The most important marketing tactic ever devised is also the simplest. And it wasn’t invented by marketing people, but by business owners and sales people looking to grow their business the best, fastest, least expensive way possible.
Unfortunately it doesn’t get much traction because it doesn’t have enough complexity, bells and whistles or cost to make people pay attention to it. It’s just too simple to be that effective. The profound things are always simple, but we don’t believe that either. Yet people who have done it are almost always successful.
What is the single most important marketing tactic ever devised?
Make a list of everyone you know.
I mean your dentist, your mother, your sister, your clients, the bar keep – everybody.
Yep, boring, dull, simple, can’t be that helpful. Wrong. It’s the first thing every business owner and every sales person should do to before they open the doors. I could tell you a few dozen success stories of people who believed and did this, even a restaurant owner who did it, gave away four free nights of food to people on their list to open their restaurant and never looked back (or did much traditional advertising either).
Once you have your list made, divide it into two categories – potential clients and potential gate openers (people who can refer to me). Potential clients got a 1, 2 or 3 (most to least likely to become a client, and potential gate openers get an A, B, C (most to least likely to refer someone to me). I did this on Excel so I could then sort the two and all the 1’s and A’s floated to the top. Some people were 1-A (great potential client and also great potential referral partner). Others were 3-C (and some of them became great clients – our guesses are many times pretty bad).
Once you’ve got the list, figure out what to do with it.
- Call your best friends and family and beg for work. If you’re reluctant to do it, it’s almost certainly more your problem than theirs. They want to help you a lot more than you think, more than anybody else you know. Beg!
- Call others you know well and simply ask if they want to do business or know someone that does.
- Have a pizza party for your highest potential gate openers who aren’t likely to become clients and have a brainstorming session. Give them your 10-minute spiel and get 30 minutes of feedback. Then ask them to make a list of everybody they know (or 5-10 people in the meeting) and go around and ask each of them to describe somebody they are referring. That will help everybody to immediately think of someone they forgot.
- Create interest groups from your list and get a guest speaker to serve them – just put together the meeting to build relationships. They’ll love you for serving them and later you can ask for referrals.
- Go through the list and see whom you should connect with each other – you’ll be surprised at how much power you have to connect people who would love to know each other, and you’ll be the person who made it happen.
- Start a weekly or monthly interest or business group for those that have some common needs (get 5-10 other people on your list to do it with you and recruit 10-15 others you’ve never met – your list just grew exponentially). Put some structure and commitment to it – play kids games and that’s whom you’ll get.
- Do the usual where appropriate – send an email or a direct marketing piece or similar for those you really don’t know very well.
- Assemble your top 100 potential clients and gate openers and commit to call two of them every day and say hello – no agenda. Build the relationships and do business after it’s appropriate.
I put that one last because things like it (frequent, personal, relational contact) are the best way to use that list to build your business. And serve, don’t sell. Find out what they need, meet them where they are at, and watch your business grow.
If you have lots of money and no time, than just do advertising. But if you’re like most small business owners, you’ve got a lot more time than money, and you can reach people you already know a lot easier than going out cold-calling.
I’ve never done a cold call in my life and was the top sales person in every corporation I was in, with annual sales of up to $10 million. Make a list of everyone you know and build relationships with them. It’s the best-kept non-secret in marketing.