Referral Marketing Is Risky–It’s Also Rewardingstring(59) "Referral Marketing Is Risky–It’s Also Rewarding"

In a radio interview I once did, the host of the program asked me whether I consider referral marketing the safest form of advertising. Without the slightest hesitation, I confidently answered, “By all means, no.” Based on his response, I’m sure he was shocked by that answer.

Photo courtesy of Zuzzuillo at FreeDigtalPhotos.net

Photo courtesy of Zuzzuillo at FreeDigtalPhotos.net

I went on to explain that I believe very strongly in the tremendous benefits that word-of –mouth marketing can bring. However, there are unique risks associated with referral advertising that are not an issue in commercial or other forms of advertising.

When you give a referral, you give a little of your reputation away. If the business you’ve referred someone to does a good job, it helps your reputation. But if it does a poor job, your reputation may be hurt.

As I said, the payoffs of referral marketing are immense—when it’s done correctly.

But referral marketing involves a really big risk: giving away a piece of your reputation every time you give a referral to someone. When you tell a valued customer that a friend of yours is going to take good care of them, you must have confidence in that friend.

But what happens if your friend lets your customer down? It comes back to haunt you. Your customer begins to lose faith in you and, because of that loss of faith, you just might lose that customer down the road. This is why it’s so important to develop strong relationships with those to whom you’re referring business and vice versa. Once those strong connections are forged you can rest easy, knowing when you tell someone a business associate or a networking partner is going to take good care of him or her, that’s what will happen.

Do you have a story others might learn from about a time when referral marketing really paid off for you, or a story about how you experienced the unique risks associated with referral marketing firsthand?  Please share your experiences in the comment forum below.  I’d love to hear from you–thanks!

 

How to Zero in on the Benefits of Your Businessstring(47) "How to Zero in on the Benefits of Your Business"

Last week I wrote a blog explaining the importance of focusing on the benefits of your products or services (as opposed to the features of your products/services) when communicating with networking partners and potential customers.

Once you have a good understanding of the difference between benefits and features, you can begin zeroing in on the benefits of your business.  In order to do this, your first task is to focus on your best customers.  What problems were they experiencing before they came to you?  What problems did you solve for them?  How did you make their lives easier?  The answers to these questions will begini to connect you with their motives for buying your products or services.  You provided some value to them that was significant enough to cause them to spend their money.  What was it?

An additional task this week is to create a list of the features versus the benefits of just one product or service you offer.  On a sheet of paper, make two columns–one column with the heading “FEATURE of This Product or Service” and the other column with the heading “BENEFIT of This Feature.”

Once you’ve completed this list, begin to include the language of your benefits in your messages to your marketing team, to prospects, and while networking.  It would be a good idea to eventually complete this list for each of your products or services because the more you can communicate the benefits of your products/services, the more people will see the value of what your business provides.

Come back next week to learn how to simplify your message and make it more specific and, in the meantime, I’d love to hear from you in regard to any questions you may have about benefits vs. features and/or get your thoughts on what you may have learned or realized about the true benefits of your products/services through creating your features vs. benefits list.  Please share your questions/thoughts in the comment forum below.  Thanks!

 

It Never Hurts to Ask . . . Right?string(34) "It Never Hurts to Ask . . . Right?"

How many times have we heard people say that it never hurts to ask? Surely more times than we can count. 

Well, in this video, I explain why it definitely hurts to ask sometimes–especially if you ask to soon!  I share a personal story of a recent time when a stranger contacted me via LinkedIn wanting to connect and accompanied the connection request with a note asking me something which I found inappropriate to the point that I decided right then that I was never even going to consider connecting with her.

Watch the video to hear the story and to find out why I flagged the woman’s LinkedIn request as problematic on three significant levels.  Let me just say that this is ‘Networking 101’ and if I were her teacher, she would have gotten a failing grade–this is not the way to network!  Whether you frequently participate in face-to-face networking, online networking, or both, you’ll definitely want to hear this story so you never make the three mistakes that this woman did.

