About Larry Bauer

Larry Bauer is a highly skilled, experienced writer who brings an extensive marketing background to his copywriting. You’ll notice from the questions he asks that Larry understands business, how companies get to market, and how to communicate to customers. His ability to think strategically, combined with an appealing, conversational writing style, makes his copy both reader-friendly and effective.

Posts by Larry Bauer:

Are You Creating the Right Recession Impression?

hawkerDawg-250Maybe it’s time to give yourself and your team a little pep talk. Get your facts straight. Know what you’re talking about. Create a results-oriented plan that will improve sales today and better position your company for tomorrow. You can do it. What’s more, you need to do it.

Going “dark” to your customers is exactly what your savvy competitors hope you will do. They recognize that there are opportunities in today’s economy. Just as importantly, they are thinking about the mid-term and long-term gains they can achieve—at your expense—by being more aggressive now.

Accountants Can Put You Out of Business.

Cutting marketing to the bone might satisfy the accounting department, but some financial people (and operations, too) often question whether marketing really sells products. A down economy is just an excuse to do what they’d like to do all of the time. It’s up to you to demonstrate that crippling marketing is a bad decision.

I’m always reminded of the story where William Wrigley is riding on a train and one of his colleagues asks him why, with a dominant market share, did he continue to promote his chewing gum so aggressively. “How fast do you think this train is going?” Wrigley asked. “I would say about 90-miles an hour,” the colleague responded. “Well then,” said Wrigley, “do you suggest we unhitch the engine?”

That’s an easier position in good times than bad, you might argue. But there is not one shred of evidence that cutting marketing during a downturn will help your organization. Consider these recession research studies:

  • Yankelovich/Harris
    Execs agree that seeing a company in a down market makes them feel more positive about the company and keeps them top-of-mind when making purchase decisions.
  • McGraw-Research Laboratory of Advertising Performance
    Study of 600 BtoB marketers found that those who maintained or increased advertising during a recession averaged sales growth of 275% over the preceding five years.
  • American Business Press
    Study revealed sales and profits could be maintained and increased in recession years and in the years following by those who maintain an aggressive posture while others become non-participants.
  • Harvard Business Review
    Report of 200 companies found that sales increases came from companies that advertised the most during the recessionary year.

Is It Too Late?

No, but depending upon your situation, you may need to regain the confidence of executive management. And you will almost definitely need to be creative with your budget and reallocate money to areas that will generate the most measurable results. You should focus on:

  • Adding Value. The last thing you want to do is engage in discount battles—especially with your top brands. Price cuts not only hurt current profitability, but they also can be difficult to escape later. A low price tends to become the expected price. Demonstrate instead that you identify with your customer’s challenges and build on values such as durability, security, ease-of-use and timesavings.
  • Selling More to Existing Customers. Returns are so much better and less expensive than prospecting. Increasing your share of customer through more frequent and/or larger purchases can do wonders for your bottom line.
  • Improving Data Mining. Whether you are selling to existing customers or prospecting, nothing will increase results more that instituting database marketing best practices. Get your data out of departmental silos and into a centralized database that offers a single view of each customer. Then you can begin adding sophistication through data appending, predictive modeling and many other techniques often overlooked or underutilized by even large companies.
  • Adding Marketing Automation. You can streamline your marketing program and improve results through marketing automation systems. Good ones will not only help you efficiently manage and execute campaigns, but will also provide the valuable reporting you need. With a recent CMO study indicating that 20 percent of executive-level marketers don’t track their marketing returns at all, there is plenty of room for improvement.
  • Integrating Multiple Channels. Anyone who is paying attention knows that the best returns come from campaigns that skillfully integrate multiple channels. Just make sure you commit your limited funds to the right channels. Consider what Gregg Ambach of Analytic Partners said in an article that appeared in the July 2009 issue of Deliver magazine: “(Digital) is incredibly efficient, because the cost per thousand is low. But it’s just not moving a lot of volume yet.” So be careful about being penny wise and pound foolish when allocating recession marketing dollars.

By Larry Bauer

Want Expert Advice?

MondoVox Creative Group can help you develop cost-effective, multi-channel marketing campaigns—from strategy through execution—that deliver measurable results. For more information, email Julia Moran Martz.

You can connect with Julia Moran Martz on LinkedIn. Or follow her on Twitter.

