I frequently participate in forums on Alignable, asking and answering marketing questions. I occasionally bring bits of the forum here to the blog. Today, I’ll be expanding on a conversation I had with a bookstore owner about how to generate referrals.
Bookstore Owner : Looking for advice as to how best to market my audio bookstore to the local neighborhood and online. Here’s my issue. Our business model, that makes us unique to bookstores, is that we offer audio books for Rent. I believe we give a great value to our customers for the price we charge. But I have tried everything including radio ads, print ads, Facebook Ads and writing articles. Yet, most people find the store by accident. After 9 years in the same location, people still walk in and say to me “Wow, I didn’t know this place existed”. Thanks in advance.
Brianna at One Step: Do you have any sort of referral or rewards program? Often the best marketers are those clients who already love your business. Maybe you could offer a free month’s membership or a free book rental if they share your Facebook page, bring a friend to an event, tell a friend about your business, etc.
Bookstore Owner: We have tried several types of referral plans. Giving $5.00 credit for each referral. Offering a 1 Free month to our customers if they get a customer to sign-up to a plan. We usually advertise these referral programs for three months in a row. Out of the 300 customers we sent the offer out to only less than 1% referred anybody. That’s not say that we don’t get referrals from our customers, because we do. They just happen to be given organically. I don’t think our customers which skew in a older demographic care so much about getting a free month or receiving a dollar amount for each referral. Plus our business is so unique, I don’t think most people are thinking about it when they are out with friends.
Brianna at One Step Services: Rather than trying 3 month plans, I recommend thinking of ways that you can consistently and constantly remind your clients to refer you. You may be right that they aren’t interested in rewards and that organic referrals are best for your clientele. However, there is nothing wrong with reminding them to make those organic referrals. Many studies show that the more you remind or ask people to do something…refer you, like your social media post, write a testimony, etc…the more likely they are to do it.
So to increase those organic referrals, consider including a referral card in every book you mail out. Just a little something that a client could pass on to a friend with your info. Keep those same handouts near your cash register so people can grab them on their way out. Every time you send an email, make sure there is an obvious link so they can forward it to a friend. If you’re on social media, about once a week make a post asking for referrals or asking them to share your post/page with their friends. Here at One Step, we send out handwritten welcome notes to new clients and we include referral cards. We also send handwritten notes to our most consistent and loyal clients, people we think would speak highly of us.
It may sound obnoxious, but keep in mind one single person will probably only pay attention to one of these touch points. And it’s critical that you constantly stay top of mind to get those organic referrals. This is not a three month program, but something that is part of your long term marketing strategy. And I do think that you are off base in saying that your service is so unique people don’t think about it when out with friends. Media is a very popular topic amongst friends and movies, music and books are easy conversation starters. Your clients will refer people if you tell them to.
I frequently participate in forums on Alignable, asking and answering marketing questions. I occasionally bring bits of the forum here to the blog. Today, I’ll be expanding on an answer I gave to a childcare center who needed ideas on how to promote a new location opening.
How do you alert others of a new location opening? We are opening a new location of our childcare center – Spectrum Station Barry Road. We are enrolling and hiring new staff. What is the best way you would suggest communicating this with the local community?
Alright readers, 10 points if you can guess what marketing tactic I suggest first. I’ll wait here.
Did you guess direct mail? Of course you did! We are all about direct mail here at One Step Services. But seriously though, direct mail marketing is PERFECT for this sort of thing. A 3 month, 6 month or even year long campaign to residents directly surrounding the new daycare center would be very effective. There are two ways to go about doing this, and you’d have to run the numbers to see what would be most cost effective. The first way is to use the US Postal Services EDDM program. With this program, you don’t address to specific people. You simply pick a carrier route (or multiple routes) in the area you want to target. The pieces are addressed with “postal customer” and every single house on the route gets a piece. The rates for EDDM are lower than first class or standard mail. If most residences in the routes you choose have children, then this is probably the best way to go. However, if there aren’t a lot of residences with kids, the second option may be better.
