The magic formula in community referrals

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It’s the oldest form of business development, as old as the corner store and the shoe shine guy at the station. So many community industries have been driven close to or become extinct by large multinationals.

However, there is growing evidence of the 21st century community drifting back to their local grocer, baker and broker. With globalisation and internet economy, people are becoming more anonymous. The experience is more cold and we sacrifice personal service for convenience. Now that we have tried the ‘online shopping’ experience not all of us are happy with it.

As a fellow member of the community, you’re already ahead of the game as you share the same shopping centre, post office, football team and Supermarket with your prospect -this makes you more relatable than the competitor in another suburb or state.

Recently in my local shopping village I encountered a Mortgage Choice broker who paid a small fee to erect a stand and hand out flyers. His signage emphasised “Your local Broker” I asked how people were reacting to him, he said “In 3 hours I’ve made 5 appointments for mortgage deals” -even if he scored one settlement it was worth it.

So many companies work hard in online and national brand building, yet forget about making the local community part of their core business philosophy. You’re a small business, using big ticket marketing methods, basically you’ll be a small voice in a crowded room.

A recent Galaxy Pole commissioned by State Custodians found, among other things, 72% of people feel like they’re just a number with the big banks. How do you avoid this mistake?

The key is your own community, here you have the advantage as you are playing on the ‘home ground’ in front of the ‘home crowd’. Therefore, it has to be a key part of your marketing strategy.

Companies that have success in connecting with their local community use some of these techniques.

1. Every employee is a member of the community with their own network of contacts, here are some ideas if you want them to be an evangelist for your service:

  • You and your staff must believe in the why of the service, it’s not enough knowing what you do and how you do it that sells to people, its why you do it. A good why example would be “We don’t write mortgages for new homes, we create happy families” or a Financial Planner may say “We change lives” If you and your staff sincerely believe this then you have yourself a walking advertising board. (See Simon Sinek & The Golden Circle) 
  • Provide staff polo shirts with your logo, remember to place a catchy phrase that speaks to your market. 
  • Incentivise your staff to promote your business, this can be from financial incentives to simply thankyou cards or flowers. 
  • Research shows there is heightened feelings of trust and intimacy when observing advertising of local businesses with an image of all employees together smiling and not stock photos of irritatingly perfect people. (for example, see Harington Movers test study)

2. Local people who use your service contribute towards the growth of their own community, you develop loyalty and testimonials if they feel they are contributing to the greater good of their own communities. Consider this when designing your next local advertising campaign.

3. Don’t just seek out community events for sponsorship and advertising opportunities, sponsorship of the local football team is an old one but still good. However, by now you would be well experienced at networking within your own industry conferences and events, treat all community activities as a networking opportunity. Handshaking and a friendly chat is a brilliant way in getting your business known. An active networker will ALWAYS get more business than a lazy sponsor!

4. Have an open day BBQ at your office, gold coin donation for a local charity. For the price of a few sausages your passive marketing has developed a list of names for your marketing list, also include them in your social networking.

5. Have your local newspaper on speed dial, they are always looking for community activities to cover in their columns. This promotes your company as a community centric business.

6. Ensure you have a presence on Google + Local, stats show a sizable increase in business when companies optimise their presence this way.

7. We’ve seen large multinationals sponsor charities as a platform to connect with communities with mixed results, often the attempt looks disingenuous and sometimes even self-serving. Case in point, a large Australian bank promoting their ‘sponsorship’ of a large national charity. Nice, however the charity doesn’t have any presence in my town and so it has less connection with me. What I do connect with is a local business that promotes activities on keeping bored teenagers active in my community, or sponsor a mural to minimise graffiti on our scout hall.

8. You’re in the financial industry, look for community outreach programs that will compliment your strengths. For example: Volunteer your service pro-bono to a local established charity. I know of an accountant who does free tax work for the residence of a local women’s shelter.

9. Keep up your Social Media updates, aim to connect and maintain relationships with locals through this platform.

10. Cross Promote with other business, identify key businesses where you can have your catchy promotional material on display.

In closing, people don’t buy products and services, people buy people, we usually make emotional purchasing decisions, not logical decisions! Case in point, you’re in a clothes store considering an outfit to buy, you’re not likely thinking of the practical elements of this outfit “Will it keep me warm?” No way, you’re thinking “Will I look great in this?” or “Does it make me look thinner?” Emotional decisions.

Your local community buying decision works the same way. If they’re experiencing strong positive emotional messaging from your service, then your work is done. 

Laurence Hugo, Director at Credit Mediation Service. Laurence is a Negotiator specialising in having consumer and commercial debts waived for clients in financial trouble. You can reach Laurence on 02 9899 6100 or www.creditmediation.com.au or lhugo@creditmediation.com.au

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