Every month Dom and I (Andrew) travel around the country giving workshops to small business owners helping them to improve their marketing and grow their businesses.
When we meet them for the first time we often ask where their leads come from and the answer is always the same.
WORD OF MOUTH
And that’s great because word of mouth enquiries are the best. Any referral that carries a personal recommendation brings excellent social proof and thus you’ve got a good chance of turning that enquiry into business.
The worry though lies in the sporadic nature of word of mouth marketing. When you look at how a referral network works, it’s chaotic, it’s serendipitous and it’s random.
Next time you get a referral from a member of your network I’d encourage you to track back the number of connections which actually led to the enquiry.
In our experience it is typically around 4 connections and you can never predict where or who those connections will come from.
As a business owner, word of mouth can be your life blood but it’s sporadic nature can also be scary.
What happens when it suddenly dries up as it frequently does for many entrepreneurs?
This blog asks the question:
"How can you build a process into your business to ensure that your word of mouth enquiry channel accelerates both in terms of volume and consistency of enquiries"?
Answer: read on and we’ll show you.
But first, a story which illustrates the beautifully random science of how word of mouth works.
How I picked up my biggest client
Back in 2006, before I moved to NZ, I launched a business in Central London. I bootstrapped it from scratch and we relied on “hands on” marketing, meaning we had very little advertising budget and we had to be creative.
As such, one beautiful summers day I decided to gee up my team and drag them out on to the streets of London to do some good old fashioned door knocking.
Over the course of the day we walked around the neighbouring buildings (there were hundreds in central London) and we handed out flyers. Lots of them.
My team hated the exercise and they didn’t hide the fact. But as a business owner you have to be proactive and you have to try things.
I knew it would probably be a futile activity but I genuinely believe that you have to put yourself in a position to get lucky even if a lot of the time it comes to nothing.
Over the course of the day we handed out hundreds of flyers and then we returned to the office and waited for the enquiries to roll in.
And guess what….
No enquiries came. Not one. Absolutely nothing.
My team gave me the big “I told you so” and I felt a bit low…..disheartened.
Fast forward a couple of months however and suddenly things changed.
One day I was sitting in my office when I got a phone call from a guy called Steve.
And that’s where this story really begins.
There are 6 steps to what happened next so bare with me.
Lots of meetings. Still no cigar.
BUT THEN…….many months and many meetings later…..
From here the story takes a big turn for the better because it turns out that Rachel was keen as mustard for our services and Rachel went on to be our biggest client.
In fact over the next few years, Rachel and her team contributed 10s of thousands of pounds to our business.
When I look back on it, it’s easy to forget where Rachel’s business originated from. It was 1 flyer and 6 random connections but actually it was a lot more than that. It was classic word of mouth.
It was random. It was chaotic. It was serendipitous. It was impossible to predict.
We got lucky…..or did we…?
Build a framework which encourages and accelerates world of mouth enquiries
OK, so here it is…..
In 1973 the American sociologist Mark Granovetter published a paper called The Strength of Weak Ties.
In this paper he established that “in marketing, information science, or politics, weak ties enable reaching populations and audiences that are not accessible via strong ties”.
What this means in practical terms is that very often referrals do not come from your close network – your wife, husband, sister or best friend.
In reality they’ll come from your wider network, i.e your weak ties.
As business owners, what this means is that we need to build a wider network and increase our weak ties.
So….. here’s our very simple framework.
To accelerate the number and the consistency of referrals you get from your network you need to do 2 things:
And that’s where social media comes in because social media allows you to do both.
The key to all of this is to consistently create engaging content that adds value to your network.
It doesn’t matter which platform you use.
Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube and Twitter all have their merits and you’ll have your individual preference.
What they all have in common though is the ability for you to build a following by creating engaging content which helps people.
If you help people and you do it consistently, then your audience will grow.
And as your audience grows, accidents (referrals) will start to happen and they’ll happen more and more consistently.
We took our own advice
Our business AD HOC is a classic example of how this framework can succeed.
When we launched the business 18 months ago, as a couple of Poms, Dom and I knew no-one in New Zealand. Our business network was minimal.
We took our own advice and we started to produce content every week. We have distributed that content through Facebook, our channel of choice, every week since.
Over time we’ve picked up more and more followers and these followers have started to refer business to us. As our audience grows so does the number of enquiries we receive.
In the time I’ve been writing this article 2 new referrals have landed in my inbox.
And that’s not unusual. This is happening every single day.
Our strategy has been to give away our IP and to try and add value to our network by helping them understand Facebook marketing better.
We believe in a “show don’t tell” approach, meaning the best way to prove our credentials to the market is to demonstrate our methodologies rather than holding them close to our chest.
The result has been that our network of followers (both strong and weak ties) has grown consistently each month.
This has led to us receiving an increasing amount of referrals, all of which we are hugely grateful for.
If you’re going to take away one thing from this article….
….it should be this.
The secret is consistency.
The vast majority of businesses won’t produce content consistently for a number of reasons:
That’s good for you because you can take advantage and you can be the company in your sector producing content, building your audience and accelerating your word of mouth enquiry levels.
It’s exactly what we do at AD HOC.
We believe in it. We trust the process. We embrace it. And it works for us.
So why not give it a go?
Get started today and put yourself in a position to get lucky.
If this all sounds great but you’re wondering about the “how”, get in contact, we’d love to help you get started.
Photo cred: Unsplash/RawPixel