Word-of-mouth referrals from happy Customers are the best and most profitable kind of marketing your business can have. When one of your Customers tells one of their peers about the positive experience they’ve had with your business, your Customer becomes an Evangelist by promoting your business on your behalf. Although you’ll always need to grow an Audience and generate Leads yourself, your sales funnel will run faster and more profitably when your happy Customers become Evangelists and tell their peers about your business.
Recently, a friend of mine asked me a great question about this and I thought was worth summarizing his question and answering it here. He wondered: What counts as a triggering action that a Customer performs to become an Evangelist? Specifically, he wondered whether wearing a t-shirt with a logo counted as a type of evangelizing.
I gave him a response but have had time to respond a little on it for you: Certainly, not all evangelism is created equally. I do believe that wearing a t-shirt with a logo counts as evangelism. But so does an excited face-to-face referral like: “you just HAVE to check out the sushi restaurant I ate at yesterday!”
Rather than thinking of all promotion/referrals from Evangelists are the same, think of their evangelism as being on a spectrum.
- On the one side of the spectrum are implicit referrals – marketing from Evangelists that is quiet, implied, suggested, and general in nature. An implicit referral is simply wearing a t-shirt with a logo. Anyone can see the logo and there isn’t really any context around the value offered by the business depicted in the logo. People still wear the shirt and people still buy because of what they see others promoting.
- On the other side of the spectrum are explicit referrals – marketing from Evangelists that is exuberant, specific to a listener, and clearly stated. An explicit referral is saying, “you just HAVE to check out the sushi restaurant I ate at yesterday!” There is a lot of context around this referral. Chances are, the Evangelist is likely sharing this with someone also likes sushi.
In between these two extremes are other forms of referrals from Evangelists. For example, the following referrals fall at different points on the spectrum:
- When they give a friend your business card
- When they tweet/post on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Foursquare, etc.
- When they write a blog about you
There are many other examples, of course.
So what kind of referral do you want? Every business wants every Customer to turn into an explicit Evangelist. That’s the goal. Of course, that is unlikely to happen because each of your Customers will experience your business (its service and deliverables) differently, and not everyone is an enthusiastic and verbal supporter of businesses they patronize.
Instead, a more realistic approach is to give your Customers tools to become the kind of Evangelist they are most comfortable being.
- Create branded products (hats, shirts, mugs, pens, etc.) to sell or give away.
- Use sound bites throughout your relationship so your Customers become trained to say the same things.
- Give your Customers a place to send their friends – for example, give them a special page like www.yoursite.com/warmwelcome, where “/warmwelcome” is a specific page directed exclusively to referred customers.
- When you wrap up the transaction with the Customer, remind them that the best way they can thank you is to tell their friends.
- Train your Customers to recognize opportunities. Don’t just say: “if you think of someone who could use my service, please give them my name.” Instead say something like this (accountant example): “if any of your friends are also starting businesses and need help maximizing tight budgets, please give them my name and number and make sure to let me know that you sent them.” Notice the difference between the two? Guess which one is WAY more effective.
- Create a PDF with ideas: A few tweets they can copy and paste; a link to your LinkedIn page with a request to provide a recommendation; a link to Yelp with a request to provide feedback; whatever works for your business.