you know just one friend or colleague who might need my help too?”

Client: “Yes…my friend Mary.”

You: “I’d love to help Mary if I can. Would you please introduce us?”

Client: “Absolutely!”

Simple…and not at all sleezy.

In my experience there is no one best time to ask for referrals. Ask when the ink dries, because a referral here can boost client retention and stave off buyer’s remorse.

Ask again whenever the client praises you (if they’re praising you daily don’t ask daily…but you could certainly ask monthly without being a pest, if you do it the right way).

4. You don’t have a system for asking for referrals. This is where most businesses fail in referral marketing. They just sit back and expect referrals to show up. Some will, but you’re leaving big heaping piles of cash on the table if you’re not stimulating referrals.

You’ve got to create a system to get referrals, to track referrals, to reward clients who refer and to follow-up with the referrals you receive.

Step 2. Be Specific When You Ask For Introductions

I don’t know Someone or Anyone and neither do your clients. Most of the time when I ask business owners to tell me who would be a good lead for them (and I ask it of just about everyone I meet) I get an answer like this…

“Anyone who has a home really…” or

“Everyone with a car is a prospect for me…” or

“Someone looking to be healthy…”

Sounds absurd when you read it. And it makes it almost impossible for me to refer to you. You have now put the work of identifying your prospects onto me. I hate to tell you, but I’ve got enough to do and I’m not doing your work.

You must make it easy for clients to refer you. Do all of the leg work for them. Then use them to do the one thing you really need…introduce you.

Here’s what I use…

The Top 10 List

My friend and mentor Greta Schulz taught me this trick. I keep a list of the Top 10 people, companies or professions I want to meet. I list them on a one-pager and include my contact information and a short sentence or two about how to introduce me.

You can download a copy of my Top 10 List Networking Template and use it for yourself.

When I meet with strategic alliances or when I ask clients for introductions I simply ask if I can share a list of people I’m looking to get introduced to.

They always say yes…then I give them a copy of my Top 10 List and ask if they know anyone on the list.

You’ll be amazed at how quickly you’ll get introduced to the 10 people on your list. Then you add another 10 and off you go.

I used this technique when I moved to Tallahassee, Florida in 2007. I knew 2 people in the business community. In just 12 months I was “plugged in” and all of the key people I needed to meet were in my network.

And the best part is that you’ll look like a networking rock star when you use this one little tool. People will ask if they can copy it (and you’ll always say “Of course!”)

One little ninja trick: Ask the other person for their Top 10 List so you can help them get introduced to people you may know.

They’ll fall all over themselves thanking you. Unfortunately, only 1 in 100 will ever send you anything.

So make your list today!

Do Some “Reverse Prospecting”

This is a master technique, that’s so simple, but no one does it. Call one of your closest allies (someone who you have a solid relationship with) and invite them to lunch. Let them know that you want to refer more business back and forth.

Then ask them to bring their client and prospect lists. You take yours.

When you get to lunch swap lists. You check their list for prospects and they check yours. Then agree to make the introductions within a week of your lunch.

Sometimes that’s all you need to create a flood of referrals.

Step 3. Follow-up Quickly

Referrals get stale faster than a carton of milk from the gas-station convenience store.

Commit to following up immediately with every referral. It shows respect for the person who gave you the referral and it serves the person you’re being referred to.

I like phone calls better than emails. They’re more personal and your goal is to build a relationship.

Send a thank you note to the person who referred you.

If you end up doing business, send the referrer a gift. You don’t have to spend a lot of money, but sending something will go a long way towards getting more referrals from that person.

Here’s your assignment:

1. Decide how and when you are going to ask for referrals. Write down your plan in 2-3 sentences. Having it on paper will help you stick to it. Write out the words you’re going to use to ask for introductions. Then practice with a friend, you spouse or your dog. The point is to get comfortable with the words you’ll use before you’re in front of a client. Once you’ve decided when to ask. Add it to your checklist at that part of your sales process.