Creating the Right Internal & External Recession Impressions.

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The impressions you make can have a lasting effect on your career as well as the success of your marketing campaigns. Make a poor internal impression and you may never have the resources to succeed at the external part. Here’s a list of things you can do to make the best internal and external impressions.

Internal

  • Speak with true knowledge about your customers and markets.
  • Demonstrate your ability to capitalize on customer data.
  • Know your competitors intimately—strengths, vulnerabilities, etc.
  • Cut programs that don’t work—show no favoritism beyond positive results.
  • Reallocate money to the best performing channels.
  • Be able to cost justify more expensive channels that perform.
  • Make a solid case for automation and other investments that improve efficiencies.
  • Set and communicate short-, mid- and long-term goals—there will be a tomorrow.
  • Make your plans flexible—think best and worst case scenarios.
  • Collaborate with the team (accounting & operations people, too)—you’re all in this together.
  • Show a willingness to learn and adapt.
  • Communicate your program successes.

External

  • Show your customers that you identify with their situation.
  • Be less promotional and more personal.
  • Communicate how your products or services provide added value that will help them.
  • Make customers feel comfortable, safe and secure about their buying decisions.
  • Avoid price-cutting—it’s a losing strategy.
  • Combine data mining with personalization techniques to customize offers.
  • Pay attention to customer communication preferences—now is not the time to give anyone a reason to tune you out.
  • Integrate channels that make sense for your customers and your message.
  • Execute messages appropriately for each channel—integrated marketing isn’t one-size-fits all.
  • Make sure your print materials are environmentally responsible—people still care.
  • Invite customers to engage with you in more ways.
  • Get more mileage from your campaigns by incorporating pass-along and other techniques that get your customers working for you.

ChalksignInk. Digits. Chalk? Thumbs up to the owners of Limestone Coffee & Tea (Batavia, IL) for their chalk promotion during the community’s recent Windmill Fest. Located in a high-traffic area, the retailer posted a chalk-written sidewalk promotion for a free coffee or tea with any drink purchase if you bring a friend. And an entry-way promotion offered 10% off any frozen drink during the festival. The promotion is fun, nostalgic and very cost-effective.

By Larry Bauer

Does Print Advertising Still Work?

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Don’t get me wrong. I use web-based media everyday. Some of it I enjoy. Some of it I find highly useful in both my business and personal life. I also advise my customers to use it as part of their media plan, and several of them are printers. So this is not a rant against non-traditional media by any means.

At the same time, many companies seem to be over compensating in their move toward electronic media. Granted it has some nice features like being relatively inexpensive, very fast and easily tracked. Everyone loves to walk into their supervisor’s office and point to clickthroughs, landing page downloads and all the other neat things you learn from an online campaign.

But keep in mind that a Parks Associates study reported by MarketingProfs found that 21 percent of Americans had never visited a website, sent an email or used a search engine. And if you are an international company, more than 40 percent of the populations of highly developed countries like France, Belgium and Austria never use the Internet. Even with high connectivity rates in nations like Japan and Taiwan, the numbers escalate to an incredible 85 percent in Asia.

Using Online Media Exclusively Can Shortchange Results

Online media is not necessarily a “be all, end all” solution for reasons that go beyond connectivity? Even among people who do use the Internet, print may actually perform better than online alternatives for certain objectives? Well, let’s ease into this for those who are diehard online media advocates.

First of all, there is a recent Magazine Publishers of America (MPA) study indicating that the combination of print magazine advertising with online advertising at the publisher’s website is the best performing media blend available. This supports a number of previous studies showing that marketing campaigns having the greatest impact on the purchasing decision use a synergistic media combination.

Data Support Print

In fact, data indicate that throughout the purchase funnel, magazines are the most consistent performers versus other media studied. Across an aggregate of 20 studies, magazines produced a positive result in more stages of the purchase funnel, and in more ad campaigns, than TV or online. Check out these findings.


Aggregate Trends Across the Purchase Funnel


Total Brand Awareness Brand Familiarity Brand Imagery Purchase Intent
Magazines 78% 93% 82% 80%
TV 69% 69% 68% 57%
Online 56% 67% 57% 26%
Percentage of 20 Studies in Which Overall Purchase Metrics Were Positively Influenced by Medium
Source: Magazine Publishers of America study conducted by Marketing Evolution

Particularly noteworthy was that across the five advertising categories studied, magazines ranked first in influencing purchase intent in all but electronics where it came in a close second to television.

