Get More Referrals

By | content marketing, Marketing | No Comments

In all your marketing activity, keep in mind that clarity is not only vital to making you easy to buy, it’s vital to making you easy to refer. Word of mouth is still king when it comes to how consumers decide who to buy. Making it easy for your customers to talk about you is well worth your time.

The Easy Way to Make Yourself Referable

If you want referrals, you have to make yourself easy to refer. This starts with clear messaging. Once you have a clear, simple message people can grasp quickly and pass on to their friends easily, you’ve won half the battle. So let’s tackle the other half.

Let’s say you sell tea. Imagine one of your faithful customers is talking with a friend one day and that friend happens to mention how they’re always looking up the caffeine content of different teas. Your customer smiles knowingly and produces a little book, an attractive little book with nice binding, a lovely cover and a catchy title. It’s a basic tea guide with caffeine information for different types of tea. The friend’s problem is solved. They take the book, gleefully. And when they think of tea, they think of that little book.

What does this have to do with referrals? Imagine your tea company is the one that produced thousands of copies of that little book and you gave them freely to your current customers. When they pass a copy on to a friend and that friend picks it up, they’re reminded of your brand, your extensive knowledge and how awesome you were for giving away such a helpful resource in the first place. Even if your customer never even mentioned where they got the book, they’ve referred you.

Free resources you can hand out to your customers and referral partners are golden. Not only are you taking care of your customers and keeping them happy, you’re making it extremely easy—and very obvious—to refer your company to their friends, many of whom are likely to be your target market.

Business cards are fine, but nobody’s going to pass yours on unless they happen to hang onto business cards and their friend asks specifically if they know a company that does x. Helpful resources are more useful, more likely to come in handy and, if your customers know they can get another one for free, easy to give away.

Your customers will reach corners of the world your marketing will never touch. Let them be your ambassadors.

Creating Resources

If you’re following content marketing, you know free stuff is a really big deal. People love free things, and they’re delighted by quality. Make sure your resource is both.

A book is a complex endeavor—that’s why it makes such a statement—but it’s not your only option. A simple card or one sheet with helpful information is fairly easy and inexpensive to produce. Or submit an article to a magazine, then buy a bunch of copies to give away when it’s published. What you produce is going to depend a lot on who you are, what you’re about and what your audience is into. Free t-shirts may go a long way with one crowd but not another.

The sky’s the limit, just keep quality and usefulness front and center in any resource you create. Take the time to make it high quality and bring in experts. If you write something, bring in an editor. If you create a visual piece, use an artist. If you publish a book, hire a designer and publish through a company that will create a book equal to those on display at your local bookstore.

Finally, no matter what you produce, make sure you imprint your company’s information on it. There’s nothing more disappointing than seeing an amazing resource and having no idea who created it.


One Big Thing

By | lead generation, leads online, Marketing, Story, Uncategorized | No Comments

Clarity is essential to telling your story and making your brand easy to buy. Chances are pretty good you have more than one product or service to offer, so how can you distill what you do down to one simple idea? Let’s look at an organization that does this exceedingly well.

Just One Thing

charity:water uses effective messaging that spells out quickly and clearly what they do. It’s easy to understand why it’s important and how to get involved.

Take a look at charity:water’s about page. The first thing you see is their mission statement. It’s blunt, bold and concise—less than 20 words and you know exactly what charity:water does. Looking at this page, you can instantly understand why they exist, what they do, who they serve and why it’s important. Scroll down and you find paths to follow further into the details.

Many nonprofits and businesses are in the trenches doing the work. They know all the details of what they do, so when the time comes to focus on marketing they have way too much information to share with their donors or customers. To anybody just learning about your organization, too much detail is confusing. Successful marketing is crystal clear and focuses on one thing.

Among the many causes, projects, services or products your organization offers, which one do you choose? The clearest one. What one thing is easy for people to get involved with? What one thing is easy to grasp as extremely important? You probably have more than one big thing and it’s hard to narrow it down because you know how important all of them are, but keep in mind that more than one will confuse your audience. One thing is easy to support. One thing is easy to get involved in. One thing is easy to understand. And one thing is just the beginning. It’s the gateway through which people enter into your organization. Over time your supporters and customers will discover you do more awesome things. “I see you bought gardening gloves,” you can eventually tell a customer. “Did you know we sell seeds, too?” Think of it as spoon feeding instead of opening up the firehose.

Once somebody is highly engaged with your organization, involved in multiple causes or buying a variety of products and services, your one big thing will make them a more effective evangelist because they can tell their friends, concisely and simply, what you do, why it’s important and how to get involved.