The second option is to purchase a targeted list. You can set geographic parameters, and also choose to only get addresses of residences with children. The list will have specific names and addresses. With this list, you know that each piece is going to a home with kids. Plus, you can use variable data to personalize the pieces which will give you a better return on investment. You’ll also receive standard mail discounts, which is cheaper than first class, not as cheap as EDDM. But if you are mailing to fewer houses, it might save you money overall.
In addition to direct mail, I highly recommend getting current staff, students and families on board with promoting the new site. I send my kids to daycare and would gladly share about my experience to friends and family on social media. I’d also write a review on Yelp or any other site. But, I’d have to be asked. This is key. Those parents and staff are busy, so you have to ask and then ask again. Send an email, post on the social media channels they follow, put a note in the kids cubbies or folders. And if you really want to amp up the referral game, offer a tuition or registration discount for families that get other families to sign up.
Sydney and I in Times Square, the advertising capitol of the world
I recently took my first trip to New York City and spent the entire time in complete awe of everything from the buildings and history to the people and food. Despite the fact that I was traveling for pleasure, I couldn’t turn off my marketing brain and was constantly taking note of advertising methods used throughout the city. Amidst thousand dollar billboards and flashy window displays, the most effective marketing strategies where those that could easily be accomplished on any budget by just about any small company in the world.
Provide excellent service that people want to talk about.
During our five day stay in New York City, not once did we do anything simply because we saw an advertisement, read a tour book or were awe struck by a billboard. Every place we went and everything we did was a recommendation either from someone in the group who had done it before, locals we met or Yelp Reviews. We choose our experiences based on the experiences of others.
Our form of decision making is not rare. In a city where advertising is king, the most effective way to get business is still by word of mouth. One good experience can attract hundreds of customers. One bad experience can deter thousands.
Think outside the billboard.
Like all major stores in Times Square, the Hershey Factory has HUGE signage. But with so much going on, even the 16 story candy bar hovering over Broadway can be ignored. But walk into the Hershey Factory and you’ll probably be handed a hat that dubs you as a “Hershey Factory workers.” You’ll probably put it on because, honestly, what is a night time stroll in Times Square without a ridiculous hat? Then, you’ll become a walking talking advertisement for the infamous chocolate store.
The hats, like the billboard, advertise the store but in a dramatically different way. While the billboard can only be seen from the street, the hats can be taken right into other stores. Potential customers can ask the hat wearers about their experience and, if Hershey followed the first lesson in this article, the hat wearer will enthusiastically describe their experience and persuade others to have their own delicious chocolate adventure.
Cross Promote to Gain Repeat Business.
This last marketing lesson wasn’t technically learned in New York, but somewhere between Colorado and Nevada when I watched the only free in-flight movie.
At first, there wasn’t anything to suggest that this was an ad. Yet as I continued watching, I realized the entire movie takes place in the First Class section of various flights on this particular airline. Almost every scene subtly shows off a swanky first class feature. And wouldn’t you know it, all three flights are to and from the three continents where the airline does business.
This movie commercial was not only a brilliant example of purposeful product placement, it also demonstrates the power of cross promotion. I was already on a flight with that airline so I didn’t need to be convinced to buy a ticket. However, I was sitting in coach and when my bum started to go numb around hour 4, I was really wishing I had the extra stretching room that the movie characters had in first class. Also, I had purchased a domestic flight ticket. The movie showed me that this would also be a great choice for international flights. Companies often focus so much on getting new customers that they forget to sell to their existing customers. Up selling and cross promotion will not only generate repeat business, but also creates loyal customers.
Whether you run a big city corporate company or a small town business, you’ve got to come up with compelling, unique marketing techniques to attract new customers and encourage repeat business. Hopefully, these tips have helped spark your imagination and given you ideas on how to most effectively market your business.