Word of mouth marketing makes or breaks your business now

In every generation there’s a basic model of marketing communications required to do business, ranging from our grandparent’s time of posting an “open” sign on a store front to today’s digital marketing frenzy. What’s remained constant is that word of mouth marketing has always been the most reliable for new leads.

Word of mouth marketing is down but not dead

But what happens when there’s less word of mouth marketing happening naturally? Now that no one is physically together anymore, there is less chatter about everything, including businesses. Even Google reviews have been turned off since March 20.

Sure, there are those super happy customers (or our mothers) who will recommend our services online, but even that doesn’t reach the same level as usual. For example, I’m actually THRILLED with the virtual tae kwon do classes our daughters are still getting from Ultimate Martial Arts, but until now I haven’t told anyone. No one’s running around making small talk.

More than ever, it’s on business owners to generate word of mouth marketing. If you haven’t started this already in the past two months, your business is no doubt at a full stop now. But even if you have increased communication over the past few weeks, now’s the time to pick up the pace as some businesses slowly start to reopen.

I’m seeing how COVID-19 has completely changed business communication to be essential. Most customers aren’t using any business right now that hasn’t communicated how they can comfortably still obtain their product or service. As the economy slowly starts to open back up, communication is absolutely paramount to every business’s survival.

3 ways to generate more word of mouth marketing now

  1. Ask customers directly. This always holds true, but now more than ever you need to directly ask clients to spread the word. Make it a contest or offer a discount if they post about your product and tag you. This will build up your user generated content and create buzz for your business. Or offer a discount for referring a friend. Hand out a fun card with your receipt that tells purchasers how to spread the word.
  2. Delight your customers. Your customers may already like or need your product or service, but they also now need your reassurance. Delighting them now means giving them access to what they need in a way that they feel comfortable still doing business with you. Consider making a video to show and explain how they can safely obtain your product or service now. Ask them to share it and spread the word.
  3. Double down on virtual services. The explosion of virtual ways to offer services isn’t going away anytime soon–and it’s not just because we are waiting on a vaccine. If you found a way to reach customers virtually, they may continue to choose this option even when the economy is fully open. No one who’s tried telehealth is taking their kids to the doctor for pinkeye ever again. And those enjoying fitness or music classes in their living rooms might choose to save time and cut down on driving in the future too. Consider making the scrappy online offer you’ve developed a permanent fixture in your business. You can offer a discount if they sign up with a friend.

When everyone is staying home for the foreseeable future, and even Google reviews are turned off, the onus is on you to work harder than ever to spread the word about your business. What’s your plan?

Have you seen a business do exceptionally well communicating and offering services now? I’d love to know about it. Email wendy@sparkrmarketing.com

Get past the fear and creativity kicks in

I want to tell you about a small business owner I recently met in hopes that you can help spread the word.​

Miriam Merenfeld is a talented jewelry artisan in Aventura, Florida, who reached out on LinkedIn when she saw I’m offering free half hour brainstorming coaching calls for small businesses. She needed to get her mojo back after COVID-19 hit, and we came up with ideas on how she could continue serving her audience now that everything’s has changed. We talked about pivoting her messaging to focus on how a gift right now means more than ever, as well as virtual shopping tours and how small businesses can ship faster than department stores right now.

You won’t believe what she came up with. Miriam is partnering with author and Influencer Michele Poler of @HelloFears to create necklaces as gifts for healthcare workers. Check them out

It couldn’t be more perfect. The product is stunning, the message is spot on for what we need right now and she’s helping our healthcare heroes. As someone who works in healthcare marketing, I can’t love this enough.

When you get past the FEAR, the creativity kicks in. Sometimes you just need encouragement to get back in the game.

I’m trying to do one of these calls each day, so I’d love if you could help me spread the word.

There are many businesses taking this opportunity to pivot and serve their audience well right now, and I’ve pointed out a few others in this blog.

Click here to register for a 30 minute free marketing coaching session for small business owners

What to do now in your business when everything’s changed

It’s only been a few weeks since the world turned unimaginable for us.

With the initial shock and horror fading and the eventual resignation that sets in even amidst chaos comes the inevitable question: what now? It’s true for individuals, and it’s true for businesses.

