I’m going to start this article with a controversial statement.
Referrals aren’t a reliable source of income.
I can hear you disagreeing with me now, but hear me out.
Now, if I were to ask you your number one source of sales, chances are high you’d tell me referrals or word-of-mouth.
Now while I do run into businesses that are booked solid from referrals alone, these are an anomaly, not a normality.
Here’s a dirty little secret. If you say your number one source of sales is referrals, it means you’re just sitting around waiting for the phone to ring. It means you aren’t working hard at new business development.
Success can be your worst enemy. Your past success can make you complacent. Your competitors are not complacent. They are hungry, and willing to do whatever it takes to win new business.
ABM: Always Be Marketing
There is one reason why you should always be marketing, even if you have a long track record of success. Especially if you have a long track record of success.
Your current batch of customers won’t always be around to refer new customers to you.
At some point, you’re going to have to reach new customers. Most long running businesses realize this after new competitors have gained tons of ground on them. Just because you were number one in Google 10 years ago doesn’t mean you’re going to be there forever.
Many businesses neglect to take care of their website or digital marketing until they’re already way behind. Here’s my philosophy.
When you’re busy, that’s when you need to step on the gas the hardest.
Being flush with business means you’re reaping the benefits of marketing efforts you made six months to a year ago.
When you enter your busy season, and you neglect to do any of the marketing that brought you that business in the first place, that’s when you lose momentum. It takes a lot of time to get that momentum back.
Ideally, you have a plan for getting in front of potential customers year-round. It sucks having to turn to AdWords to get your traffic. In most cases, over-reliance on PPC and AdWords is the penalty for neglecting your marketing efforts.
Successful Businesses Never Stop Marketing
The most successful businesses I know are continually doing most of these types of marketing:
- Face-to-face marketing at trade shows and other events.
- In person networking, like at a Chamber of Commerce.
- Producing a continual stream of quality content through your website.
- Blogging about problems your customers have, and how you can solve them.
- Making videos answering questions your customers have.
- Recording podcasts, or appearing on other industry-related podcasts.
- Using email marketing to establish a relationship with your customers and prospects.
- Being active on social media, sharing industry information, doing customer support, or answering customer questions.
- Aggressively getting back links, reviews, or recommendations from other industry-related websites.
- Participating in industry-related online forums.
- Appearing in print in your local area or industry publications (newspapers and magazines).
- Doing a radio show where you answer call-in questions.
- Appearing in local media like television, answering customer questions about your industry.
- Publishing a book, sharing expertise about your industry.
- Speaking in front of people about your industry, or traveling to other cities to speak about your industry.
- Holding webinars where are you answer questions your customers commonly have.
- Teaching a course (in-person or online) to your customers.
- Donating money to local charities or cause.
- Forming complementary business relationships.
- Becoming synonymous with your specific offering.
Some of you probably do the first two items on this list, but neglect to do the rest.
Those competitors gaining ground on you? They are taking these extra steps. These are businesses that are growing from a handful of people to large organizations.
You might deliver a better product than they do. But if nobody knows about it, or if customers trust their brand more than yours, you’re going to lose the long term battle.
Going the extra mile with your marketing is what builds a brand, not just a business.