Building Relationships Through the Customer Loop

Today’s Guest Post is by Sam Balter – Enjoy!

The customer journey is a simplified expression of the complex thought process of a customer looking to purchase something. A quick Google search for ‘customer journey’ brings up a myriad of complex diagrams full of hundreds of metrics. The truth is that every company has a unique customer journey; each marketing channel has a unique customer journey, and every product has a unique customer journey. All customers go through a different journey and engage with a brand in a unique way.

The customer journey model relies on seeing a buying decision as linear and a one-off interaction. Brands that will succeed in cross-channel marketing are building a relationship with their customer in every stage of the journey. When thinking about mobile, specifically mobile messaging, it’s all about creating a frictionless and compelling experience for the customer.

Let’s take the basic model of the customer journey: Awareness -> Consideration -> Purchase -> Retention -> Advocacy. The most successful businesses will foster a relationship each step of the customer journey, and along the way, delight their customer.

waterfall, the customer journeyAwareness:
Using physical signage or online advertising is a great way to create awareness of your brand. Visual advertisements capture customers’ attention and use the present moment to start building a relationship via mobile. Here’s an example of a simple text Call-To-Action (CTA) on a billboard:

Get 20% off your next purchase
Text KRUSTY to 55155

Using a text call-to-action on outdoor signage helps get more from marketing dollars because the billboard creates an impression, and the mobile messaging gives you a way to speak directly to your customer. Mobile messaging adds a CRM component to an awareness campaign.

To take this a step further, a brand might want to ask their customer for their zip code so that location-specific offers can be delivered. If you want to see some great CTAs, check out our site where we’ve compiled examples of successful CTAs, Art of the CTA.

Consideration:
To optimize the efficacy of mobile as a channel, it’s imperative to send the right message at the right time. If Krusty Burger wants to increase lunch traffic, it makes no sense to send a message at 4:15pm. Instead, achieve optimal results by sending a message one to two hours before a customer is encouraged to take action. That way, when their stomach starts to growl, they know they’ve got a Krusty Burger coupon in their pocket.

To take it to another level, consider using a share-with-friend function that will allow more people to get in on the savings while capturing more phone numbers in the process.

Purchase:
This is an incredibly powerful step of the customer journey. I am very cheap, so sometimes purchasing things can make me feel a little guilty. It is important to offset these feelings of guilt with heart warming offers. For example, offer customers the ability to receive a receipt via Multimedia Message, thereby saving paper, or the chance to enter a sweepstakes, to win a prize. If you have connected unique coupon codes with your point of sale system, you can even deliver the customer a coupon just moments after their purchase.

Retention:
An excellent part of mobile messaging campaigns is that in the awareness stage, a customer can opt-in to a loyalty program, and from there, consistently receive coupons and deals. For mobile messaging loyalty programs, we suggest the offers vary; mix SMS and MMS, and collect different pieces of information every few messages. Ask questions like: What is your favorite meal? When is your birthday? What is your email address, etc.? Encourage customers to provide information with incentives, and only ask for information if you will use it to delight your customers.

Advocacy:
It seems like only a few years ago, the only way for people to advocate for a brand or product they believed in was through word of mouth. Now, every customer has access to a digital bullhorn. Capitalize on customers’ social media connects with mobile messaging by embedding ‘click to tweet or post’ within your message copy. At Waterfall, we are big fans of viral sharing campaigns. Dropbox built an enormous user base through a viral sharing campaign in which every referral you signed up added additional storage to your account. This is a great way to provide value to your most helpful customers by leveraging the power of social amplification.

Customer Loop – The future of the customer journey
The customer journey has long reigned as a keystone of modern marketing. As we move into a cross-channel world, where brands are advertising to, providing content for, and engaging in conversations with customers, the journey will be replaced by a loop in which each interaction strengthens the bond between brand and brand advocate.

Sam Balter WaterfallSam Balter is a Marketing Manager at Waterfall, a mobile messaging and CRM provider that helps companies engage their customers on their phones. Sam writes about mobile strategy, industry trends, and how to create successful cross-channel marketing campaigns.

