Promoting Your Business with People Power

Article by C.J. HaydenThe most powerful marketing technique available may cost you nothing. Getting other people to promote your business is not only the least expensive marketing you can find, it’s often the most effective. When people begin telling their friends about you, a stream of clients arrives at your door ready to buy. In a world overloaded with marketing messages, personal endorsements can be the key to marketing success.

But how can you create word of mouth? Doesn’t it just have to happen? The truth is that creating word of mouth may be simpler than you think. One trick to building word of mouth quickly is finding people who are centers of influence — those individuals whose recommendation will carry weight with a large number of others.

There’s also power in numbers. The sheer volume of people who know about your business can make a significant difference. By reaching out into an existing network of people in a specific niche, you can build name recognition and referrals just by meeting and staying in touch with a large number of people who
are all connected to each other. When people hear about you from more than one source, your reputation multiplies.

How do you find these centers of influence and niche networks? Start by asking around. Others who are in your target market or vendors serving it can often suggest specific people and groups or helpful sources for finding them. Two good questions to ask clients, colleagues, and vendors are “where can I connect with X?” and “who do you know that knows a lot of X?” filling in a brief description of your niche.

Try to get as specific as possible with your queries. Asking “where can I connect with professional women in career transition” will net you more targeted replies than either “where can I connect with professional women” or “where can I connect with people in career transition.” Whenever possible,
describe not just the target market you are seeking, but also what problem, goal, or condition would make people in that market ideal for your services.

Attending organized events is one way to make connections with a large number of new people at once. Even better than simply attending, though, is being a guest speaker or moderator at meetings where your target market gathers. Or if public speaking isn’t your thing, consider offering the group a free resource, like a white paper you wrote, or an exclusive benefit to their members, such as a special discount on your services. In these ways you become a center of influence yourself.

Whenever you meet new people who might be able to spread the word about your business, follow up with a phone call, email, lunch or coffee. This more personal interaction is when you begin building a relationship that will lead to a recommendation. Never assume someone who has met you once is
going to remember you. It takes more than that for your name to be the one they think of when someone needs a referral.

Connecting with new people doesn’t necessarily require going to events or doing lunch. You can network virtually from anywhere at any time. Centers of influence can easily be contacted by phone and email, especially when you are introduced by someone you both know. Online social networks, message boards, and virtual communities make it possible to get acquainted with large numbers of people who are in your niche or serve it without ever meeting them in person.

Business referrals are passed on from person to person in a way that seems completely random. But this informal transmission of information about products and services can make or break your business. Most business recommendations used to take place in one-on-one conversations, but now can happen in social networking posts, on blogs and message boards, and via forwarded emails. If enough people happen to mention you, it seems as if everyone is talking about you.

The best way to begin creating this kind of buzz about your business is to identify a core community of people who might become champions for it. Your current and former clients, colleagues who admire your work, and any centers of influence you already know are ideal candidates for this. Get in touch
with your community often to share your excitement about the work you are doing.

Ask your community members to help spread the word by providing you with introductions to others they know. Even better, ask if they will themselves pass on information about your business to others who might be interested.

You may wonder, “Why would people do this? What’s in it for them?” And in fact, you may want to offer them an incentive for talking about you. On the web, business owners can offer affiliate programs so that people receive a percentage of sales for their referrals. With other types of recommendations, a
referral fee might be appropriate.

But incentives don’t have to be in cash. Some of the best referral relationships are based on simple reciprocity — “I will refer you if you will refer me” or ” I’ll spread the word about your business if you’ll spread the word about mine.” It’s a basic human trait to want to help people we like. If you start letting people know exactly how they can help your business be more successful, you may be pleasantly surprised at how many of them do so with no expectation of a reward.

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