When you get into business, there’s one thing everyone is told repeatedly they must do — even if they do nothing else — is marketing. Funnily enough, it’s also one of the things a lot of business owners resist because:
- they don’t feel particularly skilled at it
- they simply don’t know how to make the time.
More often than not, the outcome is reflected in their bottom line. However, I found a way to grow my consulting business with an underutilized and overlooked marketing strategy. Here’s how I did it.
Good work begets good business
Good work begets good business, especially if you’re in an industry where your clients often work or socialize with your ideal clients. For example, I was working with one client for 18 months who also happened to work with other business owners — we’ll call her Ashley. Over time, Ashley’s clients experienced a complete overhaul of her business because of the systems and processes I implemented.
All of Ashley’s manual processes became automated. We set up a successful system and process for email campaigns. We overhauled her client onboarding process and developed a new offboarding process where they are high touch and high tech to give a greater user experience. We implemented new client management systems and new team onboarding processes.
Since the transformations significantly upgraded the quality of the user experience for Ashley’s clients and she was happy with the work, her clients wanted what she had. This led to almost a dozen referrals from Ashley and her other clients whom I have worked with in just a short period of time.
I didn’t have to market my services in a traditional way because my work was getting directly in front of my target audience, and they were responding positively.
“Referral marketing is when you get your customers to tell their friends about you. Like any marketing, referral marketing (also known as word-of-mouth marketing) usually happens organically. It happens whether or not marketers get involved in the process.”Oberlo: The Ultimate Guide to Referral Marketing
If your clients work or socialize with your ideal clients, you’re set up for referrals already. If not, you may need to prompt your clients or peers who respect your work to make introductions for you. According to Think Impact, business-to-business (B2B) “referrals provide 30% more leads that generate revenue for the business as compared to other marketing channels.”
This means leads from referrals (i.e., word-of-mouth) provide more revenue than leads from other marketing channels, while also providing significantly more leads than other forms of marketing. Referrals are a profound way to get more clients without marketing.
Excellence and integrity encourage referrals
Some business owners will focus on having incredible marketing to bring the clients in, but then they drop the ball on delivery. If you’re working in a service-based business, your service is your calling card. Even if you have stellar marketing, you’re playing a game with an expiration timer if your service is not up to par.
Focusing on excellence over everything has made my work stand out and generated referrals in both my operations and event businesses. I was able to make this work because integrity is one of my highest values and I am not afraid to admit when I’m human and make mistakes. Owning my mistakes or mishaps generates more respect and forgiveness from a client than ignoring or avoiding issues.
By creating a space where clients don’t have to point out things going awry, clients feel safer knowing I’ll take full ownership and come up with solutions. Being a business owner doesn’t mean you’re expected to operate above human error. It means you’re expected to deliver a high-quality service where you actively problem-solve, carrying the cognitive load for the client. Clients aren’t worried when there’s a clear solution and plan. They get nervous when there are problems that aren’t being addressed.
Communication and boundaries are key
Like most relationships, clients need healthy boundaries and strong communication to be served in the highest manner. This helps facilitate the referral process because your time isn’t wasted with prospects who aren’t a good personality fit. If clients understand who you are, how you work, and what’s required of them to have the best experience possible with you, then the referrals you receive will be in alignment with their understanding.
Therefore, communication and boundaries are imperative to set at the beginning. I establish strong communication standards and boundaries with my clients and my team. We deal with all issues very straightforwardly, honestly, and lovingly. There is no blame, but there is responsibility and learning to be better. This allows everyone to work in a healthy, supportive manner while ensuring all parties are accountable and responsible for their part of the process. Strong communication and boundaries also create a safe environment to discuss the hard things that may arise and need to be resolved.
Having these things in place increases your likelihood of referrals and reduces your need to market. This allows you to focus on delivering stellar service and doing what you love most.
Lany Sullivan is a business operations expert, helping businesses streamline their systems and processes so they can relax and build a culture that prevents burnout. Learn more at resolvemychaos.com.
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