Purchase Intent Lift by Category

Magazines Television Online
Automotive +5% +3% +2%
Entertainment +6% +1% +4%
Electronics +3% +4% 0%
General +4% +1% +1%
Pharmaceuticals +3% +2% 0%
Source: Magazine Publishers of America study conducted by Marketing Evolution

Key findings from the research confirm that:

  • For brand familiarity and purchase intent, magazines generate a superior cost per impact (CPI) than either TV or online.
  • For brand awareness TV leads in cost efficiency, and the efficiency of magazines is a close second to that of TV.
  • Magazines most consistently generated a favorable ROI throughout the purchase funnel, followed by TV.
  • While each category that Marketing Evolution examined (auto, entertainment, electronics, and pharmaceuticals) showed a unique profile, the overall pattern held across the individual categories.

What This Means to You

Unless you’ve completely put blinders on to anything but online media, this should trigger a call to action. If you believe in the value of a media mix and have a true commitment to maximizing ROI, then it’s time to take a hard look at your plan. Chances are you’ll find print advertising under-represented, to say nothing of under-appreciated. The potential ROI gains you’ll receive from adding print advertising are very likely greater than any you’ll receive from repeating ads in other media.

By Larry Bauer

Want Expert Advice?

MondoVox Creative Group can help you develop a winning media strategy as well as create winning ad campaigns from concept through creative execution. For more information, email Julia Moran Martz.

You can connect with Julia Moran Martz on LinkedIn. Or follow her on Twitter.

Do’s and Don’ts for Effective Print Advertising.

honeyMooners-250You’d think we’d know a lot about print advertising at this point. It’s not exactly a new medium after all. But there seems to be a strong tendency to make the same mistakes over and over, and then wonder why the campaign didn’t work. Here’s a list of do’s and don’ts to help make your print ads more successful.

Do

  • Clarify your audience—knowing whom you’re trying to reach is the ultra-crucial first step.
  • Hire a professional to develop a media plan—wrong publications, wrong timing, wrong frequency, wrong mix can easily doom the best ad campaign.
  • Decide what you’re selling before creating an ad.
  • Sell benefits, not features in a product or service ad—focus on the top two or three.
  • Show your product or service in action—incorporate people.
  • Consider premium positions to increase readership and recall.
  • Learn from other advertising campaigns—including your competitors.
  • Write killer headlines that speak to benefits—five times more people read a headline than body copy.
  • Communicate the brand and a positive message.
  • Incorporate high-impact visuals and easy-to-read typefaces.
  • Remember that you are not the buyer—what matters is whether your campaign works, not whether you like it.
  • Include URLs to drive website traffic—a study shows the biggest lifts in women’s service (198%), home (203%), and travel (286%) categories vs. ads with no URL.
  • Track and test, track and test—improve tracking with coupons, new VOIP services, special pricing, landing pages, subscriber surveys, tip-ins, etc.

Don’t

  • Underestimate the power of frequency—it’s a critical campaign success factor.
  • Forget to include a strong direct response component to generate leads.
  • Fail to hook readers quickly—the average reader glances at a print ad for two seconds with 1.5 devoted to the visual.
  • Sacrifice brand visibility for “creativity”—ideally integrate the brand with the visual.
  • Choose visuals that generate negative, unintended associations.
  • Make people work hard to connect your visuals with your product and brand.
  • Wander from your key points.
  • Load your ad with meaningless platitudes—“we provide quality service,” etc.
  • Forget that a direct response ad needs more copy to explain a product or service.
  • Choose an inappropriate format for your message—consider spreads, inserts and advertorials if you need more space.
  • Neglect to advance the reader to the next step.
  • Limit your advertising to just print or any other single medium—it’s very much a multi-channel world.

By Larry Bauer

Cracking The Tagline Nut.

traumanut-250The Great Recession presents an excellent opportunity to examine the relevance of your tagline. How you position yourself now and, equally importantly, as the economy improves has more significance than ever. Most marketing analysts believe that the unprecedented economic conditions are accelerating long-term marketplace changes.

So it’s a great time to think about your business, how it fits into the future and whether or not your tagline contributes to what you want customers to know about your company in the emerging marketplace. Is it dated, or does it express something that will resonate with the needs of your target audience?

