As a business owner, you understand the value of referrals. You know that potential leads are more likely to trust in your brand when they see that your current or past clients vouch for you. Unlike other forms of marketing, where there’s sometimes a perception that businesses can “buy” good rankings, personal referrals are entirely voluntary.
Another reason businesses love referral marketing is that it’s a cost-effective tactic. After all, your customer is doing the legwork for you, spreading awareness of your brand and sending leads your way. You don’t have to put as much time or resources into searching for potential customers. This might be especially enticing if you’re not confident in your marketing skills.
However, times have changed and operating on referrals alone won’t be enough to grow your business. If you want to succeed in the long run, you need your brand to be visible to people beyond your word-of-mouth network.
In this article, we’re going to help you learn about twelve other ways you can generate quality leads for your business — to ensure that you can keep doing the amazing work that gets people talking.
It’s a New Era of Marketing
Depending too heavily on personal referrals leaves you in a vulnerable position in today’s competitive market. Quite simply, “word of mouth” is becoming “word of mouse”. Rather than asking for a personal referral from a friend, an increasing number of people use the internet to find businesses and make their selection after reading online reviews. If you don’t have a digital presence, they won’t even know that you exist.
Moreover, people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations nowadays. After all, there’s power in numbers. Yes, maybe one friend had a good experience with a company, but how does that stack up to the 20 people who say that they received sub-par service? According to BrightLocal’s local consumer survey a whopping 93% of consumers aged 35-54 “always” read online reviews when considering a business.
Another way that marketing your business has changed in today’s increasingly connected world is the fact that your customers expect immediate gratification. If they call you and don’t get a hold of you, or don’t hear back from you within 24 hours, they’re not going to sit around waiting. They’re going to go searching for another business — one of your competitors. As research shows, you’re 100 times more likely to reach your prospect and 21 times more likely to qualify a lead if you call within 5 minutes of them contacting you.
Meanwhile, the State of the Connected Customer report found that 64% of consumers and 80% of business buyers said they expect companies to respond to and interact with them in real-time. This expectation of on-demand communication isn’t surprising, considering that in today’s high-tech environment, local marketing software helps businesses be “open” 24/7 through live chat services, chatbots, and appointment scheduling automation.
The transformation of marketing and how people find products and services isn’t slowing down any time soon. Large industry players are always embracing new technologies with the Internet of Things, which consumers come to expect from smaller companies as well. For example, Google Nest thermostats can now alert homeowners to potential HVAC issues and book an appointment for them.
Also, with the advancement of voice search, it’s becoming far more convenient and easier to ask a smart speaker to recommend a top-rated nearby business than it is to get a hold of a friend/family member to ask for a referral. There’s no lag time, meaning people can schedule a service right as they’re thinking about it.
Generating personal referrals is a useful tactic, but it’s only one of the ways you can and should market your business. You also need to ensure that you’ve built a complete online presence.
Why Is Relying Too Much on Referrals the Wrong Way to Grow Your Business?
While referrals are a great way to get new customers, there are a few serious drawbacks to being overly dependent on word-of-mouth marketing.
- You’re putting the control of your lead generation into the hands of someone else. By depending on others to spread the word about your business, you don’t know when the next lead might come in and have no control over the message that’s being communicated to your potential clients.
- When you depend on referral marketing, a bad review becomes even more damaging. If something goes wrong, an unhappy customer is more liable to take it personally and spread the bad news around in an attempt to protect their friends.
- You’re jumping into the relationship blindly. Part of being successful and keeping marketing costs down is knowing who your ideal customer is and developing highly targeted messaging to help you qualify and nurture a lead. A friend or customer could refer anyone to your business and you have no control over that.
- Often referrals know nothing about you beyond your name and a general idea of what you do. You could invest time, resources, and money into trying to convert the referral into a customer but once they get to know you, they could realize your business isn’t exactly a fit for their needs. For instance, it could turn out that they live outside your service area.
- You’re missing out on an exponential amount of customers who are searching for your products/services online. With referral marketing, you’re stuck with a limited pool of potential customers and referrals won’t last forever.
