Should You Rely on Referrals and Word of Mouth Advertising?
You’ve probably met those people who say that they get all of their business through referrals and word of mouth. And, admit it, when you encounter someone from this nirvana, don’t you feel a bit jealous? Not to mention annoyed?
After all, you’re probably doing all sorts of promotional things like:
- Direct mail
- Sharing your business cards at networking events
- Optimizing your website and blog for the search engines
- Facebooking, getting LinkedIn, Twittering, and other kinds of social networking
- Seeking media publicity
- Cold calling and warm calling
Whew! That’s a lot of work. Getting business to come to you via referrals and word of mouth sounds a lot easier. And it is. But, like anything else in business, it needs to be approached with care. First of all, you need to tell people what you do.
For example, in my monthly e-mail newsletters, I make it a point to include this verbiage: “My primary focus is on designing websites and printed materials for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programs.” The preceding sentence is followed by examples of what I’m working on or have just completed.
My June 2010 newsletter noted works-in-progress for:
- A professor of law and natural resources
- A university research laboratory
So, the e-mail newsletter reader has a pretty clear idea that I’d be interested in doing more business with academics. Which is true.
But I want to branch out and work with STEM-focused government agencies, and, since the American private sector is coming back to life, high-tech companies. The law and natural resources professor is very well-connected with several U.S. government agencies, so I plan to ask him for the names of those who might need my services. Then I’ll contact them directly.
Tip: If you’re waiting for word of mouth from academics, you’ll be waiting a lo-o-ong time. You have to ask for names. Then make the contacts.
There’s Danger in the Comfort Zone
While it’s comforting to know that your services are good enough that you get all of your business through word of mouth, be careful. There’s danger in the comfort zone.
In his book, Value-Based Fees: How to Charge – and Get – What You’re Worth, Alan Weiss says, “My experience is that word of mouth is where many consultants plateau. They begin to get ‘fat and happy’ and complacency sets in. Even though most consultants are relatively young when they first hit this phase, their learning stops and they assume they’re going to continue to grow simply by supporting the same practices that helped them get to where they are.”
Not only has the learning stopped, they’re believing that the future will look like the past.
In addition to what Weiss notes, you can get bored in the word-of-mouth comfort zone. Which means that it’s time to get out and make some new client-friends.
So, dust off those cold and warm calling scripts and hit the phones again. Get back out to some networking meetings. See if you can get your name out there via some media publicity, pay-per-click advertising, or the social networking circuit.