What’s the Purpose of a Tagline, Anyway?

Conveying your company’s key brand message is the primary function of a tagline. If a customer or prospect gets nothing else from your messaging, you want them to remember the tagline message. But being memorable isn’t all that easy, and bad taglines from companies of all sizes litter the marketing landscape.

According to Mike Myatt, chief strategy officer of venture growth consultancy, N2Growth, “A tagline is the new media version of a company slogan. It can be a mantra, company statement or even a guiding principle that is used to create an interest in your company, product or service.”

Further, he points out that a tagline is not to be confused with a unique selling proposition, which is a value statement that communicates what sets your business, product or service apart from the competition. While a unique value proposition helps your company align strategy with positioning and execution, a tagline is a pure piece of marketing copy that sums up what you do or what you want the marketplace to know about your products or services.

“Perfect” Tagline Criteria

According to Timothy R V Foster, author of “How Ad Slogans Work” for howstuffworks.com and founder of Ad Slogans Unlimited, the ideal tagline fulfills several criteria in addition to being memorable:

  • Includes a key benefit (Holiday Inn: “Pleasing people the world over” versus Exxon: “We’re Exxon.”
  • Differentiates the brand (Timex: Takes a licking and keeps on ticking.)
  • Recall the brand name. Techniques like rhyming can help (“See the USA in your Chevrolet.”). An alternative is to rhyme without mentioning the name (Paul Masson: “We will sell no wine before its time.”)
  • Impart positive feelings about the brand. Negativity rarely works in book titles, politics or advertising (Coca-cola: “Coke is it!” versus Lea & Perrins: “Steak sauce only a cow could hate.”).
  • Not be usable by a competitor. Some taglines could fit any organization (TRW: “A company called TRW.”). You could drop in any name and it works. Foster points out that he has nearly 30 companies in his database with the tagline, “Simply the best.”
  • Strategic. You might be able to convey your strategy through a tagline (DuPont: “Better things for better living through chemistry.).
  • Trendy. This is dangerous territory, though some companies are trying, for example, to create single-word taglines (Nissan: “Driven.”). But it’s a tough challenge. A trendy variation is to use three words or ultra-short phrases, which helps with complex messages (Monsanto: “Food. Health. Hope,” or the all-time category classic, Kellogg’s Rice Krispies: “Snap! Crackle! Pop!”).

Getting Started

Get your team together and don’t be intimidated. Start by brainstorming a long list. Don’t get hung up on word counts at the beginning. You can always whittle the words down later, but you don’t want to sacrifice potentially good messages too early. Then test your best ideas with internal and external colleagues, trusted customers and even some random reviewers. A wider range of participants in the critiquing process will help assure that your tagline has clarity.

Remember too, that you may need multiple taglines. While you’ll only want one, of course, as the overall positioning message, you may want taglines for your corporate newsletters, a customer education program and other marketing activities. In both of these instances, you would want to come up with an original name and a tagline that adds further clarity.

Want Expert Advice?

MondoVox Creative Group can help you develop winning taglines from concept through creative execution. For more information, email Julia Moran Martz.

You can connect with Julia Moran Martz on LinkedIn. Or follow her on Twitter.

By Larry Bauer

Tagline Do’s & Don’ts.

donut-250We love giving you the confidence that lets you sleep well at night. To avoid tossing and turning during your next tagline change, use this value tagline do’s and don’ts checklist.

Do

  • Strive to be memorable in a positive way.
  • Collect and critique other companies’ taglines.
  • Keep it short—3-6 believable words are ideal.
  • Make the words match your core services.
  • Create a customer persona and write to that.
  • Be clear, not cryptic.
  • Choose clear over clever if you must make a choice.
  • Be as specific as possible about what you do, whom you serve, etc.—especially if you are a smaller company.
  • Be bold, provocative, engender trust, build confidence.
  • Test your tagline.

Don’t

  • Be too generic.
  • Elicit a negative or sarcastic reaction—it must be believable.
  • State a benefit that might be questionable for your company (see above).
  • Use corporate-speak or jargon.
  • Merely describe what you do—“Serving all your printing needs,” etc.
  • Sound pompous.
  • Forget to summarize and sell—it’s a pure marketing message you’re creating.
  • Use overused words in your industry—“solutions” in the tech sector, etc.
  • Open with clichéd benefits—saves time, etc.
  • Argue with critics if they’re not getting the message—strongly consider reworking it.