As you can see, in today’s tech-saturated world, the best way to ensure sustained, quality lead generation is to employ personal networking alongside a complete online presence. You need to engage with your customers in both the real world and the virtual one.
12 Surefire Ways to Get Quality Leads
Here are twelve marketing tactics you can use to stand out in your local market, develop your online presence and generate quality customers for your business.
#1 – Get your website right with local schema and local pages — Build your local SEO by making sure your website data (title tags, headers, content, images, links, etc.) is optimized and that you prominently feature your service area on your website. Your service area pages should contain unique, natural and relevant content written for your target visitor, not the search engine. Start small then add content more over time.
#2 – Claim your Google My Business profile and other business listings — By ensuring that your business listings are current with accurate and consistent information, your business will be found more often in searches.
#3 – Get online reviews from your local marketplace — Quickly respond to both positive and negative reviews. Share positive comments across your marketing channels to showcase what’s great about your brand and generate social proof.
#4 – Get started on Nextdoor — This is especially key if your business serves local neighborhoods. Nextdoor is by definition an online place where referrals happen every day. By creating a Nextdoor business page, you’ll be able to start connecting with (and get recommended by) active consumers in your local market.
#5 – Create geo-location content — Publish highly relevant content with location signals on your blog and social media. For example, local events or interesting jobs you’re working on in the area. This localized content tells both your audience and search engines where you work and the type of work that you do.
#6 – Post and share content regularly on your website, directory listings and social media — For instance, use social media to share highlights from a blog you published. Or cross-post images across your business listings and website. Doing so ensures that content across your digital presence stays fresh, signaling that you’re an active business.
#7 – Write content that answers questions you know your customers are asking — Participate in industry-related forums and sites like Quora. Demonstrate that you know your stuff and are happy to answer any questions potential customers have about your industry.
#8 – Write content in voice-friendly language — With search becoming increasingly mobile, voice-assisted and hyperlocal, the search journey has shifted from browsing to asking. Use voice-friendly content to increase your chance of getting recommended through voice search. The age of visual search is coming fast so leverage both images and videos.
#9 – Advertise on Google, Facebook, Yelp and Bing — Take advantage of the various ad formats these platforms offer. For instance, on Google alone, you have access to search ads, YouTube ads, Gmail ads, Local Service Ads and more. Enable remarketing to tag your website visitors so that your ad follows them as they go about the web, checking their email, searching Google and catching up on social media.
#10 – Leverage live chat, chatbots, and automated scheduling — Allow your customers to book appointments online by automatically providing them with your current availability. Increase customer engagement and convert more leads by chatting or texting in real-time with customers visiting your website.
#11 – Utilize email marketing nurture campaigns — Email marketing is the digital version of direct mail marketing – but with better audience segmenting and the ability to track performance. Create an enticing subject line, provide relevant content that addresses the needs of your potential leads, integrate social media links and engaging images and include a call-to-action button.
#12 – Complement your online presence with offline marketing — Make use of yard signs, work vehicle decal, billboards, community events and home shows to create opportunities for direct engagement with your potential clients. Take advantage of local media (via radio, podcasts, and the local news) to help create a sense of legitimacy.
These are just a few of the things you can do to build a more holistic marketing strategy, beyond referrals. For more great ideas, check out this video on How to Generate Results & Revenue with a $5,000/mo Advertising Budget.
Building a strong digital presence broadens your audience and actually supports your referral marketing efforts! Even if someone is referred to you by name, they’ll likely have to search for you on Google to find your business information. For example, their friend gave them your old phone number that’s no longer in service. Or they forgot your email address.
Relying entirely on referrals is a risky marketing strategy since you’re entirely dependent on your existing customer pool to spread the word for you. Wouldn’t you rather be in control over marketing your business?
Gain Complete Control and Visibility with Surefire Local
Surefire Local is committed to helping businesses take control of their digital marketing. By leveraging Surefire Local’s multi-channel marketing technology, you’re able to connect and engage with existing and potential customers to continuously improve and expand their reach.
Surefire Local has been the trusted marketing software provider for over 3,000 businesses in more than 2,400 sites across North America. Speak with our local marketing experts and see how the Surefire Local Marketing Platform will simplify your digital marketing and maximize your ROI!
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