I’d really love to hear your feedback on this.  What are your thoughts?  Also, please share any similar horror stories you may have in the comment forum below–I’m looking forward to hearing from you.  Thanks!

How and When to Deliver Your Business Cardstring(42) "How and When to Deliver Your Business Card"

Last week I posted a blog entitled “Leverage Your Smallest Billboard” about how to make the most of one of the most powerful marketing tools you have available to you–your business card.  A few days after that post went up, I received an e-mail from one of my blog readers asking if I could offer some details on the best way to go about distributing business cards when networking.  She specifically wanted to know if there’s any way to tell when it’s the right time to offer your card to a new contact.  So, in answer to her request, today’s blog post is all about how and when to deliver your business card.

Business Card

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How many times have you been to a networking function and had people come up to you and literally push their cards into your hand or pocket?  Such behavior is business card abuse, and it warrants a phone call to the business card police.  I call these people “card pushers.”  They come directly from the school of power networking, where they’ve been taught to “Sell! Sell! Sell!”–and to do so at networking events by forcing their cards on every person they meet.  Their goal for each networking event is to get rid of as many cards as they can, under the illusion that simply having a card automatically makes you part of their network.  They make no real effort to develop relationships.  Being on the receiving end of such aggressive card mongering feels awkward; you are being directly sold to, with no consideration of your interests or needs.

Does this sound like a cold call to you?  It is–except for one thing.  The seller is not safely out of reach at the other end of the line–he’s breathing in your face and grabbing your hand.  It’s a situation you’d like to avoid, right?  Then make every effort not to impose it on anyone else.  Don’t hand out your business card unless someone asks for it.

That’s right.  You read correctly.  I’ll say it again to make the point.  The best way to use your business card is not to give it out if people don’t ask for it.  If you practice this rule while networking, you’ll be amazed at the impact you’ll have on others.  You’ll find it refreshing, liberating, and, most important, controlled.  You are now assured that peoople who ask for your card actually want your card.  As a bonus, you save money and trees!

So, you may be asking yourself, what happens if I want to give someone my card but they don’t ask me?  It’s simple . . . ask them for their card.  More than likely, they will then ask you for yours as well.

After reading this, what do you think?  Do you agree that this is the best way to hand out your business card when networking?  Do you have any creative tactics for getting your business cards in the hands of others outside of the networking event environment?  If so, how have these tactics paid off for you?  I’d love to hear your thoughts so please share them in the comment forum below.  Thanks! 

 

 

Leverage Your Smallest Billboardstring(32) "Leverage Your Smallest Billboard"

With your business card, you have an opportunity to hook yourself into the minds of people you meet while networking.  Sure it’s a lot smaller than a roadside sign, but it can be as effective as a catchy billboard nonetheless.

Business Cards

(Image courtesy of mrsiraphol at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

For its size and cost, the business card is probably the most powerful marketing tool you own.  Take one of your cards out right now and look at it.  Does your current card accurately reflect your business’ personality–and your own?  What kind of first impression does it make?  Is it memorable?  If  not, it will probably get tossed into a drawer full of ancient, bent, forgotten cards or dropped into the nearest circular file.

Of course, you can’t expect your business card to do all the heavy lifting by itself.  It can’ t tell the whole story about your company.  It’s not a brochure or a catalog.  It has limited space, so you have to choose your words and images carefully.  Nevertheless, your card should present a professional image that people will remember.  A business card can make or break a client’s first impression of your company.  In fact, this little billboard makes as much of an impression as your personal appearance.

Choose a card style that’s appropriate for your business, industry, and personal style.  If you’re a funeral director, you don’t want to be caught handing out Day-Glo cards with cartoon figures on them.  If you’re a mechanic whose specialty is converting old VW Beetles into dune buggies, a formal, black-on-white engraved card will probably be thrown out.  Start with the style that best supports the business image you wish to project.  Regardless of the style you choose, make sure the impact remains consistent.

