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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.

The #1 Reason Ads Fail

A prospect confided in me...

"Business is down Steve, and we're spending more on advertising then ever before. You've seen our TV ads...are they good?"

Well...

No.

I hear this or some variation on it all too often. Then I get a look at the ad (doesn't matter if it's on TV, radio, the Web, magazine, email or Facebook) and the problem is obvious.

There's no clear next step for the prospect (what us marketing geeks refer to as a "call to action").

The ad's got some branding (like a logo), a cute tagline and some pictures that some ad agency creative type thought meant something.

But they forgot the one and only purpose of the ad...to sell something!

Yes, that's right. The One and ONLY purpose of all of your marketing is to make a sale not to...

  • Get the word out
  • Put your name out there
  • Build your brand
  • Create awareness
  • Build buzz

The last time I checked you can't deposit name recognition, brand awareness or buzz in your bank account.

If you don't tell your prospect clearly and specifically what to do next to hire you, your ad won't be with the paper (or pixels) it's printed on.

Go check all of your ads right now...are you missing any calls to action?

Get 'em fixed pronto.

You're probably wasting $$

Got an ad that's not working as well as it should?

Grab one of my 49-point Marketing Audits. I'll review your ad and give you concrete actionable ideas to improve it.

In fact, I'll go through all of your marketing with you and help you identify the gaps where you could do better.

We'll spend about an hour on the phone and I guarantee you'll walk away with at least 3 actionable ideas to improve your marketing and attract more clients.

Now, here's the crazy part...until Wednesday I'm offering these Marketing Audits for half-off my normal fee...just $123.50. (This is only for subscribers to the E-Letter...go here to subscribe)

At the end of the audit, if you don't feel like you got at least 5-times what you pay in value, I'll hand your money back...no questions asked.

Like the lottery, the only way to lose is not to play.

Call my office at 1-877-316-4448 or click here  to schedule your appointment today.

Steve Gordon

Top 10 Ways to Never, Ever Be A "Commodity Business" - Letterman Style

No one should ever have to suffer inside a commodity business..."it just ain't no fun!" Here are the top 10 ways to get out, get happy and get profitable:

#10. Get better marketing. Use direct response, lead generation strategies to get prospects to call YOU for free information...then follow-up forever. (Only 10% of prospects ever get more than 3 follow-ups...there's not much competition after that.)

#9. Be a conduit to important connections/resources/information. Make doing business with you the golden ticket to access all the extra goodness.

#8. Get more referrals. According to best selling author Tom Hopkins referred prospects are 500% more likely to close than cold prospects. And you can bet low price isn't their #1 buying criteria.

#7. Stop selling commodity units and start creating unique packages. Package what you sell with other related products and services that enhance your main product. Bundle them together to force an "apples to oranges" comparison.

#6. Come up with a better guarantee. Strong, creative, comprehensive guarantees are proven to increase sales. And it's often a great (and free) way to stand apart from your competition.

#5. Stop selling to everyone and focus on one specific type of client (at a time). Be the ____________ (what you do) for ____________ (specific type of client).

#4. Raise your prices...and create added value to justify the bump. Sometimes higher prices will drive higher volume. Test to see what combination of price/volume delivers more PROFIT. You don't deposit volume in the bank...you do deposit net profit.

#3. Look at what the competition is doing and do the opposite. Listen to the wisdom of Earl Nightengale in his 1956 recording "The Strangest Secret"...“Look at what the majority of people are doing, and do the exact opposite, and you’ll probably never go wrong for as long as you live.”

#2. Anoint yourself as the expert in your market. Write, speak, blog, email to claim and hold the position of expert and leader. “We all like to buy something from an expert--somebody we like, respect and trust.” - Joe Sugarman (creator and marketer of Blue Blocker sunglasses and countless other successful products.)

And the #1 Way to Never, Ever be a Commodity.........

1. Decide not to.

Yes folks it's just that simple (not necessarily easy...but simple). Make the decision, then do what's necessary to get out of the commodity trap. You deserve better!

Steve Gordon

P.S. Sick of being a commodity? Why haven't you called me? I specialize in getting business owners out of commodity hell.