While there are already millions who have lost their livelihood, there are those who stand out with the ability to pivot and emerge with some semblance of their business intact. There are even those who stand to make gains in this uncertainty.

3 content marketing recommendations to implement now during the Coronavirus economic crisis

When everything’s changed, change how you are talking about your business.

While it’s clear that nothing is certain anymore, this much I know: Coronavirus is a reset button for our lives, our habits, our families and our businesses.

If you’re one of the lucky ones still focused on business growth, be grateful. But if that means you’re moving forward and haven’t pressed pause, do it now. When everything’s changed, you risk sounding tone deaf if you’re still promoting your products or services in the same way as before.

Internal communication

You need to communicate internally how your business has been affected already, how you anticipate it will be affected and what you plan to do about it. Hope for the best but plan for the worst. Be honest with your team and stakeholders, and you will be a better leader for it.

External communication

You also need to evaluate all your external marketing content that you have automated, scheduled or planned. Check every post and ad in your social media scheduler and any automated email marketing messages you’ve set up. Your customers have changed so the way you addressed them two weeks ago no longer applies now. Ask yourself what you need to post prominently on your homepage that leads to a whole new landing page with information.

Show up for everyone who needs you.

Much like our grandparents during WWII, now’s the time for everyone to pitch in. Businesses everywhere are evaluating their product or service and figuring out how to solve people’s problems now. Coffee vendors from Starbucks to local ones like Passion House are donating coffee to healthcare workers. A tie company, recognizing that no one needs a tie when they’re hardly wearing pants these days, pivoted and is now taking orders for N95 masks. Auto mechanics are donating face masks to nursing homes.

Figure out how you can help healthcare workers or serve everyone staying at home by entertaining them or providing relief or tools they need right now. Once you determine what that is, talk about that and only that. Again, talking about any other part of your business besides what everyone needs now will be at the risk of sounding tone deaf.

Now’s the time for a project

With everyone stuck at home and scrambling in their businesses, the good news is that the bar has been lowered for the level of professionalism you need to support your target market. Everyone’s getting scrappy.

My all time favorite band, The Indigo Girls, went live on Facebook for the first time ever last week, and 60,000 fans joined. The camera was flipped the wrong way, they lost their connection a few times and restarted, and I’m not even sure they had mics. But it was their largest concert ever, and fans were delighted. As one friend said, “They were so perfectly dorky.”

Now’s the time where you can throw together a course or a Zoom class and ask people to simply pay on Venmo. Just a few weeks ago, I would have said you need to set up your secure website for purchases, promote your product and spend months creating your course on Kajabi.

Figure out what you can offer and jump on it. You’ll help people now and you’re likely to build out parts of your business for the future.

Still need an idea? I’m offering one 30 minute free brainstorming session each day for small business owners. Click here to register.

6 lessons learned in 6 months of business

This week marks six months since I officially launched Sparkr Marketing, and like a kid in my toddler years, I’m seriously excited about this half birthday.

I launched this business after nearly a decade of freelance work that became too big a side hustle to manage on the side. Armed with 18 years of marketing experience, I had big plans to help others with the knowledge I gained in a rapidly changing industry. I wasn’t sure exactly where this journey would take me, and I’m still working that out, but I’ve learned a few lessons in the last six months.

Here are a 6 marketing lessons I’d like to share:

Set up a routine:

It’s no joke that we entrepreneurs are the hardest bosses some of us ever have. Everyone says setting up a routine is essential, and this has been true for me as well. Mine starts with getting up early. The earlier I get up, the more productive the day. It’s a struggle, but I’m trying.

From there, I focus on my journal. The only reason I know the exact date I started this business is because I started a journal the same day. That journal’s been key to setting up the vision for my life as well as for each day. I talk more about my daily journaling here, but the basic idea is that I focus on gratitude, mindfulness and where I’m headed.

I then set the schedule for the rest of my day, including a solid hour before my kids get up where I work on the hardest task on my list. Key to staying focused has been turning off notifications and silencing my phone most of my day. I check in, of course, but when I’m “on the clock” for a client, I don’t want pings.

