Referral marketing has become the new ‘it’ word in online marketing ever since ‘Yelp” went online in 2004 (Yes, it HAS been that long.). Now there was a tangible link between prospects seeing your business online, visiting it, and then writing a glowing testimonial about it. The most important part of this, of course, is the visit: They saw you online and they visited. Due to mobile advertising, you could catch people when they were in your area, and perhaps hungry for what you had for sale: It was this instant connection, that many people felt would be the key to future advertising: “Get them while they are hot!”. Getting the visit under any circumstances was the key, because that is what marketing does – brings in the prospect. Exactly the same can be said for all referral business. It has no use unless it brings in a prospect for the business to convert into a customer. The speed may not matter, the visit is all important.
If, therefore, you are asking for a referral in real life as a ‘real person’, how do you approach it? Do you say to someone: “You look great in that blue shirt – you should go to so-and-so, they have a sale on shirts right now” No, of course not. You ask for an introduction first, and that is what you should be doing for your referral marketing, too.
If you ask people that have shopped with you before to let you have a contact of theirs that may also like the product, what do you really have? A lead…or simply a name? Most people think it is a lead, but is it? We can misread that original name-dropping as care and attention, when really it could be anything, depending on that customer’s mindset at the time. Deliberate spamming, or a joke. What do you do when you meet Mr. Blue Shirt at the cocktail party? Introduce yourself, and allow him to do the same. This is what you should be doing online, too. A referral only works if the prospect trusts both you and the referrer.
If you want to make referral generation a significant part of your marketing success you need to start asking for introductions and not simply a list of names. The key to generating introductions is to make it as easy as possible for your referral source to do so.
Getting your customers or contacts to rise to the level of engagement required to make introductions or bring a friend to lunch requires a level of value that is a tough message to get initially, but online referral marketing is exactly the same as that in ‘real life’. You must be different from anyone else in your field, and area. You must offer value to someone who will spend time listening to you, or learning about your product or service, and when you meet them in whatever surrounding – cocktail party or online – they have to feel the introduction and ‘handshake’ first. When you can do this, people will gladly introduce you to others. When you change the context of a referral to that of an introduction you automatically raise the stakes for all parties and that’s the place where you can do your magic.
So, the School year has started and we are heading toward the Winter season. The holidays are busy enough for everyone without having Business deadlines to conquer as well. Over this long weekend, it’s good to take a step back, and do some planning about your marketing, and when you can achieve what you need to. If your business is a winter based one, the US Thanksgiving marks the start of ‘The Holidays’ that, nowadays, last until Easter. Plan now on what you need to prepare, and when it needs to go out. A simple spreadsheet will help you avoid stress and achieve the next level of success. By creating a solid Editorial Calendar, you can:
- Avoid last minute rushes to get the right information published.
- Save time and increase your preparation.
- Stay ahead of the competition by setting trends, not reacting to other’s trends.
- Prevent writer’s block because you know what your plan of attack will be each week and day.
Creating an Editorial Calendar focused on the holidays is easy. Here’s how!
First, what are your customers celebrating, and when? Then match your business specials to these celebrations, and think about what they will need to do to prepare for each. Finally, write lists to reflect these. As a reminder, this is what is coming up:
- Black Friday
- Cyber Monday
- Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day
- Free Shipping Day
- Winter Solstice
- Boxing Day
- New Year’s Eve
- New Year’s Day
- College Football Games
- Martin Luther King Day (US)
- Valentine’s Day
Now the fun part: Can you brainstorm relevant, timely themes for your articles, social media posts, promotions? How will each segment of your customer load celebrate throughout this time, and what can you do to help them? Start four weeks out from each special day, and think of a large theme for each week. A Retail operation may want to highlight:
Week 1: What gifts do you need?
Week 2: Deals coming up, and how your business can help.
Week 3: Can we help with any other tasks you need to do.
Week 4: How to Relax and enjoy.
Next, brainstorm subtopics that you can publish two or three days of each of the four weeks by narrowing the week’s categorical themes down to individual components.
Finally, set a submission deadline for each article and then block off dedicated time in your schedule to outline, write, edit/proofread, and submit and remember to give yourself enough time for the post to resonate with your customers. Once published, share it wherever you can.
By thinking as your customer does, and giving yourself time to write, edit, and publish each idea, you are not only streamlining a possibly stressful time for your customers, you are doing it for you and your business, too.