Call me today to schedule a 49-point Marketing Audit.

In honor of the new, improved E-Letter (click here to subscribe), I'm knocking the price in half...you get a complete marketing checkup and at least 3 actionable ideas to attract more clients for just $123.50. But only until October 5th.

Call me (1-877-316-4448) or go here to get yours.

P.P.S. If you're not thrilled with the ideas and insight you get I'll refund your money, no questions asked. You've got nothing to lose.

Your Email Marketing Myths Busted

Without a doubt strongemail marketing/strong is the most effective and economical ways that small businesses can communicate with customers and clients. But there are a lot of myths among business owners, usually based on their perception, not tests or real numbers, that prevent them from using email the right way. Here are the top 7 myths… h2Myth 1. You can send too frequently./h2 If I have another meeting with an entrepreneur who thinks that email marketing is having a Constant Contact account and sending out an email once a quarter I’m going to scream!

The truth is you can send an email to your list, daily, three times a week, weekly, bi-weekly…you pick one…and it’s likely to be very effective if you do two things: ol liSet the expectation up front with the people on your list so they know what they’re signing up for./li liSend relevant information in each message./li /ol That’s it. Will more people unsubscribe? Maybe. Is that important? Probably not. (see Myth #2) h2Myth 2. Unsubscribes are bad./h2 I have seen some serious ringing of hands and gnashing of teeth over a few unsubscribes here and a few there. It’s not a big deal. Truth be told, you want some unsubscribes every time you send a message.

The people getting off your list are saying “this isn’t for me.” As a marketer you should be thanking them for excusing themselves. Now you can focus on the real prospects…the ones who value what you send and who want a relationship with you.

One salesman in my hometown voluntarily got on my list, but didn’t like the number of messages he got (just a few). He emailed me to give me his candid email marketing advice and I promptly and politely removed him from the list. When I see him around town he refers to me as the “man who sends the messages” and repeats his opinion of my marketing.

I have two choices. Listen to this one person (who by the way isn’t a client) and change what I’m doing. Or, stay the course. My bottom line favors the latter. h2Myth 3. You need a big list to make money./h2 It’s not the size that matters…

It’s your relationship with your list that’s important. You build relationship in email marketing just like you do in real life. ul liShow up consistently and often./li liBe of service./li liHave conversations./li liMake introductions./li liShare yourself./li /ul You’d never expect to build a strong friendship with someone in real life if you only spoke to them once a quarter. h2Myth 4. You have to write all of the email content yourself./h2 It’s great if you can write and you have time to do it consistently, but you don’t have to.

You can act as a collector and curator of information for your prospects and customers. There’s a good chance that if you find something interesting, your subscribers will too.

Make a list of the five most interesting articles you read this week and send it out. Even if they have nothing to do with your industry.

As a bonus…insert your opinion on some of the topics where appropriate.

If you’re sharing great resources your list will appreciate you and see you as a leader. h2Myth 5. You can’t sell in email./h2 If this were true, what would be the point of email marketing? According to the Direct Marketing Association email marketing returns $43 for every $1 you spend (on average) so somebody’s selling something.

The challenge is doing it right. I teach my clients that email marketing is a a href=http://stevegordonmarketing.com/consultingsilent sales machine/a. You wrap your sales message inside a great piece of valuable information.

No one likes to be sold but you know what they say: “A spoon full of sugar makes the medicine go down…” Integrating your pitch with your content not only makes it easier to swallow, it makes your buying your stuff seem like the next logical step for those who found your content useful. h2Myth 6. It’s got to be pretty to work./h2 “Beauty is in the eye of the beer holder.”

Some of the most effective emails I’ve ever sent were ugly, plain text things with no images, no logo, no color…nothing but the words.

Right now, the only email I send that has any design to it at all is my weekly email magazine, the “Marketing Entrepreneur’s E-Letter”: http://stevegordonmarketing.com/eletter. All of the follow-up emails I send are plain text…by design.

Why does plain text work better?

