Building Client and Referral Communities
Two of the most important words in the marketing world are Content and Contact. The best lead generation is done by providing tons of great content â€“ the best lead conversion is done by providing the right kind of contact. Put content and contact together and you not only have a powerful business building strategy, you have a customer loyalty and referral generating machine based on connecting people.
Helping people connect in business terms may not be exactly the same as helping teenagers connect online, but the principles bare a striking similarity. The key, I think, is to base the community on providing and sharing valuable content and knowledge. The following examples illustrate some easy ways to help prospects and clients gain a deeper connection with your organization.
Itâ€™s just lunch
I have experienced some pretty fascinating results every time I have brought groups of clients together, even to share lunch. Business owners are starved for contact with their peers â€“ the daily grind just makes this too hard to find. Facilitating this is a great service that any business can offer.
Peer to peer education
Current clients are probably more prepared to explain the value of your service to a prospect, including the limitations. Hold â€œfocus groupsâ€ made up of several existing clients and several prospects. Let the current clients explain, in a non selling environment, what your service has meant to them, what could be better, how to get more from it. Sit back and learn.
Natural word of mouth marketing
When you deepen a relationship with a client by opening up your contacts and clients to them, you will find that they will begin to naturally (not sales motivated) talk about what you do that matters to them. You cannot purchase that kind of conversation.
Bringing client or other resources together and allowing your clients and prospects to take advantage of those resources is a great way to build community and loyalty. Hosting lunches or even teleseminars with other leading experts is a great example of this type of community building.
What if you put together a group of like minded businesses, all focused on the same target audience, and you created a local online community, including a blog that each member of the referral group contributed to. This group could easily generate and educate leads in a way that would allow everyone to win. A semi-formal referral and co marketing strategy is that you would need to make this take off locally.
Creating client and referral communities is very satisfying way to build a business. The pressure that some business owners feel from the need to sell is virtually eliminated. Any business or independent professional that takes community building on as a primary marketing strategy and then sticks with it, can dominate an industry.