Tagline and Jingle Inspiration Source. If you want to see taglines and jingles to stoke your creative fires, visit Tagline Guru. You’ll find long lists of each from some well-known companies in a wide range of sectors. It’s fun to see the different taglines that an individual company used over the years, which can provide ammunition to make the case that things change, and so should your tagline. There’s also a ranked list of the “100 Most Influential Taglines Since 1948,” as well as the “30 Most Influential Jingles Since 1948.” See if you agree.

By Larry Bauer

Increase Your Direct Mail “Open” Rates

Let’s establish three important points about direct mail:

  1. Direct mail works. It outperforms digital according to a recently published article by the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business. The clear advantage over email and other electronic forms of communication is that paper is relational while electronic is transactional. At the same time, direct mail marketing integrates well with electronic media. Sending an email announcing a print catalog, for example, can increase response to the catalog and also drive more online sales.
  2. The direct mail model is changing. Direct mail started years ago with cheap postage and inexpensive paper. That combination made a low response model work. Today’s costs are much higher, but superior targeting capabilities, combined with the ability to highly personalize and customize print, produces response rates that easily justify the investment. But if you’re still using the old mass communications model for direct mail, you’re in trouble.
  3. Many companies still don’t understand direct mail. They are particularly uninformed about how recipients deal with direct mail. This lack of knowledge can result in campaigns that either under perform or tank entirely.

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A Touch of Consumer Reality

There are more similarities than you might think between email and direct mail. Typical “open” rates for permission-based email campaigns fall into the 20-30 percent range. That doesn’t mean the recipient is going to do anything further, it just means that you caught their interest enough to take a glance. Direct mail is about the same. Approximately 20 percent of your recipients don’t immediately use the analog delete button, otherwise known as the trash can.

Similar to an email, opening direct mail also doesn’t mean that the recipient is ready to devote the morning to considering your promotion. Experts estimate that the average person will spend about 20 seconds scanning headlines, images, captions, offers and other trigger points.

About half of the skimmers will likely abandon your mailing at this point, so your piece better be convincing to those who are actually interested in your offer. According to an article written by direct mail copywriter Dean Rieck for MelissaDATA, those who continue reading are seeking confirmation that saying yes is a good decision. Your piece better give them that reassurance, because your number of live prospects is obviously dwindling.

How to Improve Your Odds

Direct mail isn’t a medium of subtleties. So don’t get hung up on minor creative tweaks like worrying that the sky in your image is the perfect color of blue. According to Rieck, spend your time and money where you’ll get the most return. Those areas include:

  • Choosing the best lists. Nothing is more important than offers and lists. Fail at either and your direct mail campaign is in deep trouble. Proven direct mail responsive lists are the best performers after your house list, but you’ll still need to invest in testing to determine if a particular list works for you
  • Choosing good products and services. Be discriminate in what you offer. Your best products and services are definitely an easier sell. Carefully select images to support them, and put an emphasis on showing the product or service in use.
  • Working hard on your copy. Keep in mind how people read direct mail and spend lots of time refining your headlines and subheads. Include plenty of information for those who go beyond the hot spots. Direct mail has always been a long-copy medium, and don’t be deceived into thinking that it still isn’t. Clarity in copy counts heavily, and that includes your call to action.
  • Keeping design simple and to the point. While not belaboring the perfect shade of blue for your sky, it is critical to not clutter your key message. Clarity in design also counts heavily, enabling readers to act more quickly.
  • Making great offers. Like we said, a lot of your success will center on lists and offers. You need to entice people with a great offer, and this doesn’t involve price only. Offers such as premiums, outstanding guarantees or risk-free trials can be just as important as price in motivating someone to take action. If you’re dealing with a more complicated multi-step sell, be sure to offer something of value for taking the next step.

Get Hung Up on the Right Numbers

Like all direct marketing vehicles, direct mail is about accountability, measurability and return on investment. That’s part of what makes it so attractive, especially today. But in doing your evaluations, be sure to focus on quality rather than quantity. For example, a lead generation campaign that results in 200 prospects of marginal quality isn’t nearly as effective as a mailing that yields 35 interested, high potential prospects.