2. Make Your Top 10 List. Download my Networking Top 10 List template and edit it to be your own. This one step will take you less than an hour and will set you apart from every other business in your area. Just do it.

3. Write your follow-up system. Write down the steps you’ll take to follow-up with each and every referral. Make a checklist and don’t forget to take care of the people who refer you.

Do you need more referrals and don’t know where to start? That’s why I created the Get More Clients System. To help business owners and entrepreneurs get all the clients they need to sleep like a baby every night…without worrying about how to make payroll next week. To learn more, request a Get Acquainted Session.

To your success!

Small Business Marketing Consultant Steve Gordon

SBMS 04 | 12 Secrets of Power Networkers

[audio:http://1000media.s3.amazonaws.com/sbms/04-SBMS-04-12-Essential-Techniques-of-Power-Networkers.mp3]

In this episode of The Small Business Marketing Show I share the 12 secrets I learned from watching power networkers that helped me go from zero contacts to totally plugged into my new city in less than a year...and how you can do it too.

Download the MP3

In this episode of The Small Business Marketing Show...

  • How the most common piece of advice on networking actually kills your chances of success.
  • The "behind-the-scenes" habits that separate the real pros from everyone else.
  • How to make it easier for contacts to refer business to you.

Take Action

  • Identify two groups you can join this month where your potential customers are members.
  • Develop your introduction and practice delivering it to get comfortable.
  • Attend at least one networking event and make appointments with two strategic alliances.

What Do You Think?

  • What techniques have helped you network successfully in the past?
  • What is your biggest obstacle to networking effectively?

Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Ten Rules of Networking from The [non]Billable Hour

Matthew Homann has a great post on the Ten Rules of Networking over on "the [non]billable hour]" blog. My favorites...

#6. Never enter a conversation at networking event with more than half a drink in your hand. Needing a refill is great excuse to leave.

#8. When you meet someone for the first time, make certain they don't hear you complain. About anything.

#9. The most underrated skill to possess at networking events is ability to end conversations, not start them.

#10. Never "network" to meet people. Network to help people.

Small business owners need to heed these rules for the sake of all of us at the next Chamber of Commerce function.

For more on networking to grow both personally and professionally read my article the 12 Essential Techniques of Power Networkers.

Marketing Secret # 3 – The One Marketing Tool You Must Have

If you could do just one thing to market your business what would it be? My choice is simple…a monthly newsletter. Why? Marketing Guru Dan Kennedy believes (and I agree) that you lose 10% of your influence with a customer or prospect each month you don’t communicate with them. If you go for a year without any communication, you’ve lost all influence. It’s like starting the relationship all over again. The easiest way to keep your influence is to use a monthly newsletter. Most businesses don’t send a newsletter for one of two reasons:

  1. The business owner wants to but never gets around to it.
  2. The business owner is intimidated by the pressure of writing something good EVERY MONTH.

Neither reason is sufficient. Owner #1 claims he’s too busy, but the truth is a monthly newsletter allows him to leverage his time by writing a single message and sending it out to all of his clients. He could never personally deliver that message by phone or face-to-face…but in the newsletter it’s possible.

Owner #2 doesn’t feel comfortable writing. Tack on the pressure she feels to produce great content each month and it becomes overwhelming and doesn’t get done.

Really there should be no pressure. There’s content all around you. Everytime you read the newspaper, a magazine or a book, you discover content for your newsletter. Comment on an article, an event or a recent trend. It doesn’t need to be long. One page (about 500 words) is plenty to get started. I clip articles and put them in a file. Then review the file when I sit down to write our newsletter. It couldn’t be easier.

To trim the cost, consider using an email newsletter. Services such as iContact.com, aweber.com or constantcontact.com allow you to upload a list of clients, create a message and send it within minutes of signing up.

There are also services such as Jim Palmer’s Success Advantage that will provide you with content or even take care of the entire newsletter production. You just give them the mailing list. So really there’s no excuse for not having one. It’s the simplest and cheapest way to stay in front of your clients and prospects.