There’s a nagging temptation to never stop when it comes to my business–a sentiment I’ve heard from a lot of entrepreneurs. And while hard work is necessary to get something off the ground, setting boundaries is as well. I’m still working on switching gears when my family is home. I’m also committed to pursuing other interests, like running and guitar, no matter how packed my day.

The riches are in the niches

Cliche, I know.

But, I knew from the start that I needed to narrow down the services I offer and who I offer them to. I’ve had jobs where I had to do everything, from print to digital, by myself. And while it seems really helpful to offer a prospective client the whole kit and caboodle, instead it’s confusing. I lost one big opportunity because I put so much into the proposal that the client couldn’t wrap his head around it. He kept asking me to explain more about what I do. In hindsight I realized what he was really asking was for me to do less. He needed me to keep it simple.

I started to develop my niche by talking only about content marketing on emails, websites and social media.

Next, I narrowed down the industry I serve. The day I started focusing on healthcare marketing was the day I started getting even more prospects. Healthcare is what I’ve done the longest and like the most, so it made sense to hang my hat there. Eventually, I’ll likely narrow that down even more.

The more specific we all are about what we offer, the better we can be at doing the work, reaching more people and establishing ourselves as experts.

Commit to building my own business

So often I hear small business owners say they don’t have time to focus on marketing or building the structure of their businesses. I get it. It’s tempting to work all day on what pays today’s bills, but if you don’t schedule time to focus on building your own business, you won’t continue to have a business.

The work I do today to build Sparkr is what will ensure my business grows in the future. I schedule at least three hours into my week when I focus only on Sparkr. It helps that I’ve scheduled a Facebook Live every Thursday at 10:30AM CT (join me there!). Having to show up for the community I’m building keeps me focused on creating new content.

Start with a great virtual assistant

I heeded the advice of other entrepreneurs and hired an awesome VA early on in my business. This felt a little premature at first, but by having a VA, I was able to think of how I needed help. Now, thanks to Eryn Kushner, I’ve gotten more done each month. I recommend starting small, and then each month come up with new ways to work together.

Now before I start a task, I think first about whether I need to be the one doing it. If the answer is yes, I think about how I can make that task part of a system that someone else can eventually implement.

Also, having Eryn’s support means that I don’t panic when I consider the number of proposals I have outstanding at any given time. I can serve more prospective clients because I have my own support.

You never lose by giving away free information

A lot of what I teach in my marketing coaching, I give away for free on this blog and in my weekly Facebook Live sessions. I’ve yet to question giving away free advice. I feel grateful for what I’ve learned, and I’m so happy to help others. I have a tendency to give away so much advice during a prospect call, that the recipient ends up implementing some of it even before we work together. And if they don’t end up working with me? That’s okay too.

I’m pretty confident that the more support you offer for free, the more that will come back to you. Call it karma or kindness, but at the end of the day, you want people to realize that if you give away this much information for free, how much more value is in your paid services?!

Focus on serving others

No matter what you offer, being an entrepreneur makes it hard to separate your service or product from its source. Everywhere you go, you represent your company. I’m far from mastering being the best version of me all the time, but seeing this in practice is keeping me on my toes. I’ve had acquaintances from 30 years ago ask about my services (thanks, Facebook!), and new friends I’ve made recently have helped spread the word. It pays to be nice, back then and now.

Knowing how much of my business depends on word of mouth means I’ve gained a heightened awareness of needing to focus on serving others. Most of us launch a business in order to help people with a product or service we believe in. But it doesn’t mean it’s easy to smile and be friendly when busy, frustrated or overwhelmed. Do it anyway. The more you are exceedingly kind and focused on relationships and service of others, the better you are at doing the work.

There have been other lessons, of course, and I hope to continue learning. It’s part of what keeps me so energized. I offer my total gratitude to the clients who have bet on me, to the friends and family who have cheered me on and spread the word, and to the Facebook community of Sparks of Marketing I’m building–some of you I don’t even know. You keep me focused on my goal of helping as many people as I can.

If you’ve been watching this journey from the sidelines, join our Facebook community or email list.

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