You need to measure not only short-term response rates and sales, but also how customers develop over time. People talk about lifetime value, but too few companies do a good job of actually measuring it. When you run a direct mail campaign, do you even track basics like:

  • How many prospects turned into customers?
  • How individual reps performed in converting prospects to customers?
  • How long leads took to convert?
  • How subsequent year sales compared to first year sales for individual customers and the campaign group?

The good news is that there is lots of affordable software available to help you track and measure the success of your campaigns. But no software will help you set good objectives or strategy.

Want Expert Advice?

MondoVox Creative Group can help you develop winning direct mail campaigns from list selection through strategy development and creative execution. For more information, email Julia Moran Martz.

You can connect with Julia Moran Martz on LinkedIn. Or follow her on Twitter.

By Larry Bauer

A Dozen Direct Mail Do’s & Don’ts.

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It pays to learn the basics of direct mail, because mistakes are expensive. When you’re investing in lists, copy, creative, printing and postage, you don’t want to blow it. Run your next direct mail campaign against this checklist for better results.

Do

  • Invest in targeting and learn how different levels of personalization and customization can impact your ROI.
  • Consider unique format sizes that conform to postal regulations.
  • Use postage stamps as opposed to a printed indicia whenever possible.
  • Consider an off-color envelope unless white makes a graphic explode from the paper.
  • Emphasize key elements like testimonials, guarantees and order forms.
  • Test lists, offers, price points, copy, creative and formats as opposed to trusting your intuition.
  • Create a sense of urgency with deadlines, extra incentives, etc.
  • Communicate benefits—early, often and clearly.
  • Take advantage of the space direct mail gives you to provide vital information—but do it tastefully.
  • Commit to a regular mailing schedule—every six weeks for current customers is a good starting point.
  • Write copy from a peer-to-peer perspective—especially when approaching top executives.
  • Have objectives and calculate return on investment

Don’t

  • Design the piece and then have the writer fill in the “Greek” copy blocks—strategy, writing and design are most effective when done as a team.
  • Think that envelope teaser copy is appropriate for every mailing—you might never get out of the mailroom on B2B mailings.
  • Shortchange the amount of time you spend on a cover letter—it’s still the most important component of a direct mail package.
  • Buy cheap creative or, worse still, buy creative from any source that does not know direct mail—and we mean really know direct mail.
  • Hesitate to pull out all the stops—dimensional mail, express mail, high-value information incentives (white papers, survey results, etc.)—if your audience is senior managers.
  • Forget that a good list and a good offer account for 80 percent of your campaign’s success.
  • Neglect to create a strong, clear and visually obvious call to action.
  • Fail to break up long copy with bullets, graphics, call-outs or plain old white space.
  • Make it hard for recipients to purchase or respond—give lots of options.
  • Forget to put yourself and several “seeds” on the mailing list.
  • Fail to publicize your direct mail campaign—take extras to trade shows, include PR contacts on your mailing list, etc.
  • Try to do things internally if you don’t have the skill set.

Personalization Improves ROI. Study after study shows that personalization improves response—often dramatically. For example, an InfoTrends study indicated personalized direct mail resulted in:

  • 34% faster response rates
  • 48% percent more repeat orders
  • 25% average order value increase

But plastering a recipient’s name all over a direct mail piece isn’t what we mean. That’s old hat and only marginally effective. Make the effort to learn more about your customers and use that information to create promotions that show you understand them. There is lots of print technology available to help you execute programs at whatever personalization level your database capabilities can support.

By Larry Bauer

Getting More Referrals?

Let’s cut to the chase. There are books, blogs and countless articles written about building referrals. But there are three major reasons programs don’t succeed:

  1. To get referrals, you need to ask for them. As one blogger put it, most people would rather invite a neighbor to attend church with them than ask for a referral.
  2. Those who ask often don’t see the customer’s perspective. There’s a lot of benefit in a referral for you, but why should the customer put his or her neck on the line?
  3. Companies don’t make it easy enough for their customers to recommend them.

Instead of benefiting both parties, the act of referring often becomes too one-sided and discourages activity. Here’s how to develop a better referral strategy.

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Soften Up the “Ask”

The first thing you can do to make asking easier—or perhaps avoid having to ask at all—is providing great work. Look for better ways to serve your customers and be energetic and enthusiastic in delivering your service. People respond to excellence as well as to companies that hustle and try harder. If you’re a lesser-known up-and-comer, getting referrals might be even easier. Lots of people like to support the hard working, high-performing underdog.