The Power of Gratitude in Marketing

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing, and today’s guest post is from Nicole Kohler – Enjoy!

photo credit: pixabay

photo credit: pixabay

As a business owner, you probably say the phrase “thank you” multiple times a day without thinking about it. You thank your employees for their hard work, your customers or clients for working with you, or potential leads for getting in touch with you.

Saying “thank you” is probably automatic for you at this point. But what if expressing your gratitude could grow your social media following, boost your website conversions, or even attract new customers and leads?

A few months ago, I noticed that when I thanked people for sharing the content I’d written on Twitter, they seemed more likely to follow me than if I’d simply favorited their tweet. After doing an in-depth study of this trend, based on my last 50 tweets of gratitude, I discovered that around 26% of the people that I thanked for sharing my content followed me, just because I said “thank you.”

NCK-thank-you-diagramGratitude can be a very powerful tactic for growing your customer base and increasing conversions on your website. When you express genuine emotion (including gratitude) to others online, you’re humanizing your brand – and making it easier for others to connect with you.

Here are three ways you can harness the incredible power of gratitude in your marketing.

Create Actionable “Thank You” Pages

A customer’s journey on your website doesn’t end when they click the “place order” or “submit form” button – or at least it shouldn’t. By creating a more actionable “thank you” page at the end of a transaction or form submission, you can strengthen your relationship with that visitor and have them take additional desirable actions.

Along with a genuine note of thanks with a photo or other personal touch, you should consider adding any of the following to your page:

  • An explanation of what happens next (ex. when will they get their order? When will they hear from you? How can they contact you with questions?
  • Links to your social media pages
  • A call to action for a survey or questionnaire
  • Something fun, humorous, or touching that will make your customer smile!

Say “Thank You” When You Hit Important Milestones

Did your Facebook page reach 15,000 Likes? Is your Instagram account up to 1,000 followers? Now isn’t the time to be patting yourself on the back (well, okay, maybe just a little). Don’t forget: without your fans, none of this would be possible!

When you reach important business milestones, try to find a way to thank your fans, followers, and customers. It could be as simple as posting a message of thanks, or sending a personalized “we appreciate your support” email. Or, if you operate an ecommerce store, you could celebrate by sending out a coupon or special discount code.

As a small business, it’s important not to let the dedication of your fans go unnoticed, even as you continue to grow. Your customers will expect your acknowledgement and gratitude if you celebrate your early victories, so don’t forget about them as your wins get bigger!

Go Above and Beyond

Sometimes writing an email or tweet to a customer just isn’t enough to express your thanks. If a customer does something really incredible for you – like writes a glowing blog post about you – you should respond in kind.

In cases where your customers have been especially kind, you should have a plan to go above and beyond for them. This may involve something like:

  • Sending a handwritten note or card
  • Shipping them a free T-shirt, sticker, or piece of merchandise
  • Surprising them with a free shipping upgrade or addition to their latest order
  • Meeting them in person to treat them to lunch
  • Giving them your time – listening to their suggestions and acting on them where appropriate

Customers don’t always expect these “above and beyond” reactions – so by surprising them, you may delight them enough to strengthen your relationship with them, or convert them into a paying customer (if they aren’t one already).

Get Ahead With Gratitude

The next time you’re looking for a way to improve your marketing, think about using gratitude in one of the ways I’ve listed above. Saying “thank you” can have some unexpectedly powerful results!

NCK-150-headshotNicole Kohler is the Web Content Strategist for WebpageFX, a full-service Internet marketing agency. When she’s not blogging, tweeting, or writing about marketing, she can be found playing video games, hanging out with her husband and pets, or enjoying a good piece of classic literature. Follow her on Twitter @nicoleckohler.

 

4 Steps to Leveraging Your Network to Build Your Business

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest post is from Jonathan Greechan– Enjoy!

Networking doesn’t have to be about luck, but most people I work with treat it that way. Like any marketing endeavor, some simple planning can greatly increase your chances of success. As Sun Tzu famously said, “Most battles are won before they are fought.”