Here are five different card styles for you to consider:

  • Basic Cards–This is a good card style when utility is all you need.  It’s a no-nonsense approach that can appeal to clients and prospects who would not be impressed by fancy design features.  The design is simple and the information is clear and concise.  A basic card is usually printed in black ink on plain white or cream stock.
  • Picture Cards–Having your face on a card–whether it’s a photograph, a drawing, or a caricature–helps a contact remember you.  Images representing a product, service, or benefit your business provides, can help you communicate your business better than dozens of words.
  • Tactile Cards–Some cards are distinguished not so much by how they look as by how they feel.  They may use nonstandard materials, such as metal or wood, or have unusual shapes, edges, folds, or embossing.  Tactile cards tend to be considerably more expensive but, for some businesses, this unusual card may be worth the investment.
  • Multipurpose Cards–A card can do more than promote your name and business–it can also serve as a discount coupon, an appointment reminder, or some other function.  It may also provide valuable information that the average person might need.  For example, a hotel may include a map on the back of its card for any guests who are walking around the vicinity.
  • Outside-the-Box Cards–A wildly original, fanciful, or extravagant presentation can draw extra attention.  Creativity knows no bounds–except the amount of money you wish to spend.  Some examples are cards made of chocolate, cards fashioned into a deck of playing cards, or cards that fold out into a miniature box that holds small items.

In closing, I have one last, very important task for you.  Look closely at your business card again and after ensuring that it truly and positively represents you and your business, check for the essentials–your name, title, company name, address, phone number, e-mail address, and website.  If someone wants to contact you after receiving your card, you sure as heck want them to be able to reach you.

The #1 Tip for Hitting the Target with Marketingstring(48) "The #1 Tip for Hitting the Target with Marketing"

Marketing isn’t something I was always confident about.  When I first started out in business, my degrees were in Political Science and Organizational Behavior.  I had very little marketing experience until I went to work for a transportation company in Southern California and, within a two week span, went from a role in purchasing to a significant role in marketing–a huge change that was an even bigger learning experience.

My marketing experience was trial by fire and reading.  I just started reading books on marketing and learned as I went, and it was that experience that gave me enough knowledge to do some marketing on my own when I later set out as a business consultant.

 

Marketing Target

Image courtesy of nokhoog_buchachon / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If somebody had asked me when I was 25 where I saw myself career wise in thirty years, I would have had no clue that my career would be all about marketing . . . that I would be the Chairman of the world’s largest referral marketing organization.  Sometimes we go places in life we never expected to go but I wouldn’t change a thing about the career path I chose.  I am passionate about helping people grow their businesses and achieve great success through effective referral marketing and after spending over two decades devoted to this work; I really enjoy knowing that the work I do allows me to pass on the marketing knowledge and experience I’ve attained in order to benefit to others.

I was recently asked what my top marketing tip would be and I think it’s really all about building the brand–either the brand of the company or of the individual, depending on the kind of business that you’re in.  Name recognition–that’s the biggest challenge, especially for small companies.  It’s not the same for everybody because every business is a little different and people’s skill sets are different.  For me, in my business, brand building has largely been about writing.  Before the internet I was trying to get articles in newspapers and magazines.  Now it’s much, much easier.  In this age of blogs and social media, even small companies have a global reach.  The problem is all the white noise that’s out there: with so many people wanting a piece of the action you have to be able to stand out.  So, for me, the top marketing tip would be to write, write, write.  Become an expert in your field so people want to follow you because when they follow you, they’re more likely to do business with you.

 

I’d love to hear how you’re making your mark with marketing–what is your top marketing tip for the other business owners out there reading this blog?

Ya Gotta Know Your Audience!string(28) "Ya Gotta Know Your Audience!"

Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We were having some wine the other night with a friend who had just come from a private jet show in Geneva, Switzerland (sounds like fun!). He was telling us about what a great job one of the exclusive, high-end private jet companies had done to wow their potential customers.