The Big Guys

If you look at huge companies like General Electric or Coca-Cola, you know they do a thousand things. If you’re running a $100 billion company, you’re probably not reading this blog. Once you’re that big, you handle marketing differently. Ask the CEO of a multi-billion-dollar company anything about marketing. They’ll likely tell you about the consulting firm they keep on a million-dollar retainer to handle it.
But even though you know Coke sells chips and water and a huge variety of products, the one big thing rule still applies. Each department might have its one thing. Each major division has its singular focus. No matter the size of the company, the principal is the same: focus on one thing.
Ironically, the bigger a company the more likely they’ve figured out how to focus on one thing. This is because growing that large in the first place requires this kind of clarity. Walmart sells a million things from thousands of warehouses and it still managed to narrow down what it does to a two-word slogan: better living. Compassion International operates worldwide with enormous impact but boils everything down to one thing: sponsor a child for $38 a month.

Find Your One Thing

You can do a lot of things, you just can’t lead with them all publicly. You can start the process of figuring out what to lead with by making a list of everything you do. Work on narrowing it down to your one thing by asking what will your leads online find easy to understand and easy to engage with. This is an ongoing process requiring a lot of thought and it will take time. Be patient.

Once you have your message distilled to your one big thing, test out your messaging publicly, measure the results and try again. You will probably be honing this message for some time before you land on what really grabs people.


The Elements of Story

By | Story, Uncategorized | No Comments

Last week we talked about how stories can be an effective marketing tool to communicate who you are, what you do and why your target market should care. How to tell your story can be confusing, so let’s take a closer look at what a story is and why it moves people to action.

Once Upon a Time

A story has a series of events, but that’s not what a story is. This is an important differentiation because distilling everything down to a chronology takes the wind out of the sails of your story. This is why we read the book in English class instead of running through the CliffsNotes. Imagine if I told you the story of Hamlet like this.

  1. Hamlet sees the ghost of his dead father.
  2. He watches a play
  3. Acts like a crazy person
  4. Yells at his mother
  5. Kills his girlfriend’s father
  6. Goes to England.
  7. His girlfriend kills herself.
  8. Hamlet comes back and fences with his girlfriend’s brother.
  9. Everybody dies.

The end.

Technically this is what happens in Hamlet, but this isn’t the story. Had Shakespeare simply cataloged the events, we wouldn’t be producing  the play 500 years later. So what story are you telling in your marketing?

Imagine if my marketing went like this:

  1. I moved to Seattle.
  2. I started a business.
  3. I sold printers.

The end.

You’ll notice everybody lives in my chronology, but that’s not enough to make up for what it lacks. Hamlet and other enduring stories, like them or not, endure because of their elements, the stuff beyond their events. These elements range from language to historical relevance to characterization, but one of the central elements which takes a chronology and turns it into a story is change.

The Power of Change

This one thing will alter how you tell your story because people want to hear about the day everything changed and the character who changed in turn. Brian McDonald has taught storytellers at Pixar, Disney Feature Animation and Lucasfilm’s Industrial Light & Magic how to tell a story. According to him, great stories follow a simple but specific structure and that structure always involves change.

Think about what you’re selling, and the change you want to illustrate should be clear. What were things like before a client came to you and how did your product or service change that? Telling the stories of your clients is incredibly effective. You can focus on the amazing work your client does and highlight your expertise without being salesy. Upon hearing the story of your client’s transformation your audience will see how effective you are at what you do. In a world where pushy advertising repels leads, storytelling offers a strong and attractive method for marketers.

Most companies sell facts and features. Great companies sell stories. No matter what changes affect an industry, technology, economy, business model, whatever—stories will always be the heart of effective marketing.


Tell a (True) Story

By | boost sales, communication, content marketing, inbound marketing, leads online, Marketing, Story | No Comments

Marketing gets a bad rap for a number of reasons. First, there’s the consumer side. How many of us have bought into great marketing only to be disappointed by a lousy product? Then there’s the business side. Many business owners have horror stories about how they spent thousands on a marketing firm that didn’t deliver.

There are reasons enough to be suspicious of anybody marketing a product.

The root cause of bad marketing is the failure to deliver on a promise. In the first instance discussed above, the consumer was promised a great product. In the second, a business owner was promised growth. Bad marketing promises things its product can’t actually deliver. Now you could argue good marketing is anything that convinces people to buy, but the purchase is only one tiny piece of a much larger picture. Truly good marketing not only attracts the right audience, it converts them into delighted, repeat customers. Neither our consumer nor our business owner are delighted and neither will be buying again from the same companies, no matter the marketing message.

Good marketing tells the truth. This is both freeing and terrifying. If your products aren’t that good, you can’t tell the truth and gain customers. You either have to convince people your business can offer something it can’t or you have to use incentives that will convince people to put up with a subpar product. There is a place for the latter—a huge market of people who will put up with bad quality, bad service, lots of bad things, if they get something on the cheap. But if you want to sell quality, you have to be quality.

