I think many people are confused about what word-of-mouth marketing means.
If you are in professional services, you often hear the advice from veterans and experts that building relationships and getting referrals is the best way to build your practice.
This is true.
But I see many service providers still missing the boat. Word-of-mouth doesn’t mean sitting on your butt waiting, hoping, for someone to recommend you to clients.
They don’t call it “referral marketing” and “relationship marketing” for no reason, “marketing” being the operative word. You’ve still got to take action.
You need to engage in activities and efforts to consciously and effectively develop referrals and build relationships.
That means first getting clear about who you are talking to (who your target market and ideal client is). Once you know that, you can then more easily search for the places they hang out both online and off and start getting busy.
Join the business groups where they can be found. Research their professional associations; find out how you can get involved. Attend their business and networking events. Go to their trade shows, talk to people, pick their brains, swap info. Participate, actively, in their online forums and listservs. Write frequent articles for them. Figure out what makes them tick, piques their interest and how you can help them.
This kind of marketing also means coming up with a systematic referral marketing strategy. Ask for referrals. Tell folks exactly what kind of clients you’d like referred. Become referral partners with businesses and professionals that make sense so you can refer to each other. For example, print shops make great referral partners for graphic designers.
The point is that you have to DO something, consciously and consistently, so you become known (and liked and trusted) by those you’d like to have as clients. When it comes down to it, it’s really about simply making friends with people.
But you can’t do that sitting on your behind, staring at the phone. Stop hiding out. Get off your duff, make some noise and take some action!