The Best Resource for Growing Your Business is Right in Front of You

growing your business

By Kerry Gorgone, {grow} Contributing Columnist

Every Saturday night, a small restaurant in my town has live music (bluegrass). This Saturday happens to be my friend’s birthday, and he loves bluegrass. A gift certificate to this place seemed like the perfect present for him.

As it turned out, getting a gift certificate was not so easy. Only one person who worked for the restaurant knew how to process them, and she wasn’t in the first time I stopped by. The cashier looked stricken when I asked for a gift certificate, then asked me to wait while she checked out several other patrons.

After waiting for five minutes, I was disappointed to find that the person she waved over didn’t know how to process a gift certificate either. I’d have to come back another day if I wanted one. (I did return the next day and, after a 30-minute saga, successfully snagged a gift certificate.)

But, as a marketer, I couldn’t help but think about how many people never come back when they want a gift certificate and that one person isn’t there.

How many times has one of your customers left unsatisfied because of a broken process?

Smart businesses know that your existing customer base is your most valuable asset. Referrals should be the first channel you tap to grow your business, because there’s nothing more powerful than word of mouth.

With a loyal base of customers who love you, surely they know other people like them out there. So get your customers to find them for you.

Here are some tips for growing your business by mobilizing your brand advocates:

Incentivize people!

Growth marketing expert Asher King Abramson advises against rewarding people with Amazon gift cards or other unrelated goodies in exchange for bringing you new customers. Instead, he recommends incentivizing your brand advocates by giving them more of YOUR product or service which, presumably, they like quite a lot.

If you believe in your product, double down and use it as an incentive for customers to bring you new business.

Subscription meal service Freshly, for instance, offers subscribers a $40 credit for every friend who joins on their referral. Dollar Shave Club also rewards subscribers with credit if their friends sign up for the service using a referral code.

Rather than trying to buy referrals, you’re capitalizing on people’s existing affinity for your brand. If they love your product or service, chances are they’re talking about it already. Offering a bonus just rewards the behavior you want to encourage.

Remove barriers to brand evangelism.

Remember that gift certificate I struggled to buy? That transaction should be easy. Your business should enable people to buy gift cards and other merch on their mobile phone but, barring that, they should at least be able to pick one up fast at your location.

People should also be able to find you on social media. A “find us on Facebook” sign in your restaurant won’t do much good if you fail to include the link.

If you own a restaurant, have take-out menus at the counter for customers to bring home or pass along to a friend. If you own a retail store, have some catalogs on hand to slip into shopping bags. Equip people to carry your message forward, should they want to.

Make it easy for people to talk about and recommend your business.

Update your processes: old systems and a lack of training slow your business growth.

Entrepreneur and consultant Chris Ronzio views a failure like the gift certificate fiasco as the result of a broken process. Failing to train all restaurant staff to issue gift certificates creates a bottleneck in the system. Failures like this can shut down a process entirely if the one authorized person isn’t on site (or, even worse, leaves the company).

So, if you’ve created multiple ways for customers to spread the word about you, ensure that each method is fully supported on your end with a sound, operational process.

As Abramson observes, some companies bury customer referral information behind multiple clicks and pages. If you want referral business, use notifications, put messaging in your e-mails, use popup modal windows, and actively talk about the referral incentive when you communicate with your existing customers. Don’t wait for them to find your referral information and decide to use it.

As Mark Schaefer talks about in Marketing Rebellion, many consumers today can’t be reached through traditional advertising but passionate customers will spread the word for you. So, if you hope to grow your business, equip those customers to evangelize for you.

And if they want to buy a gift certificate so someone else can enjoy your product or service, for Pete’s sake, make it easy for them to get one.

Kerry O’Shea Gorgone is a writer, lawyer, speaker and educator. She’s also a Learning Designer at MarketingProfs. Kerry hosts the weekly Marketing Smarts podcast and gets people to open up about their cool collections, weird hobbies, and inspiring side hustles on The Punching Out Podcast with co-host Katie Robbert. Find Kerry on Twitter.

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