Let’s say you know you’re quality. In fact, you’re better than your competitors by a long shot and you can prove it. How do you tell the truth in a compelling way? Call it cliché, but the answer is to tell a story.

What Storytelling Is and Isn’t

Think about the pitches you’ve heard over the years. Which ones do you remember? Why? There are lots of well-meaning people armed with PowerPoints, charts, graphs and other compelling evidence. There’s a place for these things (after all, what is marketing without metrics?), but when it comes to clearly telling your target market what you do in attractive and compelling terms, go beyond the charts and graphs and tell the story.

We’re moved when people tell us their story. When you consider how the masses spend money, there’s usually a story behind it. Films, plays and music pull in billions every year worldwide. Each piece tells a story and people will pay to watch or hear it unfold. These stories intertwine with personal stories all over the globe—just look at the role music played in Cuba or behind the iron curtain. People act in response to a story.

Consider sports. Last week an estimated 40 million people tuned in to see Game Seven of the World Series between the Cleveland Indians and Chicago Cubs, teams from cities with a combined population of less than 3 million. Why? Because even people with only a casual interest in baseball know the saga of the Cubs and their 108-year losing streak. Every rivalry is a story. Every sport has a story. Every season tells a story. And people will pay top dollar to watch.

Now imagine you see a film trailer and the story grabs you. You buy a ticket, the lights go down and a movie bearing no resemblance to the previews plays. Are you disappointed? Of course! This isn’t what you signed up for. The same is true for your marketing. Tell the truth. Sure, you can attract more people from more demographics if you don’t tell the truth, but how many of them are going to be interested in your product? None, if you had to make things up to reach them. People outside of your target market are not going to buy from you, so there’s no point in trying to pull them in.

Your business has a story. Your products have a story. Tell the story.


Clarity in Marketing

By | audience, content marketing, lead generation, leads online | No Comments

We’ve established that in marketing, the name of the game is being helpful. Every piece of content has to be helpful and serve your target market—even in the rare cases you directly promote your products and services, the point is to help people out by letting them know what you offer can meet their needs.

It is possible to help thousands of people and never actually see a return from your efforts if you never spell out what it is you do. As a marketer, you have to make what you offer easy to understand and buy. As you focus on helping your audience, remember the importance of keeping your brand and your solutions top of mind. It’s amazing how helpful you can be without ever once telling your audience what you’re selling.

Achieving Clarity

When you promote your own business, be exacting in how you present your services. Unless people know what you do and how they can benefit from it, they won’t be compelled to buy from you.

Start with listening. Get feedback from your current clients to discover the state of your marketing. Ask questions to learn things like:

  • What attracted them to your business in the first place?
  • What value do they get out of their relationship with you?
  • What do they like about your products?
  • How do they rate your customers service?
  • How do they describe an interaction with your organization?
  • How do you compare to your competitors in their mind?
  • What keeps them coming back to you?
  • Is there anything about your product they would change?

You might be surprised about what you find. Some business owners assume they attract customers with their quality only to learn it’s their cheap price that’s kept them coming back. Others assume their marketing is bringing in the leads until they find out their customers all happen to drive by their location on the way to work every day.

There are several ways to gather this sort of information. Personal conversations are ideal, but you can also send out an email blast or survey with very little expense. However you choose to go about it, ask the right questions and listen carefully. The insights you gain from your current customer base are invaluable and will help you focus your marketing budget where you’ll get the highest ROI.


Feeding and Watering Leads Online

By | content marketing, lead generation, leads online | No Comments

Customers are like plants. They require feeding and watering if they’re going to thrive. Unlike plants, your customers can simply leave if they don’t feel cared for.

Non-profits lose 80% of their donors simply by failing to say “Thank you.” The same goes for your prospects, leads and customers—neglect them and they’ll wither.

We hear so much about offering quality content that just the thought of continuing to give may be overwhelming, but keep in mind that consistent communication doesn’t mean launching a rocket every month. It means communicating your value on clear, consistent basis. There are a lot of ways to do this, and it can be pretty simple, but the key is consistency. Marketing isn’t a one-time victory. It’s a slow, steady race. Whether you’re doing your own marketing or leveraging an agency to do it for you, keep in mind that you’re not going to hit the big time overnight and get to retire from marketing. You’ll be marketing till the day you leave your business, finessing your message and keeping in touch with your prospects and customers alike.

The basic recipe for a successful marketing strategy is to listen to your audience and use what you learn to get in touch and stay in touch. This cycle doesn’t end and consistency is always going to be key. You never stop learning about your customers. There is always more to discover and a better way to meet their needs.

