Does your business rely on referrals from previous customers and clients? There’s no doubt that being recommended to others feels great. But did you know referrals can be ‘bad’ for your business? Let’s find out why and what you can do to grow your business in 2020 and beyond.
1. You don’t know anything about the clients you are attracting
One of the major issues with relying on referrals to build and grow your business is that you don’t know much about your prospective customers or clients.
We like to use a blind date analogy when explaining this. Picture this situation – your mum sets you up on a blind date with someone. Of course, you have no idea who they are. The date might work out, and that person might be just perfect for you. Or they might not! And your blind date might turn into an experience you’d rather forget. But that’s the point – you just don’t know, do you?!
In a way, business referrals aren’t that different. Your existing customers and clients may have recommended you to their friends or colleagues, but you don’t know anything about them. And they might be a perfect fit for your business. Or they might not. And if they aren’t, you might both run into problems when you start working together. That’s not ideal, is it?
2. Your prospective clients don’t know anything about your business
When someone recommends you to a prospective customer or client, you don’t know anything about them, but they don’t know anything about you either. Sure, you came recommended, but they’re not aware of the way you work or don’t know what to expect from you.
By the time you’ve explained it all, they might realise you don’t offer the right service for them. Or they might not be willing to pay your fees. And what happens then? You don’t know how your prospective customers or clients are going to react when they find out all the details. And again, it might work out (and the referral might pay off), or it might not (and you might end up in an awkward situation!).
3. Your business cannot grow
Before 2017, our business was relying solely on referrals. Money was coming in, and month-on-month our business wasn’t getting worse. But it wasn’t growing either. It was stagnant. We were offering the same services at the same prices.
Truth is, we had no idea where our next client might be coming from. We had no leads in our pipeline and had our referrals dried up, we would have been in trouble with no other prospective clients to contact.
Looking back, the reason is obvious. We were getting little traffic to our website, and we weren’t building our email list! We had no active way of increasing our leads or sales, and that’s because we weren’t in control of our own sales process. Plus, seeing that our previous or existing clients were kindly referring us to others, we couldn’t easily increase our prices either, as we felt obliged to offer the same prices to our newest clients.
In a nutshell, we weren’t building our personal brand, and our business wasn’t growing.
How to use content marketing to grow your business
If all this sounds familiar, what can you do to attract the right customers or clients, build a pipeline of leads, and increase sales to grow your business?
You can start content marketing.
In 2017, we made the life-changing decision to start blogging on our website. Before then, we had published little content and hardly had a presence on social media. And while referrals were great, things didn’t always work out. So to change all this, we started writing and sharing regular content on our website.
1. Use your content to attract the right customers
We started off by answering questions from our prospective or existing clients, who’d want to know how much we charged or how we worked, for example. And as a result, we created posts including:
- Why are we so expensive?
- Why are we so cheap?
- How long will it take to build your website?
- 10 Reasons We’re Not the Right Fit for You.
And many more!
Over time, writing and sharing blog posts regularly meant that we were able to build a library of content on our website that allows our prospective clients to find all the information they need to decide whether or not we’re the right fit for them.
The people who do get in touch with us tend to have read our content beforehand. And more often than not, they’ve already made a decision to work with us based on what they’ve learnt on our website.
2. Use content to create a pipeline of leads
Content marketing also allowed us to grow our business by attracting more traffic to our website. This, in turn, meant we could increase our email list. And over time, we created an engaged community of subscribers and a pipeline of leads that we could tap into when we had something to sell.
3. Use content to increase your prices or pivot
Sharing content was also key to pivoting our business. By investing in our email list, we were able to build a base of people who already knew us, either through working with us or through our content. They had trust in us – they liked working with us – and they were ready to buy any other products or services we might offer.
Content is what allowed us to introduce our membership in 2018. Make Your Mark Online is aimed at people who want to build their website but are struggling to drive sales through it. And the reason we were able to successfully launch our membership is that we had worked on building a strong community – mainly through content.
So if you want your business to look any different in 6-12 months’ time, you need a pipeline of leads who are invested in you, know that you know what you’re talking about, and who trust you. And the best way to do that is to share content regularly and become an authority and a leader in your industry.
4. Share content with your referrals
So can content help with referrals too? It certainly can. Whenever someone recommends us to a new prospective client, we send them 3-4 key pieces of content to read. Once they’ve gone through our blog posts, we jump on a call with them to answer any questions they might have and find out more about their business and the project.
We often share our Website Buyer’s Guide too, which is an unbiased piece of content that teaches people how to buy a website. This gives them an opportunity to learn more about us and how we work and decide whether they feel we’re the right fit for them. By the time we speak to people on the phone or via video, they are already committed! There are no surprises about prices or processes. And often this means they’ll become our clients. Hurray!
So when a referral comes through your business, rather than diving into the working relationship straight away, invite them to read your content. You don’t need to turn referrals down. But do use your content to educate and inform people about the way you work. And if they like it, they’ll come to you.
Would you like some help with planning your content?
So there you have it – the reasons why referrals aren’t always ideal for your business and how you can use content to attract the right customers or clients. You can think of referrals as an added bonus for your business. But they shouldn’t be your lifeline.
As you can see, content marketing can help you grow your business in a different way. So if you want to know more about planning the type of content that will help people make informed decisions about working with you before even getting in touch, we’ve created a content marketing planner that does just that. Our 90-day challenge workbook helps you create the type of content you should be producing in order to educate and inform your prospective clients and to increase leads and sales in your business.
Some of our lovely Make Your Mark Online (or MYMO) members are already using the workbook to produce weekly content for our 90-day challenge. The idea is simple – you create one piece of content every week for 90 days, and we provide personalised feedback to you, so you can improve your content and use it to attract better clients into your business.
If that sounds like something you’d be interested in, head over to Make Your Mark Online to find out more. Our first 90-day challenge has already started, but if you missed it, don’t worry. We’re running two more this year, so you can join us for the next one, starting in May 2020. Just head over to Make Your Mark Online or give us a shout if you have any questions.