Let me guess. You’re a local business-to-business (B2B) company that gets new clients from referrals. You believe that you get enough clients from referrals and don’t think you need marketing. You think marketing is a waste of money. You’re wrong, and I’m going to tell you why from personal experience.
There are many reasons I think only relying on referrals is dumb, but I’ll share my top three.
Relying only on referrals is putting total control of your business in the hands of others. You’re relying on other people to promote your business and generate leads. You are hoping that satisfied customers will proactively talk to others about your wonderful company. I have bad news for you, most people are too focused on themselves and their lives to be thinking about your business. Yes, if you do a great job for them, you can hope they’ll tell others. I’ve used the word “hope” twice in this paragraph on purpose. Relying solely on referrals, if and when they come in, is basing your sales on hope. There’s a proper way to cultivate leads with marketing, but simply hoping for referrals is not how to do it.
Many established businesses think that reputation alone is enough to sustainably maintain or generate new business. They believe that because they have been around the longest, that potential clients already know about them. The marketplace is not static. Oftentimes, new leadership at the firms in your local market have no idea who you are. In other cases, they may know who you are, but want to make a change. This has happened to my company! We recently lost a long-standing client who said they appreciated our years of service, but new leadership wanted to go in a new direction. They didn’t even consider us for the new project because they didn’t know we offered the additional services they wanted. I failed to properly market our full range of services to them and lost a client. I wrongly assumed that our reputation in the account was enough to sustain the relationship.
The marketplace has become varied and complex in today’s society. When I first entered the workplace, the ways to promote a business were relatively simple – print advertising, broadcast advertising (TV, radio), telephone books, and signage. A start-up business simply had to get the word out and then hope (there’s that word again) to cultivate repeat and new business with referrals. The marketplace has grown in size and complexity. You have more competitors, more potential customers, and more ways to reach those customers.
In order to reach new customers and maintain existing ones, it’s essential to have a multi-layered strategy to keep in touch. They may or may not want to talk on the phone. They may or may not want to order online. They may or may not want to email you. You have to have be willing to work with existing and potential new clients how they want to be handled.
The myth that “it’s always worked before, and it’ll work forever,” is obviously a flawed strategy. It’s hard to believe that when things are going well now. What happens to your reliance on referrals and reputation in the future? What happens when the owner of your favorite client account retires and his daughter takes over the family business? What if she wants to engage your firm online and doesn’t have time for lengthy meetings? What if your competitors start an online advertising campaign to capture the Internet search results in your market? Do you still think you don’t need marketing? You get referrals and that’s great, but how can you sustainably generate more referrals and be in better control of the process?
Marketing is promotion – nothing more, nothing less. There are two basic marketing strategies, and all marketing can fall into one or both of these strategies.
Pull marketing is the art and science of being found when someone is looking for the products and services you sell. This type of marketing strategy is concerned with “pulling” customers in and convincing them you are best qualified to meet their needs. Website optimization, search engine marketing, targeted online campaigns, and industry/market promotions are examples of pull marketing. This works best if you know your market and your place in it.
Push marketing is concerned with “pushing” your message far and wide to a general audience. It’s generally concerned with scale and scope. This is maintaining a persistent presence to be “top of mind” to a wide range of potential customers. Examples of this include broadcast advertising, print advertising, brand sponsorships, general promotions.
Want to learn more about push vs pull marketing? Check out this hubspot article.
Still don’t think you need marketing?
Don’t think you need marketing? Your business needs a diversified marketing plan that has multiple channels, campaigns, and strategies to attract and retain clients. Done right, marketing can actually help you generate leads and convert them into clients. You’ve worked hard to build and grow your business. You deserve proper marketing, beyond just waiting for the phone to ring. Read more about why you need digital marketing here.
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