Let’s begin with a short quiz. One question. No pressure.
What is the best type of advertising?
When asked this question, many people answer “the kind that works!“ While no one can disagree with that, I submit that the BEST type of advertising is the one that is most overlooked.
I’m talking about word-of-mouth advertising. While targeted email, banner ads, billboard ads, and even television ads all have their place, nothing compares to the power of word-of-mouth advertising. Here’s why.
When one person tells another person about your product or service, the very fact that they are speaking about you constitutes an endorsement. While people might not trust advertising (in fact, they don’t), they do trust people. If Jane feels strongly enough about what you do to tell Jim, Jim will take notice even if Jane gets the facts wrong. When Jane tells 15 or 20 Jims, she has become a Center of Influence.
How can we develop a powerful word-of-mouth advertising campaign in our businesses? By recognizing, developing, and rewarding those people who can become a ‘center of influence’ in our lives. It’s done in three steps. Let’s look at each step.
Recognition. In order to become a true *center* of influence, a person needs to be in regular contact with the type of people who can benefit from what you do. This begs a critical question. Do you know what your ideal prospect looks like? Once you know, do this:
List the type of clients that you would like to have more of. List what makes them an ideal client for you (they need what you do, they are open to change, etc.)
Find common characteristics. Do these super clients go to the symphony, play golf, visit certain web sites, participate in online forums? As much as you can, be where they are.
Get to know them on their turf. Let them see you at events they attend. Volunteer to help their favorite charity. Make yourself visible. Before people will buy and recommend us, they need to get to know and TRUST us.
Development. This is NOT manipulation, but education. Have you ever had someone you know buy what you sell from a competitor because they just didn’t know YOU sold it? We are not at the top of people’s minds. They have kids, mortgages, college to pay for, as well as work pressures, just like you do. We need to position ourselves at the top of their minds by being in constant contact. We have so many tools at our disposal for this purpose. Here are three to start with:
Send them an email once a month to announce something new in your business.
Phone them to say hello and announce your next big event. Ask them how they are, first, and keep notes so you have a point of contact for the next call.
A personal note works very well for developing this type of relationship. Have you written a new article or been in the newspaper? Write a brief note and send it along. Notes take time, which shows that you value this relationship.
Reward. No, I am NOT talking about money here. This relationship that goes much deeper than that. What I am saying is that while you are getting to know them better and educating them about what you do, take the time to LISTEN to their needs. When you can meet one of their needs, do it immediately. This person is important to your business. Don’t TELL them, SHOW them how important they are. If this relationship does not include reciprocity, it will degenerate into a ‘what’s in it for me’ situation that will not stand the test of time.
Please understand that these relationships must be open and honest in order to work. People like to help other people, especially those they know and trust. Develop that trust relationship with people who are well-positioned to help you. You must earn their referrals. When you do, your marketing will become supercharged with what is clearly the best form of advertising … positive word-of-mouth.