Unlock the potential of your network to grow your business by following the simple, step-by-step plan below;

1. Define your Goals

Networking takes time, so any business goal that needs to be met within 3 months through networking is usually unrealistic. Therefore, list out two primary goals for the next 3 – 6 months, and then two secondary goals that you foresee being a priority in the 6 – 12 month range.

2. Identify your Targets

photo credit: Bogdan Suditu via photopin cc

photo credit: Bogdan Suditu via photopin cc

You don’t target a company – you target a person. Go narrow and deep (versus wide and broad), and find out who makes the purchasing or partnership decisions at the companies you are targeting. You can usually find this information by checking the speaker roster (and topics) from industry events, corporate press releases, and LinkedIn.

3. Identify Your “Strategic Contacts”

With the prevalence of social media, there is almost no excuse for a cold-call or cold-email anymore. As Mark Suster, a prominent venture capitalist, put it very aptly at my Founder Showcase event, “in the era of social networks, if you can’t figure out how to get access to a venture capitalist, hang up your cleats now. You don’t pass the IQ test.”

“Strategic Contacts” are contacts who can provide introductions to your targets, and creating a list of them is easy with LinkedIn’s “Advanced Search Tools”. Here are some things to keep in mind;

  • Scroll through the contacts of the people who come up in your searches – you’ll often discover positions and companies you didn’t know existed.
  • Once you’ve found a search that works best, be sure to “Save This Search” so you can use it in the future.
  • Use LinkedIn for research, but not for contacting. “InMail” and LinkedIn referral requests have become so bogged down by recruiters that most well connected people I know find them un-usable.

4. Email your Strategic Contacts

Now that you have your list of strategic contacts, it’s time to start your outreach via email, which should come in two parts.

Email 1: Create Value

One of my favorite rules of marketing is to always provide value before asking for it in return. This is doubly true for networking, and it does not even have to require a lot of effort – just a small “out of the blue” gesture to a strategic contact can pay large dividends.

For example:

  • Provide an unsolicited intro to somebody in the same industry (“… you two seem like you would have a lot to talk about.”)
  • Send a link to an interesting article about their industry (“… thought this article was interesting. You’ve been in the industry for a while – do you agree with the author?”)
  • A simple check-in (“… Yesterday I randomly thought about that event we both attended in ‘09, and how funny that emcee was. How are things going with you?  Everything well?”)

Whatever you do, just provide value, respond quickly, and keep the conversation going.

Email 2: The Ask

After you have provided value and some time has passed, it is time to ask your contact for an introduction to your target.

Keep the communication within the previous email stream, and send a simple two-sentence email;

  1. One sentence on your company, and what you are looking for.
  2. One sentence on the intro, which includes a mechanism to make the intro feel natural.

For example:

“[MY COMPANY NAME] is an app that connects parents and family-friendly events, and we’re looking for angel investors interested in mobile B2C apps to close out our seed round. I was hoping you could provide a quick intro to [YOUR TARGET] – she has invested in both parent-focused and event-focused apps, so I think we may fit nicely into her strategy.”

Closing Note

Networking is not a “one-off activity”, but if you follow the steps above, you can start leveraging your contacts to help build your business NOW.

Jonathan_Greechan_headshotJonathan Greechan is a Partner and the Head of Marketing at the Founder Institute – an entrepreneur training and startup launch program that has helped launch over 1250 tech companies across 6 continents. In addition, he is a Partner at TheFunded.com, and the Executive Producer of the Founder Showcase, a leading startup event in Silicon Valley. Jonathan has been heavily involved in startups and online marketing since 2004, and has advised hundreds of technology companies. Follow him on Twitter at @jonnystartup.

 

In Sales & Marketing, Zero Dark Thirty is 30 Minutes Too Late

… or why the biggest sales problem businesses think they have isn’t the one they actually have!

