Word-of-Mouth Marketing: What’s the most reliable way to get referrals?
I often hear people say — “The #1 way I get clients is through word-of-mouth.”
Yet, that’s true for everyone. All of us get most of our clients through word of mouth — at first — before our marketing engine takes off. Our initial batch of clients are likely to arise from our personal network, if we have done a good job of telling them about it.
However, if after tapping into your personal network you still don’t have plenty of clients, then the answer is simple: you need to do more marketing! This is also true for most of us.
Word-of-mouth is a natural result of everything you do in your marketing and customer service. By doing well in these two areas, people will spread the news about your business. In the beginning of your business, however, if you want enough clients, you can’t focus on only great customer service, because you don’t have enough happy customers talking about you… yet.
If you don’t do your marketing well, you won’t get enough word-of-mouth to get you the clients that you can then serve well, to get even more word-of-mouth. Most businesses need to learn how to do marketing in order to stay in business.
“Why can’t people just discover how brilliant and wise and caring I am, and therefore, hire me?”
Everybody thinks this — when they feel confident. And yet, they’ll find that no matter their confidence, they still need to do good marketing to get enough customers.
If you don’t feel confident, the answer is the same: you have to do more (and better) marketing for people to believe and trust you.
I believe that you, just like every other caring service provider, is worth hiring.
The question is — how do you demonstrate your caring and experience?
My recommended strategy — Authentic Content Marketing — which is not just a way of promoting yourself, but how you show your willingness to serve humanity — through free content. When you create content consistently, you grow your skills and knowledge about your field, you get better at communication, and you demonstrate your caring and expertise to the world.
This is why “having to” market your business is an unfortunate way to think about marketing. You’re forgetting the deep benefits of growth and service when you market authentically.
Also, having to “find/gain followers” is an inauthentic way to make an impact. You probably feel it: trying to impress others takes us out of our genuine expression and into people-pleasing.
Marketing can either be seen as a chore and necessary evil… or you can see it as an integral part of your professional development & personal growth. Imagine this: marketing is how your business finds its Calling… how it serves the world… whether people buy from you or not. Read more: Metaphors for Conscious Marketing.
Back to the topic at hand: what’s the easiest way to get word-of-mouth?
By putting great free content out there.
It’s easier for your friends and colleagues to share your content (they just have to click the “share” button) instead of trying to figure out how to best share your services with their network. Sharing content is easy and feels good to everyone.
Trying to figure out how to talk about you? That can feel like work for your clients. Sure, you can give out gift certificates to your services (a common way to get referrals) or simply email them something they can forward onto their friends, but can you really do those actions often enough to get word-of-mouth to have enough clients? Unlikely.
Plus, your clients might feel that sharing your services with their friends — even if they believe in what you do — can feel like selling.
The simplest way for people to constantly talk about you, is by sharing your best free content. By putting your creativity out there in the spirit of generous service, you not only get word-of-mouth going, you also grow yourself.
Let your clients enjoy consuming your content whenever and wherever they catch it, and then naturally sharing it because they enjoy and want to share it.
How do you get your content to be good enough for people to share? Create and publish more, because then you’ll naturally create quality through quantity.
Make that commitment to publishing consistently, whether it’s articles, videos, or podcasts, and over time, you’ll see that marketing becomes easier and easier for you.