He said that they gave a new iPad to each invited guest in which they had loaded all the specs for their various jets, including apps that let the prospects choose the plane they were interested and create a custom interior from all their choices – woods, carpeting, leathers, etc . . . They could see what their new plane would look like right there on the spot. Brilliant!

Everyone seemed extremely impressed with this high-tech marketing tool, until it was handed to someone my friend recognized immediately – Bill Gates, Founder of Microsoft.

His words? Something like, “Thanks, but no thanks.”

Someone had failed to think about how the Founder of Microsoft would react to being handed an Apple product to use in the process of a potential sale. It’s a small detail, you may think, but you really have to know your audience. What may seem like a small detail to you could end up being huge to your potential customer and could make or break the deal!

Have you witnessed a situation where someone didn’t think about their audience and blew an opportunity? If so, please share it here–I’d really like to hear about it.  Thanks!

Facts + Stories = Powerful Messagesstring(35) "Facts + Stories = Powerful Messages"

In this video, I talk to Ireland-based business networking expert Sandra Hart about the importance of embedding the facts about your business within the form of a story.

When you’re networking or advertising for your business, the most powerful way to present your message is to use a story to ensure your message is heard.  Facts by themselves are, for the most part, simply not memorable to most people.  If you are a banker and you tell people that you specialize in offering low-interest home loans, people may remember that your bank offers loans, but whether or not they remember what kind of loans you specialize in is left to chance.  However, if instead of simply stating that you specialize in low-interest home loans, you tell a story about how you helped a young family of four to overcome their financial struggles by granting them a low-interest home loan, and how this enabled them to purchase their dream home in the sought after Sunny Pines community, you can bet people are going to remember you when they run across someone looking for a home loan.

Remember, facts only tell but stories sell . . . why is this?  Because people don’t emotionally connect to facts.  People emotionally connect to stories and this is what makes stories memorable.

What is an example of a memorable story you could tell about your business that would powerfully present a fact (or several facts) about the products/benefits/services your business offers?  Please share your story in the comment forum below.  Thanks!

Referral Marketing: Know the Risks, Reap the Rewardsstring(52) "Referral Marketing: Know the Risks, Reap the Rewards"

In a radio interview I once did, the host of the program asked me whether I consider referral marketing the safest form of advertising. Without the slightest hesitation, I confidently answered, “By all means, no.” Based on his response, I’m sure he was shocked by that answer.

I went on to explain that I believe very strongly in the tremendous benefits that word-of –mouth marketing can bring. However, there are unique risks associated with referral advertising that are not an issue in commercial or other forms of advertising.

When you give a referral, you give a little of your reputation away. If the business you’ve referred someone to does a good job, it helps your reputation. But if it does a poor job, your reputation may be hurt.

As I said, the payoffs of referral marketing are immense—when it’s done correctly. But referral marketing involves a really big risk: giving away a piece of your reputation every time you give a referral to someone. When you tell a valued customer that a friend of yours is going to take good care of them, you must have confidence in that friend.

But what happens if your friend lets your customer down? It comes back to haunt you. Your customer begins to lose faith in you and, because of that loss of faith, you just might lose that customer down the road. This is why it’s so important to develop strong relationships with those to whom you’re referring business and vice versa. Once those strong connections are forged you can rest easy, knowing when you tell someone a business associate or a networking partner is going to take good care of him or her, that’s what will happen.

Do you have a story others might learn from about a time when referral marketing really paid off for you, or a story about how you experienced the unique risks associated with referral marketing firsthand?  Please share your experiences in the comment forum below.  I’d love to hear from you–thanks!

8 Questions to Ask Yourself When Considering a Sponsorship Opportunitystring(70) "8 Questions to Ask Yourself When Considering a Sponsorship Opportunity"

Local communities and organizations–be they service clubs or professional groups–depend on sponsorships to make ends meet at some of their events.  This is also true for association trade shows and exhibitions.  In most cases, the dollar amounts for sponsoring events of this sort are modest–ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.

