It’s all about relationships. Everything. All your marketing efforts boil down to one thing – getting warm human beings to say ‘yes’ to your proposition. And it’s these relationships, once built, that will sustain you through good times and bad.
People buy when they sense there’s a shared value system, or shared world view, or a shared aesthetic. In short, when they feel they have something in common with you and your brand. Values are important. Projecting your values within your marketing story could be one of the most important things you ever do.
For example, if you work in environmentally friendly ways, advocate fair trade or use only ethically sourced materials, you need to tell people. If there is a strong social or spiritual theme within your work, it’s a valuable part of your story. Be clear and open about these things.
In order to maximise your chances of success there are three things that you need to ensure. Your product or service must be of sufficient quality for people to want to buy it again and again, you must develop and maintain a personal ‘Track Record’ which proves you can deliver on your promises, and you need a clear sense of your values. These things will enable you to communicate with clarity and conviction.
If you work hard to maintain all of the above, you will probably find that after a while people begin to come to you as a result of personal recommendation. This is the most effective form of marketing you can possibly employ. Ideally, you want people to be walking in your door or contacting you directly rather than you having to endlessly send letters or publicity leaflets to people to try and stimulate their interest. It takes time to establish this pattern – but the initial effort involved could well set you up for the long haul. So – what do you need to do to make this happen?
Essentially, you need to focus on the way that you build relationships. It’s all about creating and maintaining relationships with both existing and potential new customers. This is best achieved by communicating wisely and effectively rather than by employing scattergun marketing techniques such as huge mailings of letters and leaflets or employing indiscriminate email campaigns. People will only hate you for doing this.
The 80/20 rule
Getting a large part (80%) of your business from a relatively small proportion (20%) of your clients is regarded as the norm. So it makes sense to secure your relationship with the 20%. Talk to them, give them a bit of extra attention, throw in the odd freebie or a bit of extra time. Keeping them is often all about the quality of relationship you maintain with them. However, and this is the big one, circumstances beyond your control can take these customers or clients away no matter how good the relationship.
Therefore it pays to be constantly on the lookout for and developing relationships with potential clients who have the same sort of profile as your existing 20%. Widen the gene pool. Make relationships with potential customers even if it might be ages before you actually get a sale. Always look for people who are equivalent in some way to the folk you work with already. Make friends with them and cultivate them. It’s a good insurance policy. Oh, and by the way, when you lose a customer, don’t throw away the personal relationship. Cultivate that too, as you never know when an old contact might bring new business back in your direction.
Ask for Feedback & Testimonials
When you have a good relationship with a client, ask for feedback. If people like what you do, they will be flattered if you ask them for a comment for your website, or to incorporate into printed material.
Testimonials resonate with potential customers because they are the next best thing to personal recommendation. Potential clients are always looking for clues that you can actually do what you claim to be able to do – a good testimonial might just convince them to pick up the phone, or rattle off an email, and talk with you about their needs. The real trick is to use your network in a way that cuts out the need for ‘cold calling’, or gets other people to help make the difficult introductions.
Don’t forget to say thanks!
Finally, if you get what you need, say thank you for the help, advice or referral. Next time you are in touch with them they will remember you and treat you as someone with whom they already have a fruitful relationship.
Best wishes – Pete.