Seth Godin, the author and speaker who popularized the topic of “permission marketing,” suggests that people will tend to give you referrals if you give a lot of referrals yourself. The key, though, is to genuinely want to help someone else—not just to get referrals back. You should only play matchmaker for the right reasons. But when you do give good referrals on a regular basis, the world tends to respond positively.

Finally, be sure to keep in touch with people who are important to you. According to Godin, every 30 days is about the right frequency if you’re serious about building referrals. Friendships and professional associations can easily drift into the background of our busy lives. It’s well worth your time to:

  • Send a card or letter.
  • Call them.
  • Send an email.
  • Stop by their office.
  • Put them on your holiday and birthday card list.
  • Do business with them.
  • Connect on LinkedIn or other business social media.

Keep your relationships strong. Remain on one another’s radar. You’ll benefit from more referrals.

Understanding the Customer’s Perspective

There’s lots of risk for the person doing the referring. You could screw up or otherwise disappoint. Maybe it isn’t even your fault, but the result is the same for the person making the referral. According to Godin, “Understand that low-risk referrals happen more often than high-risk ones, and either figure out a way to become a low-risk referral or embrace the fact that you have to be truly amazing in order to earn one.”

Just don’t make the mistake of thinking you can buy referrals. Offering rewards for referrals often doesn’t work because you’re asking the person to put his or her credibility on the line. Consumer companies in particular often try to skirt the issue by offering both the referrer and the prospect discounts. This might be better (or at least more upfront) than other reward programs, but enter this territory with extreme caution.

Making it Easy to Recommend You

The easiest and most effective way to get people to refer you is to give them something of real value to offer their friends and business colleagues. For example, a young chiropractor we know gives his satisfied patients a limited number of “referral only” coupons that they can give to their friends for an initial consultation and complete examination, including x-rays, for less than $20.

Combined with a referral from someone who benefited from the doctor’s services, it’s a great incentive for someone who is suffering from back or neck pain. Most importantly, it makes the referral even easier than saying, “You should see my chiropractor.”

One of the keys is to not make the offer something that is available to anyone. You provide it only to your best customers to use for referrals. If it’s an offer they can get anywhere, you lose the special value that helps make the referral easier.

Want Expert Advice?

MondoVox Creative Group can help you develop a winning referral strategy as well as deliver creative execution for any program components. For more information, email Julia Moran Martz.

— by Larry Bauer

Referral Do’s & Don’ts.

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Referrals are too valuable to waste. Follow these rules to avoid costly mistakes.

Do

  • Provide excellence in products and services.
  • Constantly seek better ways to serve your customers.
  • Be energetic, enthusiastic and sincere in your business dealings.
  • Offer ongoing training and coaching to your customer-contact staff.
  • Keep in touch with friends and business colleagues every 30 days.
  • Provide referrals to others who deserve them.
  • Offer something of value for good customers to offer their contacts.
  • Make you and your company a low-risk referral.
  • Use business social media to build contacts and referrals.
  • Be a good person—it works!

Don’t

  • Think you can buy referrals—but be sure to promptly offer your heartfelt thanks and inform the referrer of the outcome.
  • Offer an incentive for prospects that you generally make available to the marketplace.
  • Underestimate the discomfort many people feel in asking for referrals—find ways to make it easier!
  • Snub people in lower positions—they move on to bigger and better things.
  • Give referrals solely with the intention of getting them in return.
  • Be nice only when you need to be—make it a habit.
  • Fail to work at gaining referrals everyday.
  • Forget about people who are important to you.
  • Lose sight of the customer’s perspective—make referrals beneficial to them and easy to do.
  • Think referral programs are built in a day.

Keeping in Touch. One of the slickest systems we’ve seen is SendOutCards®. It’s a web-based program that lets you send a printed greeting card with your message, in your own handwriting if you wish, in less than 60 seconds. All you do is choose your card, write your message and click send. SendOutCards prints it, stuffs it and mails it, all for less than a greeting card at the store. You can even upload your own images as well as include high quality food and gifts for special occasions. For a quick, one-on-one demo and an opportunity to send a free personalized card to a friend or colleague, we refer you to Kei Narimatsu.

— by Larry Bauer