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest post is from a member of the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network - Kurian M. Tharakan– Enjoy!
Zero Dark Thirty

Photo Credit: Zero Dark Thirty – IMDb

In the movie Zero Dark Thirty, the US Navy Seal team raid on Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden’s house was conducted at 00:30, or thirty minutes past midnight. If that raid were a sales and marketing operation, zero dark thirty* would be thirty minutes too late!

Before I explain what I mean, let me provide some background. In the past few months I have consulted with numerous companies who believe they have a sales problem. However, in almost every situation the primary issue was identified as a marketing problem and not a sales problem. How did I determine this? By examining close ratios, or how many leads were converted into a sale. Although average close ratios vary by industry and market, if you are in a competitive environment and closing more than 15 – 25% of your QUALIFIED leads you are on the right track!

All of these clients were closing their fair share of the leads they were generating. They just weren’t generating enough QUALIFIED leads to pursue.

Lead Generation is a Marketing Function

In each situation above the sales team were expert closers but spent most of their non-sales time waiting for the phone to ring or following up on previous leads. Now some might say that these guys should be using their “spare” time prospecting for new leads, but, by definition, prospecting (lead generation) is a marketing function. Besides, these sales teams’ skills and expertise are best used to close sales, but their company’s marketing efforts were not producing enough qualified leads for them to pursue.

Now, Here’s the Big Problem

It’s estimated that up to 70% of the buying decision is made PRIOR to anyone even talking to a sales person. Today’s customer has numerous resources available to them, usually just a few mouse clicks away. By the time that they arrive at your sales desk the majority already have a preferred direction to go and are now seeking confirming or dis-confirming evidence to support their decision. If you have not positively biased their decision PRIOR to this contact point, YOU ARE AT A SEVERE DISADVANTAGE!

This is Time Point Zero Dark Zero

A properly functioning company will have a marketing process which creates qualified leads to HAND OFF to sales. Let’s name this crucial timeline juncture as zero dark zero. This is the point of truth where marketing delivers a “primed” prospect for sales to close. Primed is the key word. These are the prospects that have a preference to choose you from all of your competitors! If a company only STARTS their selling process AFTER zero dark zero WITHOUT HAVING PRIMED THEIR PROSPECT to choose them, they are at a severe disadvantage!

You Don’t Have a Sales Problem, You Have a Lead Generation Problem!

So, these clients don’t have a sales problem, they have a lead generation problem. All of their future revenue depends on their sales abilities with UNQUALIFIED, UNPRIMED prospects. But sales abilities can only go so far with prospects whose minds have already been 70% made up to travel in other directions!

If we were to put this into the context of Zero Dark Thirty the movie, the vast majority of the plot dealt with the CIA unearthing, tracking down, and qualifying leads on Bin Laden’s exact location. The seal team’s actual on the ground time was less than 38 minutes from entry to exit, but it took over 10 years of research to pinpoint the location to attack.

The First Step to Improving Sales is to Improve Lead Generation!

So, if the primary sales problem is actually a lead generation problem (marketing), what are some things you can try? Here’s a VERY BASIC list. Although not all of them will apply to your specific business, you should be using at least six on a consistent basis, with full measurement and tracking of the results. How many are you doing?

Website

  • Pay per click (e.g. Google Adwords)
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

 

Social Media

  • E-Mail marketing
  • Facebook
  • Industry specific social sites
  • Linkedin
  • Twitter
  • Etc.

 

Content Marketing

  • Blogging
  • eBooks
  • How to guides
  • Newsletters
  • Special reports
  • Video
Advertising

  • Billboards
  • Catalogs
  • Classified ads
  • Direct mail
  • Fax advertising
  • Flyers
  • Magazine
  • Radio
  • TV

 

Other

  • Joint Ventures
  • Press Releases
  • Pro bono work
  • Publicity
  • Seminars
  • Speaking
  • Sponsorships
  • Trade shows
  • Webinars
  • Workshops

*technically, in military terms zero dark thirty does not reference a specific time of day, but is slang for the very early morning.
StrategyPeak Sales & Marketing Advisors

 

 

Kurian M. TharakanAbout the Author – Kurian M. Tharakan
Kurian Mathew Tharakan is a Sales & Marketing Consultant, Speaker & Facilitator, and founder of the marketing strategy firm StrategyPeak Sales & Marketing Advisors. Prior to StrategyPeak, Mr. Tharakan was vice-president sales & marketing for an Alberta based software firm where his team achieved notable wins with several members of the US Fortune 500. Previous to his software experience, Mr. Tharakan directed the sales and marketing programs for the Alberta practice of an international professional services firm.