How many times have you been asked to be a sponsor?  How many times have you offered to sponsor a select event in order to help out someone in your network?  Both situations have the potential to give you huge exposure if done well.  In addition, sponsoring an event for someone on your word-of-mouth marketing team enhances the relationship, because you are helping that person meet a goal.

When you consider which people you will network with and where, you’re being selective.  Choose carefully, too, when you’re thinking about sponsoring an event.  Is it a good investment of your time and money?  Whether you’re being recruited or are volunteering, ask yourself the following questions before deciding . . .

  • What is the target market for this event?
  • What kind of exposure do I get for my investment?
  • Can I get this kind of exposure without this investment?
  • Do I get direct access to the audience?
  • Does it make sense for me to be there?
  • Which business or networking goal does it help me complete?
  • Are other sponsors my competitors?
  • How does this enhance my credibility with the person I’m helping?
  • Why wouldn’t I do it?

All of these questions help you determine the value of a sponsorship opportunity.  Now, imagine one day being in charge of putting on a huge event.  Suddenly, someone from your network steps forward to offer you a substantial sponsorship because she heard through the grapevine that your event needed money.  How would you feel about that person?  You can create that same feeling toward yourself in someone else by offering that exact gift.  Be selective, and offer your support in person.  In effect, you are making a tidy “deposit” in your relationship bank account.  This act of generosity definitely comes back to you in time, but for now it simply nurtures the relationship by helping someone in your network meet her goals.

This week, think of the people in your network.  Who do you know that is planning an event–a conference, an open house, a 10K fundraiser–who could use your financial support?  To strengthen your relationship with this individual, offer as much help from your business as you can provide.

Have you sponsored an event in the past?  If so, I’d love to hear about your experience and how it impacted your relationship with the person in charge of the event.  Please share your story in the comment forum below.  Thanks!

Tiffanie Kellog: Facts May Tell But Stories Sellstring(48) "Tiffanie Kellog: Facts May Tell But Stories Sell"

I’ve done quite a few video blogs with Tiffanie Kellog and there’s a very good reason for that . . . she is an outstanding Referral Institute® Trainer, Consultant, & Speaker and she has an unending supply of highly useful ideas and comments to offer.

In this video, I talk with Tiffanie about the power of using compelling stories as testimonials for your products and/or services.  Everyone who makes an effort to build their business through referral marketing has the same goal–to have all those in their network talking positively about their business on their behalf.  So, the best thing to do in order to achieve this goal is to arm those in your network with compelling stories of how you’ve helped clients in ways that have transformed their lives in some aspect . . . your fellow networkers can then share these stories with others who may be potential prospects for you, thus creating the most powerful form of a testimonial you can receive.

Watch this short video now to find out why testimonials that simply state facts about your business do nothing more than tell and how in order to really sell someone on your product or service, you need compelling stories.  Remember . . . facts tell, stories sell!

Be sure to check out Tiffanie’s website by clicking here or visiting TiffanieKellog.com and if you have a compelling story about how you’ve helped a customer or client that you think would be a great testimonial for your business, please share it in the comment forum below–you never know who will see it and you might even generate some referrals by sharing it!

‘Why People Resist Networking’ Series: Part II–Too Busy to Networkstring(84) "‘Why People Resist Networking’ Series: Part II–Too Busy to Network"

In this second installment of the “Why People Resist Networking” Video Series, I discuss another commonly held idea behind why people most likely resist networking–they claim they are much too busy to network.

The bottom line is that though people may feel they “don’t have the time” or that they’re “too busy to network,” in reality they’re simply not making the effort to take the time because they don’t realize two extremely important facts about the benefits of networking and the power it has to significantly build their business.

I highly encourage you to watch this video to find out why the “I’m too busy to network” mentality is something you definitely need to overcome if your goal is to grow your business as efficiently and effectively as possible.

After watching the video, I’d love for you to leave your feedback, thoughts, and/or comments in the comment forum below.  In addition to leaving any feedback you might have, I’m specifically interested in hearing your ideas/tactics for combating the “I’m too busy . . .” mentality.  Thanks!

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