Hiring the right people

Marketing is a full-time job. At some point you’re going to want to look at hiring a marketing team or contracting with an agency. When that time comes, choose wisely. Any established marketer or agency should be able to show you what they’ve done for previous clients and what kind of results they had. Look for concrete metrics they could measure consistently. Nobody’s marketing just for the sake of marketing. The point is always results. If your potential marketing team is great at adding followers on social media, ask how effective their social strategy is at creating new business and growth for the company. Truthfully, anybody can add followers—even if they have to buy them—but not everybody takes the time to listen and respond to the right people in the right way in the right places. You’re not going to grow your business with anything less.

Expect your marketing team to need things from you. Their expertise is creating content to address an audience in an effective voice, so they’re going to need your guidance when it comes to who your customers are and what their concerns are. This kind of synergy is incredibly effective for your marketing efforts. 


How to Generate Leads and Growth Online 

By | content marketing, lead generation, leads online, Uncategorized | No Comments

Like any activity involving strategy and execution, marketing starts at a high level. You have to be able to look at the big picture and provide leadership for where your marketing is taking you and how.

Your first priority as a marketer is to get in touch with every single person in your demographic. Your second priority is to keep in touch.

This sounds really simple but if you’ve done any marketing at all, you know better. Finding your target demographic takes research, lots of research. Once you know who you’re aiming for, you have to research where they go for their information. Once you’ve figure that out, you have to decide what content you’re going to create, when, how often and where you’re going to put it to attract that demographic. On top of this, every communication needs to be in the voice of your company and reflective of your brand.

Getting In Touch

There is no end to the tools you can use to reach and serve your audience. This is great because it gives you options. It’s also overwhelming—because it gives you options.  As a business owner, you just want to invest your resources into what works.

To start with, who is doing your marketing? Many small business owners are used to doing everything themselves. But are you wired for marketing? The best results come from having the right people in the right roles. Even if you’ve passed on the marketing responsibilities, you still have to have the right people in the right roles. If you’re relying on your sales people to do the marketing, make the sale and keep the customer happy, that’s still too much diversity for one role. The skills involved in marketing and sales are completely different. So let your salespeople sell and get marketers to market.

Staying in Touch

Having the right automation tools will make a huge difference in your marketing. If someoe comes to your site and fills out a form, that expect an instant response as well as content catering to their interests. That’s simply not possible unless you’re using automation software.

Even a small company can do an extraordinary amount of content marketing with the right software. And while your software is doing the marketing work for you, your marketing team can focus on creating the next campaign, targeting specific segments of your audience while the software continues to serve and shuffle your leads through the sales funnel.


Giving Before Receiving

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Inbound content marketing is all about giving long before you receive. Giving helpful content, referrals, resources—this is all part of marketing. So is listening, understanding and then—and only then—helping in a way appropriate to the individual and their situation.

These are the same skills great salespeople use, because great salespeople know they need to diagnose the underlying problem, not the symptoms. Your marketing is the same. You need to know what your audience needs and address those needs in a manner that will attract and inform your leads online.

Business owners sometimes get distracted by the short-term win. Likes on Facebook, Twitter followers and signups for your mailing list are great, but remember they’re not the end game. Focusing on tactics can get dangerous when you start chasing likes and views instead of increased business.

Keep your eyes on the prize. If you gain five new followers this month and each one fits the profile of your perfect customer, that’s a bigger win than attracting more, but unqualified, leads.


When you join an online community to get and give referrals and leads, show up. Participate in the community and be involved so you can get to know the people, hear their concerns and meet them where they need it. As you participate, they’ll get to know you, your products, your services and your ability to deliver.

LinkedIn in a great business resource and, for many businesses, a worthwhile place to spend your time. Not only can you connect with people, post helpful content and build relationships, you can find out a little bit more about people before you meet them face to face. This will not only prepare you for your meeting, it will help the person you’re meeting with to feel seen. Wouldn’t you be impressed walking into a meeting with someone who was already aware of your business, challenges and potential answers?


According to Dr. Frumi Rachel Barr of Scaling 4 Growth, brevity is more than the soul of wit.

“Sometimes people talk too much, and they really have to be careful that they don’t ruin their own brand by having an opportunity to stand up and introduce themselves and then going on and on and on. Be very clear about who you are, what you’re looking for and what differentiates you.”

People like to fill the space and keep talking. This can be due to nervousness, fear of missing out on something important or even just a fear of silence. Relax. Practicing will keep you from missing the important points and listening will do far more for growing your business than a meandering talk about yourself.

The Big Picture

Marketing is a long game. It’s slow when you start and it’s painstaking to run each campaign, analyze, regroup and launch a new campaign based on what you learned. But it pays off over the long run. Remember, by plodding onward with quality content, you’re building a backlog that’s going to continue giving you good returns for years to come.