Monday, May 24, 2010

Clients in 10 States

When I ran 544 Productions Website Design I had clients in 10 different states. All of these clients were from word-of-mouth. As I’ve been working with clients of the Referral Institute I’ve found that businesses with nationwide clients feel that word-of-mouth can’t work for them. Here is what I’ve found that really works.

Growing your business to have clients in ten states follows the same methods that a business owner would follow if they wanted 10 clients in their neighborhood. The first step is to run a good business – provide a great product and superior customer service. The second step is to follow the same rules that apply for growing your business locally. Here are the rules I followed:

  1. Use word-of-mouth at home to grow your business. I lived in Ithaca and I had a few clients in Ithaca. I wanted more clients in and out of Ithaca – as my goal was to bring in business for Ithaca based graphic designers, writers, and programmers. I joined BNI and started to grow my business locally.
  2. Identify people that you already know that might make good referral sources. I choose BNI members that had the same target market as my web business (My Target Market was Business Owners).
  3. I also identified clients that were in professions that had nationwide counterparts (Educational Consultants, Massage Therapists).
  4. I developed strong relationships with these BNI members and these clients. I worked to educate them on what I liked to do for work, who I liked to work with, and that clients could be from anywhere in the United States.
  5. I worked to motivate these sources (from the 15 ways to motivate from Certified Networker) and they started to generate referrals for me.
  6. I worked with these referrals and turned the referrals I received into clients.
Are you trying to grow your business from the neighborhood to nationwide? I can help you develop a structured plan to help the right referral sources, often people you already know, to achieve tremendous results with word-of-mouth.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

A $20K Marketing Budget for $200

Could your business use a $20,000 marketing budget? What if you could spend just $200 to get that $20,000 marketing budget? Would you say you might be interested?

Last Tuesday at my BNI chapter I (as the chapter's education coordinator) spoke about a few things you can do when you do a dance-card or 1-to-1 with a referral source or BNI member. The first time you meet - you could do a GAINS exchange (Goals, Accomplishments, Interests, Networks, and Skills). This could be completely structured or could be very free flow. I recommend keeping watch on time - so the first 1-to-1 doesn't last forever. Perhaps 1 hour.

If you both felt that the first meeting went well - that you both decided you'd like to continue to grow your relationship based on goals, interests, and accomplishments - then plan a second time to get together.

I recommend talking about the answers to the Six Magic Questions and working out the details of "How Can I Help You (achieve the success you'd like to see in your business and life)?". These details could easily take 30 minutes per person. Try to set a timer or watch the clock, so your time doesn't stretch too far beyond an hour.

Did the second meeting feel good to you? Are you in a position to actively support this member of your BNI chapter or in your contact sphere? Do you see the types of clients that this person would like to see? Do you know the people in the professions of referral sources that this contact would like to meet?

If you said 'yes' to these four questions - then I recommend setting a third 1-to-1 to have a conversation about your life, your family, your biography, and your history. This is a great time to go deeper to get to know the likes and dislikes of your referral partner. Here is where you might be able to find out how they got into their job - not the why, but the how of the path to this dream job of theirs.

So - for the right BNI and contact sphere relationships - you should plan to spend around 3 hours together. This time will help move your relationship from invisibility to visibility to credibility. It may even lead to profitability - but this will never effectively happen until you've passed through the other phases.

Now, about that $20,000 marketing budget. A member of my chapter calculated that with 30 members and 3 hours of meeting time per member and an hourly rate of $225 per hour that it would 'cost' him $20,000 for these meetings.

If he did feel a strong connection through the first two meetings with all 30 members and he had 90 meetings over the course of a year - the actual cost would be about $2 in coffee per meeting or $180.00. How effective would his 30 referral partners be if they spent an honest 30 minutes learning his GAINS profile, 30 minutes learning how they could help him, and 30 minutes learning about his background and biography?

The value (and referrals) would more than pay for the $20,000 in 'billable' time. These 30 people would be prepared to truly help this member and the benefits of this $180 in coffee would be worth far more than the time.

You might not have $20,000 to spend - but with the right few referral sources (at the Referral Institute we recommend 4-8 sources) - you can spend your marketing and networking time wisely to Create Referrals for Life.