Marketing Automation: What is it and Why Should I Care?

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest post is from Scott Thomas– Enjoy! 

 

Marketing AutomationMarketers, meet your secret weapon: marketing automation. Only recently, has this underutilized method of demand generation been brought to the forefront of public attention. Marketing automation has slowly become a go-to buzzword in the marketing world but what does it really mean and more importantly, how can it help your business?

For starters, marketing automation refers to technology that allows marketing departments and organizations to more effectively market on multiple online channels (such as email, social media, websites, etc.) and automate repetitive tasks. In its most ideal state, marketing automation provides you with a platform to efficiently deliver engaging content that turns prospects into customers and then follow up with personalized messaging that keeps those customers coming back.

What Marketing Automation Means to Marketers

Marketing automation means two huge things for marketers: conversion and attribution. First we’ll look at its success converting leads. According to a study by The Aberdeen Group, companies that use marketing automation see 53% higher conversion rates than non-users, and an annualized revenue growth rate 3.1% higher than non-users of marketing automation platforms.

Marketing AutomationSounds good, right? It gets better. Marketing automation solves the marketers age-old problem of attributing marketing spend to earned revenue. Because these platforms typically feature CRM integration, lead activity within marketing efforts can be directly tracked from campaign inception to lead conversion. In fact, companies that use marketing automation are 3 times more likely than companies without automation to track and attribute their content-marketing efforts to multiple touchpoints.*

The ‘Automation’ in Marketing Automation

Despite marketing automation’s capacity to generate increased revenue and attribute that revenue to your marketing team’s efforts, many people seem to overlook one key fact: in order for marketing automation to be successful, you have to have something to automate. Think of marketing automation as the hyper-efficient delivery vehicle between the programs you already have in place and your audience. It won’t create the content for you but with it, you can build the most effective route by which to push your content. The following are examples of programs that can be integrated into your marketing automation strategy:

  • Content Marketing: Today’s consumers don’t respond to conventional “Mad Men” style marketing and advertising tactics; instead, they respond to engaging, informative content that speaks to them and not at them. By distributing content that engages your audience, you’re not only satiating their appetite for information, but you’re also working towards the end result of creating a connection with these potential buyers and ideally, driving them closer to a sale.
  • Email Marketing: Does your organization already employ use of email marketing? Although it might not seem like much, even something as simple as a monthly newsletter can be engineered to drive optimal engagement. With marketing automation you can create any number of follow up actions based on how a lead interacts with an original email. This brings us to…
  • Lead Nurturing: This process of educating and staying fresh on the minds of prospects who aren’t yet ready to buy allows you to turn otherwise cold leads into added revenue. Lead nurturing can take many forms, from personalized, Happy Birthday emails to reengagement campaigns.

The possibilities for customizing your marketing automation pipeline are limited only by your organization’s capacity to do so and while it may take some heavy legwork to initially set up, don’t be intimidated. Marketing automation can save you time and money while converting more leads by simply utilizing the programs you already have in place.

*(The Lenskold and Pedowitz Groups, 2013 Lead Generation Marketing Effectiveness Study, Nov 2013)

Scott ThomasScott Thomas is the founder and president of the Intelechy Group, an Austin-based revenue growth agency. Scott has spent more than two decades driving highly profitable revenue for industry leaders such as AT&T, Dell, AMD and SAP. Intelechy Group specializes in Go-to-Market (GTM) Strategy & Development, Brand & Market Positioning, Demand Generation and an array of marketing services that propel organizations to become revenue and profit leaders in their marketplaces.

