Friday, August 8, 2014

Spreading the word

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     from a lifetime of personal experience running small businesses.

     You never know where the next referral is coming from. This simple fact tells you how to treat every visitor to your website, every person who calls your business, and every person who walks in your door. 

     Example: Mary had her hair done at a local salon. She enthusiastically referred her friends. One came and was dissatisfied with the results. This friend spread a lot of negativity about the salon. When word reached Mary, she went into action. She contacted the dissatisfied person, offering a free "do-over" plus a gift certificate. The owner also called Mary, thanked her for the referral and offered her a gift certificate as well. The bad-mouthing stopped and more referrals rolled in.

     Turning a dissatisfied customer around can be a tricky exercise. But it is always worth the extra effort. You don't want bad-mouthing to be going around the neighborhood. 

     More straightforward ways can be even more effective in spreading the word. 

     Example: When John got his plumber's license, he had few customers--mainly friends and relatives. He passed out business cards at every opportunity, including several networking sessions he attended. He also placed a small ad in the local newspaper. Nothing seemed to bring in many new customers. John decided to call people he had done some plumbing work for. First, he asked if they needed any additional plumbing work done. Second, he asked for referrals--names and phone numbers of people they knew. Everyone needs a plumber sooner or later, he reasoned. It worked. Several referrals became customers. Today, he employs two helpers.

     Referrals are the lifeblood of every business. Referrals come to you on another person's reputation, friendship or recommendation. 

     Example: Frank used a method similar to the plumber's method. Frank is a business consultant and coach. Tough business. Asking satisfied clients for referrals is a tried and true method to increase your circle of clients. Frank called people he'd worked for and asked for referrals. When he called these referrals, he launched into a conversation about cash flow, finding good employees, and other problems common to all small businesses. It worked well for him. BTW, Frank was careful not to use the word "consultant" when calling the referrals--that word is a turn-off to people in small business. 

     Referrals arrive at your door pre-disposed to your services/products. Not that they are ready to buy, but they are leaning in your direction. 

     Work at getting referrals. Whatever method you use, keep it up. Don't let a week go by without doing something to increase referrals. 

     You deserve a constant flow of referrals to your business. You've invested a lot in the future of your business. Referrals make it happen. Getting more referrals is important to your future success. 

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