Let’s put ourselves in the shoes of our email recipients for a moment. If you’re scanning through your inbox looking for the important messages. The ones that you need to read right now and you see a big logo or image at the top you instantly know “this is a mass email…it’s not actionable…I can read it later.”

On the other hand, if you get what looks like a plain old email (like real, everyday people send) you’re probably going to at least scan it to see if you need to respond.

Don’t worry about having the perfect design…or any design at all. Just get your message out. Today! h2Myth 7. My clients will hate me if I make a mistake./h2 You will make mistakes. It’s part of the learning process and you want to make mistakes. I’ve made my fair share over the last two years since I got serious about email marketing.

I’ve sent emails that didn’t get opened…emails that aggravated a few…emails with typos…changed branding three times…sent emails with boring subject lines…you name it.

But by far the biggest mistake I made was not emailing consistently or often enough in the beginning.

But I keep showing up and talking to the people who have asked to hear from me.

And they have rewarded me with their attention and business.

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

The 12 Essential Techniques of Power Networkers

1. Don't try to sell. For most people it all ends tragically here. They mistakenly stroll into the industry conference or chamber of commerce meeting with the idea that they need to find someone to sell to. Don't do it. It gives people the creeps. And it kills your real opportunity at these events--finding strategic partners.

2. Give before you get. Don't go with your hand out empty to your network. Not until you've made some deposits in your good will account. Build up your account first, by giving referrals.

3. Understand that it's net WORK. I hate to say it (and I'll probably lose half of you reading this now) but power networkers WORK at it.

They cut up the newspaper and magazines to send articles of interest to the people in their network. They set aside time to think about who they know and how people in their network can help each other.

The bad news is that it takes work. The good news is that a small amount of work will yield big results.

4. Be interesting. Everyone says you need an elevator pitch to use when you meet someone at a networking event. But the way MOST people do it is, frankly boring.

It usually goes like this "Hi, I'm Bob, I'm an accountant..." or "Hi, I'm Bob with Enormicon, we specialize in scaleable solutions to strategic problems by finding synergy with customers, suppliers and partners"...Yuck! If you're doing this, you're boring and forgettable.

For our real estate services and surveying business, my partner has used "I give good land..." and "I measure the Earth..." She always gets a laugh and a follow-up question from the person she's talking with. It starts the conversation and people remember.

5. Set goals. Never attend a networking event without deciding how many strategic partners you're going to meet. If you're just starting, commit to two. As you get better, increase the number. When you hit the number go home, knowing you succeeded.

6. Throw a rolodex party. Networking and sales guru Greta Schulz throws "rolodex parties" with key contacts every few months. Agree with your key contacts that you'll meet for lunch and everyone will bring their contact list. You share lists, looking for people you can be introduced to.

7. Be interesting. This one's important enough to mention twice.

8. Make it easy to refer to you. So you've succeeded and you found a strategic partner who wants to refer people to you. She asks you "Who's a good prospect for you?" And you say "Anyone who does ____________." You've just killed your opportunity for a referral.

Instead, make a "Top 10 People I'd Like to Meet List" and give it to your strategic partners. On the list put specific people or specific positions within specific companies such as "Chief Software Architect, Microsoft."

By focusing your partner, you'll get exponentially better results and you'll get them faster.

9. Play matchmaker. Your job in networking is to match up people who can do business with each other or who can refer business to one another. Spend some time each week (put it on your calendar) to think about who you can match up within your network. Then make the introductions. I suggest a minimum of two each week.

10. Say thank you. If you get a referral or introduction from someone, say thanks. Send a personal note ( you get bonus points for cookies or Starbucks cards).

11. Test alliances quickly. Don't waste time on people who don't understand that networking is reciprocal. If you're giving and giving and getting nothing in return cut the relationship.

Often you can determine how the relationship will go during your first conversation. If you're asking all the questions and the potential partner doesn't show interest in what you do...politely move on.

12. Have a system. Make your life easy and have a system for starting conversations, for meeting with partners the first time, for following up and for making introductions.

Having a system does not mean you have to be rigid, just that you follow a defined set of steps. You'll be more effective if you're not reinventing the mechanics of networking at every event you attend.

What techniques work well for you?