 

 

3 Simple Steps for “Makin’ It Rain” On Your Website

Thursday is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is from Aaron Houghton – Enjoy!

rainmakerThe term rainmaker is often used to describe highly productive members of sales teams. These individuals have a special talent for communicating the value a business’ products provide.

What impact would adding a new rainmaker have on your team? What about one that only costs you a few bucks each month? Even better!

For many small business owners, that rainmaker is their website.

Today I’m going to talk about how to easily capture more sales leads from your website. But if you sell directly from your website, you can use the same process to drive more online purchases too.

Don’t Make This Mistake

Think for a second about the last 100 visitors to your website. Will you ever be able to interact with them again? In most cases, that chance is gone.

That is, unless you captured their contact information while they were on your site. To follow up with someone all you really need is their email address, phone number, or maybe their social media handle.

There are many ways to capture contact information from your website visitors. These include social media login, email newsletter signups, real-time chat, header bars, and embedded web forms. Among these options I prefer web forms.

Collecting sales leads through web forms works great because most people are comfortable typing their information into them. They also require less commitment than account sign-ups and shopping-carts that ask for credit card details.

Savvy business owners use web forms to convert more website visitors into new customers.

How to Use Web Forms to Generate More Sales Leads From Your Website

Convertingmistake more sales leads from your website using web forms is easy when you follow these three steps.

1. Give Visitors a Real Reason to Submit a Form

“Submit our form and we’ll contact you.” Seen that before? This is probably what your competitors’ web forms actually say. Your visitors are used to seeing this.

Let’s make it worth their time to submit your form by giving them a real incentive. You’re asking them to share their personal contact information with you. What are they going to get in return? Make it good.

A few common incentives include discounts like a 10% off coupon, a one-on-one demo, or access to something like an e-book.

Make sure to mention what they’ll get in the text right at the top of the form. But save the reward for after it’s submitted. Include the reward in the confirmation message or in your follow-up response.

A great incentive sentence looks like this:

Request a quote and we’ll send you a 10% off coupon for any products you purchase this month. Complete the form below to get the coupon.

2. Pick a Form Tool That’s Easy to Use

computer tech servicesTo collect your users’ contact information, you need a good form builder.

A good form tool makes creating forms easy. Editing forms should be easy too. And finally it should send submitted data somewhere convenient for you like an email in your inbox, your email marketing system of choice, or a Google Docs Spreadsheet.

Other nice-to-have features include the ability to send confirmation emails to visitors and to redirect visitors to a specific thank you page after they submit the form.

I have personally used Gravity Forms for WordPress before but I also hear great things about WuFoo and FormStack too.

All you really need is a nice short web form. Super long forms scare people away so only ask for information that you’re going to do something with. For instance, you probably don’t need to collect a fax number!

Important fields usually include name, email or phone, and maybe an open-ended field where the user can type a question or explain what they need.

3. Track Conversions and Optimize

Having a strong incentive and having a short web form are a great start. But it’s actually impossible to guess upfront which incentive or form will perform best with your actual website visitors.

Because of this it’s crucial to measure your conversion rate – the percentage of form submissions to unique website visitors – to determine how effective each incentive and form is at getting visitors to submit their contact information.

BoostSuite and Informly are two free tools that can be used to measure your sales lead form conversion rate. Sales lead forms on small business website usually have a conversion rate of about 5%.

If your conversion rate is less than 5% you should test various incentives and forms. Use one incentive for a month and then measure your conversion rate. Next month try swapping in a smaller form.

Solar panel installation company Southern Energy Management tested various incentives on their website and found one that produced 419% more sales leads than their original incentive.

The higher performing incentive drove in 160 new sales leads for Southern Energy in just one month. Compare that to just 38 sales leads from the original incentive – with similar website traffic – in the previous month.

A Little Bit of Work, Lots More Sales Leads

You work hard to get visitors to your website. Don’t make the mistake of letting them pass you by forever.

Build and test some incentives and forms on your website and you’ll find a winning combination that turns more window-shoppers into new customers for your business.

