You’re no chicken — so why should you “cross the road” to connect with other local business owners? Well, that’s a big part of the word-of-mouth marketing that’s going to fuel the growth of your business.
Your best source of new customers is a strong network of local business owners knowing about your business and willing to stay up-to-date about its latest happenings.
So make meeting another business owner nearby part of your weekly ritual, get to know something about each other, and forge a relationship that leads to sharing information and customers. Here’s the why and how.
Word-of-mouth marketing: It’s not chicken feed
According to business owners, word-of-mouth referrals are the No. 1 source of new customers. They can’t be bought, but they can be had.
Look at both parts of the phrase — word-of-mouth — to truly understand it.
- Words are the things about your business you would like shared with others.
- Mouths are people who are willing to put their reputation on the line to share your words with others.
Customers trust business owners and see them as a vast source of local knowledge and information. By building a network of local business owners who are knowledgeable about you and your business and who are willing to stay up to date on what you’re up to, you greatly increase the number of “mouths” available to make referrals.
“The only way to steadily increase client base in a cost-effective manner is by providing outstanding value and a customer-centric experience. Referrals are any business's foundation and core for growth.” ~ Robert B., Las Vegas
Ideally, your network will evolve to include business owners who know you well and readily recommend you to others (“advocates”) as well as others you’re getting to know and building trust with (“acquaintances”) who eventually get added to your advocate list.
Look both ways when crossing the road
When forging new relationships it’s important to realize it’s not just about you and your business.
You need to invest in getting to know the business owner on the other side of the table, what their challenges are, and how you might help them succeed in their business.
Word-of-mouth won’t happen without trust since you’re asking another business owner to put their personal reputation on the line for yours.
On Alignable, we often see business owners breaking the ice by simply reaching out to another business owner and asking them if it would be OK to “connect” or add them to their network. When a relationship already exists, they jump into discussing ways to work together and recommending each other.
“I just had coffee with another Alignable member and we came up with several ways to do business with each other and already made referrals. After we got to know each other, I understood what his goals are, and I will have him at the front of my mind when anyone I know needs his services.” ~ Jackie M., Van Nuys, CA
However, when it’s a new connection, they often just ask to stop by to put a face with a name or have coffee. In these situations, we suggest business owners spend the first meeting focused on learning about the person behind the business and save the next encounter for talking shop.
When you get to the other side
Once you’ve established trust with members of your network and added them as advocates, you need to constantly feed the relationship to keep it healthy. Just like your other great mouths (your customers), it's important to regularly stay in touch to keep your business top-of-mind.
- Try to share an interesting tidbit about you or your business at least monthly.
- Include featured products or services you provide, upcoming events, or simply a nugget of local business or industry insight others will find interesting or valuable.
Your goal here is to flip your network on the forehead — in a nice way — and say “remember me."
Helping others cross the road
“...[R]eferrals can be great for our businesses. Being able to share a referral with another business builds trust and lasting relationships. You can never go wrong with helping someone else. I love having an arsenal of people in different fields to be able to refer as I'm networking and even my own clients. In my field of business, I pride myself on building lasting relationships with my clients and making sure I can get them what they need.” ~ Lisa P., O’Fallon, MO
As your network grows and you gain advocates galore, you can become a mentor to other business owners wondering how they can cross the road.
The strongest local communities are those with the greatest connectivity between all of the business owners.
If you build your network on an online social network like Alignable, you’ll be able to also invite the local organizations who support your business community and all their members to join. And when you see a business owner operating in isolation, take that step and invite them to cross the road with you and introduce them to some of your friends. They will not only be eternally grateful, they might also become your best next source of new business!
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