2 Things You Need to Know About Referrals

Christmas will be here in two weeks. Are you ready to make the best of this special season for your sales?

Like Nemo’s dad tries desperately to find Nemo, some small business owners scratch their heads to come up with a way of expanding their customers’ pool.

There are obstacles: automation gradually replaces man labor, gig economy invades the traditional profit categories, Google, Facebook and other social media dominate the online marketing battle field, and fast evolving marketing theories.

But, if Nemo’s dad can find his son in the deep ocean full of uncertainties, you, as a business owner can find a way out of the jungle if you try the two ideas I recommend as follows:

Implementing a referral plan centering the notion of trust

What is trust?  To me, trust is a dynamic item:

  • Trust helps people make decisions.
  • Trust is the core of referral system.
  • Trust forms the structure of relationships.

Have you ever wondered why people like to check online reviews before they make a purchase decision? It is because before they act, they have doubts, they need to find a way to combat with their doubts, and have a solid reason to convince themselves that they make the right decision.

Have you ever wondered why you tend to try what your friends use before? It is because first you trust your friend, then you trust his/her judgement, which convinces you, whatever the product/service worth giving a shot.

Therefore, the process of building a referral system starts with trust.

The precondition is that your business already has a small and stable pool of early adapters. And it has the potential to be appealing to a large group of people. 

Now, conveying this appeal is more like a race.

You should welcome the challenge and implement a plan centering trust:

  1. Create an easy to use and understandable product/service, but it is essentially complicated and difficult for your competitors to duplicate (since the backbones of trust are character and competence);
  2. Identify among your royal customers (early accepters/adopters) who are passionate about your product/service, share deeply with your vision or value, naturally story tellers, love to talk/blog about shopping experience, or like to show off;
  3. Cultivate agents who can educate, explain or share the vision of the product/ service in his/her own language to his/her own circle/community. Part of those agents can be professional sales persons; but most importantly, a large portion of them should be your special group of royal customers I just mentioned in b.

Creating something that your customers will talk about

Here are some good examples for you to learn from:

1) Costco’s 93-inch stuffed bear

The other day, I was shopping at Costco and heard a teenager girl shouted at her mother, “please come here, they stocked the giant bear again!” I was surprised to know that people was still excited about this item even it came to the market last year. This is an inspirational item that brings happy memories of people, even Buzzfeed has an article with the headline as “We Need To Talk About This Gigantic Stuffed Bear From Costco.” None of the other supermarkets have this one of the kind item, which makes Costco stand out. No matter you want to shop at Costco or not, its name is imprinted in your mind.

2) Hy-Vee’s weekly recipe on Dubuque365

Each week, Hy-vee posts a recipe on Dubuque365, which I think it is a costless marketing strategy. It reminds readers that Hy-vee cares about them and treats them as friends. Suppose a person finds a recipe interesting, she might talk to her friend that “Did you try that Hy-vee recipe?”

One improvement I would suggest about this strategy is that they can actually write the recipe on a charcoal board near the main entrance, then set up a stand with all the ingredients mentioned in the recipe. I think this will help promote/ sell some certain items because it saves the time for people to cut out the recipe from the newspaper and try to find each item listed. If Hy-vee wants to make even further efforts, beside the stand, a cook can also show the customers how to cook the recipe with all the ingredients. So that customer can either buy all the ingredients and cook by themselves, or just buy the cooked meal at Hy-vee.

3) Riley’s Mazda Dealership

Since we bought our Mazda long time ago from this place, I thought it might be easier to fix the car if we had problem because they might have the right parts. For three times, they diagnosed minor problems and fixed for us without charge. Moreover, the manager acted professionally and polite when I have to decline a quote, which left a deep impression on me. After several interactions with this dealership, I have no doubt that I will recommend to my friends.

4) Post something spicy / say something controversy

This is a tricky one. It might help you attract a lot of customers at a short period of time, but it is harmful for your long-term growth. The formula for this is

Outrage + [the little something else] = Massive Traffic

Trump used it during the presidential campaign when he said a lot of offensive slogans, tweeted crazily to ignite the anger among certain groups of people.

The American Apparel used it, if you still remember those weird and inappropriate model pictures on its website, which I think might be the cause for its bankruptcy early this year.

Or lastly, if you want to produce a video like this for you brand:


Enjoy your day. 


In the comments below let me know if you found this post helpful. And if so, please share it with others who might own a local business or share your successful experience by using one of the strategies on ReputationMarketingTV Facebook page

If you own a local business and are interested in magnifying your referrals virally online… check out 5Star Marketing  to learn about your reputation online.

Thank you very much. That means a lot to me!





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