Aaron HoughtonAaron Houghton is a serial entrepreneur who builds web marketing products for small business owners. Aaron is currently co-founder and CEO of BoostSuite.com. BoostSuite is a product that helps small business owners get more marketing results on their own. Formerly Aaron was co-founder of email newsletter leader iContact.com that was sold to Vocus in 2012 for $180M. Aaron was an Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year winner in 2008, was listed to Inc Magazine’s 30 under 30 list 2010, and was named as a Top 10 Most Influential CEO in 2010 (behind Zuckerberg, Andrew Mason, and Matt Mullenweg). In his free time Aaron is an avid wakeboarder and outdoor adventurer.

 

 

6 Ways to Uncover Highly Targeted Referral Prospects

Thursday is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is from Matt Anderson – Enjoy!

PresentationOne of the most important elements of getting more highly targeted referrals is to make it EASY for others to open the right doors by being crystal clear about what you want.

Stop saying “if you can think of anyone else who might benefit from my services, please have them give me a call”  because it hardly ever works and, if it does, the referrals will likely be unfocused at best.

Since no strategy can work every time, here are six ways to excel in uncovering the best referral prospects:

  1. Pre-planning

Before you meet, do some homework on who your client is connected to:

Google them, search LinkedIn contacts and think through what other people, groups or interests they have already mentioned in their life.

Before every meeting, ask yourself: what would I love to ask this person for? This is the one of the best referral habits you can have.

  1. Listen differently

Make it a goal in every meeting to identify 1-3 names of people who fit your ideal target prospect.

When you do, you will find that you pay more attention to conversation that in the past may have seemed frivolous or unrelated to your agenda for the meeting.

You already know that there are times when you don’t listen closely to everything someone says. When you make a point to listen closely for names, you’ll start to notice that sometimes they do mention specific people.

  1. Ask different questions

If you don’t know yet what people are in their personal and professional world, ask different questions! Remember the goal is to identify specific people or opportunities for you.

“What do you love to do?”

“What are you working on right now?”

Let them tell you. If something comes up that you believe you could help with: “How do you think it would be best for me to help you with this situation?”

“Who’s your ideal client?” This ought to then give you a chance to respond too.

“If you were me and building a business in this area, who would be the important people for me to know?”

Ask your clients:

“I’m curious: What do you tell other people about the work we do?”

  1. Use generic specifics

If have yet to identify anyone: instead of 30 family members say ‘siblings’ or ‘parents’; ‘best friend’ beats ‘friends’; and ‘favorite colleague at work’ beats potentially dozens of anonymous ‘co-workers’; “who do you most like to (e.g.) golf with that you discuss this kind of thing of with?”

For business owners ask about favorite clients, favorite vendors that they outsource to, and referral sources.

  1. Memory jogging stories

Educate people about the different types of work you do by sharing stories so they know all that you’re capable of. During general conversation, start weaving in more stories of how you have helped other people in different situations. The goal is to hear: “I didn’t know you did that. You know, you might want to talk to…” Look for flickers of recognition.

You could even legitimately ask: “Do you ever run into people in that situation?”

  1. Ideal client list

A few people have success presenting a list of prospects to others in their network. If you’ve got water in the well with someone, it is perfectly appropriate to say: “I’m curious to ask you about a list of area businesses that I put together the other day. (Show list) Do you have any decent contacts at any of these places? I’d love to talk to them about their (fill in the blank) because I’ve worked with a lot of similar organizations and they’ve turned into excellent relationships.”

Create an ideal client list of specific names, companies, locations or professions and life situations.

The results come when you make it very easy for others such that they do not have to think about it. So be very clear about what you want by knowing whom you want to meet.

Matt AndersonMatt Anderson, founder of The Referral Authority, is the author of Fearless Referrals. He leads seminars and coaching groups around the globe for business development professionals on how to develop the lifetime skill of getting referrals. Contact him at [email protected] or 312-622-3121.

Make Any Business Extraordinary Using EST

Thursday is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is Mike Michalowicz – Enjoy!

