One book that I am currently working my way through is titled The Referral Engine – Teaching Your Business to Market Itself written by John Jantsch, who also wrote another popular business book Duct Tape Marketing. Much of the focus of the book discusses how word-of-mouth referrals are the key driver to new business, and traditional marketing and advertising is losing its effectiveness. I agree with most of his reasoning so far and agree with referrals being the most effective sales tool. I believe part of this lessened effect of traditional marketing (television ads, radio ads, print ads, etc.) is due to the amount of advertising exposure a consumer experiences on a day-to-day basis, even more so with the growth of social media. Traditional sales and marketing campaigns incur an inherent distrust, because they are made to “sell” and the smart consumer sees through it.
Therefore, Jantsch stated that nothing will provide a business with more rewards than strategies designed to strengthen a company’s referral network. One of the chapters I just made my way through was titled The Path to Referral (Chapter 3). In this section, Jantsch proposed the seven stages to an Ideal Customer Lifecycle. This seems like a newer-aged AIDA model (Awareness-Interest-Desire-Action) but I think it is much more relevant and descriptive than its predecessor.
Of any of the seven steps discussed in the lifecycle, this is the one where a company’s traditional marketing will have the most effect. Some experts believe (and I tend to agree) that creating brochures, sending e-blasts, and mailing newsletters may and probably will not sell a project, but they will get you noticed. With this first step, that’s what your goal should be with your marketing efforts – communicate a clear brand identity, make a good impression, and speak your customers’ language by talking with them, not at them.
Examples: Traditional marketing efforts – TV commercials, radio ads, email blasts, newsletters, print ads.
Once you’ve passed the awareness, if the customer is interested they will seek more information about your firm. Oftentimes this is where your secondary marketing tools will come into play. Give the customer access to your website, social media sites, and other additional sources to learn more. Make them easily accessible. At this point you still are not close to an actual sale, but all of these peripheral sources should continue to encourage further interest in your business and an attempt to earn trust. Also, as Jantsch stated in an earlier chapter, it shows you “are not a boring business. No one wants to work with or refer a boring business.”
Examples: Website, Facebook page, LinkedIn page, Twitter, blog, case studies, white papers.
This is the point where the prospect has already taken the extra step to look at your website or social media sites and moves to contact. This engagement could be signing up for a newsletter, commenting on a blog, or something as direct as sending the company an email or making a phone call. Jantsch states that many businesses lose prospects at this point because the “business acts in its best interest by pushing to hard to sell rather than focusing on continually building trust.” This trust is further developed through recommendations of additional resources, educational materials, and non-threatening engagement. “Repetition builds trust, trust builds the brand.”
This is one of the most important parts of the customer sales cycle but may also be the least acted upon by businesses. Jantsch stated that you have to give an opportunity for the prospect to try your services with little obligation. Creating a small-scale project at a low-cost will give your prospect the ability to try your services and will give you the ability to try out the prospect as well. As a market research firm, we have seen many clients utilize our Quick Pulse telephone surveys as an introductory project to RMS and market research. There is a lot of value in these smaller scope surveys – they offer a quick turnaround and are relatively inexpensive. These projects are a nice step one to a long-term engagement with our firm.
This is the all-encompassing process surrounding the project beyond just the “sale.” It covers expectations and all communications from start to finish. If a separate salesperson was working with the prospect up to the trial or this step, ensure there is a smooth transition. The last thing you want to do is have to rebuild all of that trust you’ve already earned.
If your company provided a quality product or service in the prior step, it is half way to developing a referral customer. Here is something Jantsch wrote that touched upon one of our prior blog posts (read here):
“When someone buys your product or service, commit to teaching them the proper way [of getting the most out of it.] By doing this you are teaching them how to move up to the next level of your product or service. Far too often we sell a product or service and we just assume our customers are getting the results they desired or were promised. We should be helping them be more successful, use more of the features, teach them the ins and outs, and ultimately experience greater value. That’s what gets referrals.”
By looking beyond the data and consulting with your client, it inherently leads discussions to next steps. Ensure your business uses some type of evaluation or follow-up service to assess gaps in service and promote core strengths to future prospects.
The goal here is to move all of your customers to this level in which they become advocates of your business and act as salespeople without being salespeople. Wouldn’t every business owner love that? If the relationship is strong enough, lean on them as experts to help refine your future marketing materials (steps 1-2). Ultimately, these are the same customers your business converted from prospects to advocates. So who is better to speak the language that will get others to do the same?
I’d be interested in hearing your comments on this book by John Jantsch, please post your feedback in the comments section below. Do you need a market research consultant in the Syracuse, NY area? Contact our Business Development Director Sandy Baker at SandyB@RMSresults.com or by calling her at 315-635-9802.