||The most effective sales team you'll
ever find is enthusiastic customer. The reason is simple enough:
customers aren't paid to praise. When a customer becomes a
passionate believer in your brand, it means you truly earned it.
Whenever they buy your product or service, customers feel like
special club members or rebels for your cause.
But a repeat customer alone doesn't
create a sales team. The trick is to transform that dedicated buyer
into a missionary who spreads the word and converts friends, family
and associates into customers too. By building great word-of-mouth,
you nurture an all-volunteer sales force that generates leads,
boosts sales, and leverages marketing dollars. Here are three basic
ways to persuade people to talk up your business story. As you
develop the customer sales force, you'll find other options suited
to your business.
1. Set Up a Referral Program.
The easiest starting point is to ask customers
who are already fans to recommend you. First, let them know you're creating
a referral program by sending out a letter or a postcard that explains how
much you value their business and that your continued quality depends on
their referrals. You'll get a better response if you include an incentive --
say, a discount on their next order or a gift for every referral sent your
To keep building advocates, send your referral
program letter to every new customer within five days of their first
purchase. You might also ask for written testimonials about your products,
which can be included on direct mail postcards, mailers or brochures, or
posted on your website and tucked into email marketing. Send these
testimonials to targeted customer lists, along with your appropriate sales
Customer referrals can also be mailed to
prospects to help open doors or introduce you to important contacts. For
instance, Tom Smith thought you'd want to see this. The follow up with phone
Once you have setup the referral program, a
program like Business Contact Manager for Outlook 2010 lets you track the
referrals. Each Business Contact or Account listing has a field that you can
use to quickly identify the source of the referral, whether by
advertisement, direct mail, seminar, trade show, internal referral, external
referral, partner, or public relations.
2. Elevate Your Profile.
Whether you sell services or mass-market widgets, you can generate positive
publicity to make your company stand -- although it takes some sustained
effort to build recognition.
As a professional service, you can
position yourself as the go-to authority for media or industry news
reporters. That requires some investment in crafting an innovative speech or
survey or advocacy position that gets you noticed on the conference or trade
show circuit. You might also hire a publicist to help get exposure. Such
pros are often paid on a per-project or per-performance basis so you aren't
on the hook for hefty retainer fees.
Or, you can publicize on your own --
for instance by highlighting your family's background, like Perdue does, or
its home-grown recipes, like Colombo yogurt does. Your goal is to weave and
emotional story or hook that will draw press.
You can also identify with a cause or
a charity. Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream, for instance, was founded on only
$12,000 back in 1978. But the two owners created a national powerhouse out
of high-priced unconventional flavours and the good will of philanthropy.
Before that, a few companies talked about social responsibility. Nowadays,
Either way, the important thing here
is to be sincere. Promote only what you really believe in. To begin building
publicity, create a personal and company media kit, which can be quickly
done with Microsoft Publisher.
3. Choose Smart Partners.
By forging alliances with businesses that
target the same customers as you do, you'll create a word-of-mouth customer
network that refers business. For instance, if you're a paediatrician, you
might leave your business cards at the reception area of a local day care
centre. Likewise, the centre might put up some posters on your office
bulletin board. A parent who uses daycare services might recommend you to
Or, lets say you own a auto body shop. You can
partner with a car wash / detailing service. The car wash might mail out
your flyers along with monthly invoices and also place a stack of flyers on
the counter for customers. You would obviously do the same for them. Takeout
delis and caterer provides another matching combo. You get the idea.
You can also develop social arrangements with
partners to offer discounts or perks -- printed on the back of the flyers --
that are only available to customers who patronize both businesses.
Don't forget your suppliers and vendors. Ask
them to recommend you to their customers. Remind them that by referring
sales leads or business to you, you're helping to build their business too.
To make it work, you must return the favour.
Experts say that customer referrals and
word-of-mouth are about ten times more effective than other marketing. When
it comes to bang for the buck, you can't go wrong with buzz. It's everywhere
you want to be.