The London Olympics were nothing short of amazing.  Top athlete after top athlete trying to outdo each other.  Just like to business going to head, there is only going to be one gold medalist at the end of the day.

Arguably, Michael Phelps is one of the most impressive athletes of all time. His collection of gold medals speaks to it.  What is interesting is that every swimmer that lost to Michael Phelps was trying to be the ER swimmer.  “What is ER?” you ask.  It is when a competitor (business, athlete or otherwise) tries to be better than other competitor.  They try to be faster or stronger or smarter or funnier or louder or quicker or slower or anything better.

The thing is, if you aren’t the EST you go unnoticed.  If you came in second or third to Michael Phelps, you may have been better than the other swimmers, but you were not the best. You are forgotten. Michael Phelps got millions in endorsements.  Number two – the better then almost everyone else guy – got nothing.

At the end of the day, only the EST wins.  The fastest or the slowest or the strongest or the weakest or the funniest or the loudest or anything that is the most, the best.

Ironically, any swimmer could “beat” Michael Phelps by doing a cannonball into the pool when everyone else dives.  That is the craziest thing, and would be covered all over the news.  That swimmer would win the worlds attention, by simply being an EST.

Enter The EST

The EST is the superlative that is going to make your business more successful. For those of you who are not grammarians – the superlative is that which is added to the end of a word to show that it features a degree that is unsurpassed. The unsurpassed area is where you want to be!

The edge of the competition bell curve is awareness, as that is where customers see you. The center is just filled with noise; if you fall in that area of the curve, you won’t be heard. To succeed, it is essential that you work to become the EST. Applications of the EST can vary widely, so the field is wide open. You aren’t limited to aiming to be the greatest – there is also the fastest, cheapest, quickest, and even the not-so-obvious choices of being the slowest, strangest, funniest, and weirdest. Now you are getting the idea…

What if you had a restaurant that had the fastest meals – everything was served in under 30 seconds? That would be the talk of the town (and would blow away even McDonald’s)! You could also be the slowest by, say, inviting guests to spend three to four hours, slowing dining on a steady stream of tasty treats. That too, would be the talk of the town.

Being the Oddest

You may not see, quite yet, how standing out in an odd way could actually help you. But I am a college football fan, and even if you are a fanatic, too, I bet you would struggle to identify all of the Number One teams of the last 10 years. But you can probably immediately identify the only team in college football with a blue field! That is because that team’s field is the strangest!

The Boise State Broncos have the blue football field, of course. And everyone knows about them because of it. That little school has become an annual Top 10 contender in college football. Year in and year out, they get amazing recruits and they win.

Perhaps, just perhaps, by having the EST field in the country, they stood out from the noise. Perhaps like every college football fan, every college football recruit knows of the blue field. And maybe that has brought great athletes to a school that might not have otherwise been noticed. There is one thing for sure, they got a blue field and have been winning ever since!

Finding Your EST

Still not sure how you could apply the EST to your business? What about the coolest (you can only get in the store if you know the password of the day), loudest (think of speakers that are louder than jet engines), quietest (a silence room where you can actually hear your own heart beat), smelliest, sweetest, sourest…you get the idea.

The great thing about using the EST strategy to put your business on the road to success is that the sky is the limit concerning what yours will be! You get to decide what EST you want your business to be. Then put it out there in the biggest way, get out of the way, and watch what happens! You may just find that you have the craziest idea — one that turns your company into the neatest thing people have ever seen, which in turn will create one of the happiest entrepreneurs around.

Remember, the EST is the superlative that will show the degree to which your business is unique. So ask yourself, to what degree is your business set apart from others? If you don’t know the answer to that question, neither do others. There is no limit to what that can be, and once you can identify it and make people aware of it, you will be on your way to business success!

Image Credit: Jon Curnow

MikeMichalowicz is the author of ThePumpkinPlan and TheToiletPaperEntrepreneur. He is a nationally recognized speaker on entrepreneurial topics and is the CEO of ProvendusGroup, a consultancy that ignites explosive growth in companies that have plateaued.