Does the term ‘Marketing funnel’ give you chills? If you’ve worked in marketing or you run your own coaching business, you’re probably pretty familiar with this method of attracting new clients.
A quick recap – A traditional funnel works by getting people to hear about you, getting them interested in you, and getting them to, eventually, become loyal customers. It can involve everything from Facebook ads and EDM (electronic direct mail) nurture campaigns to SEO and carefully plotted landing pages… and so on and so on. It’s all pretty complex, and many marketing teams spend years trying (and failing) to make funnels work. Even ‘done-for-you’ software that makes your funnels look good with pretty templates, don’t offer the complete suite.
So what if I were to tell you there was a way to land clients without having to spend a fortune on ads, copywriters, designers and the stress that goes with it – would you want to know about it?
Okay, here it is: instead of trying to persuade a random stranger that you, out of hundreds of other coaches, are the right match for them, pitch to someone who already knows and likes you. YOUR NETWORK! That person might be a friend, a colleague, a business acquaintance, a past client or even family member – someone from your personal or professional networks.
You don’t have to tell them that you exist, and that you’re reliable and honest.
You don’t have to tell them how hard-working you are, or how much experience you have.
You don’t have to assure them that you go above and beyond for your clients.
They already know those things, because they know you. Trust is ultimately what every brand aims to build with its customers, and your network already has some level of trust in you.
So, straight away, you’ve skipped a whole bunch of marketing work, and you’re in the process of selling to someone who is a serious, qualified prospect. That’s the power of networking.
Don’t believe me? Check out these networking statistics from Review 42:
- 85% of job positions are filled through networking.
- Networking at events can get you up to 20% of your new customers.
- In 2018, 46% of freelancers found work through family and friends, and 36% found work through professional contacts.
A separate 2019 study of 1,874 freelancers found that networking had a significant positive effect on career success.
“But Michelle,” you’re probably thinking. “I don’t know anyone who needs my help. If I did, I would have already asked them!”
That’s okay – even if your immediate network of friends, colleagues and family aren’t in need of your services, they probably know someone who is. That’s right, I’m talking about referrals.
Here are a couple of quick facts from referral marketing company Extole:
- When referred by a friend, people are four times more likely to make a purchase.
- Referred customers have a 16% higher lifetime value than non-referred customers.
- Customers acquired through referrals have a 37% higher retention rate.
- Referred customers have an 18% lower churn rate than customers acquired by other means.
- Referred customers are 16% more profitable.
Think about that for a minute. Referred customers require much less marketing than non-referred customers to obtain, and are also worth more to your business. It’s a win-win for you.
The biggest issue with using your network to gain customers is that you’re relying on other people to sell what you do. Close personal acquaintances (family and friends) might automatically think of you as their ‘go-to’ coach, especially if you’re the only coach they know. Colleagues and business acquaintances? Not so much. They might know a dozen coaches who offer similar services, especially if they work in the coaching industry.
So, even though they’re aware of what you do and how you do it, you’re still being compared against a handful of your competitors. What’s the secret to getting your professional network to refer your business?
BUILD BETTER RELATIONSHIPS…surprise! (not). Like most things in life, there’s no holy grail or undiscovered hack that can guarantee an unending stream of leads. But, if there is one thing I know first hand, it’s the benefit of how relationships help grow your business.
Here’s four helpful tips to maximise your chances of network referrals.
1. Build your network
The first and most obvious tip I have is to keep building your network. It doesn’t matter whether you know ten people, or a thousand people – creating new relationships is always helpful. The more people who know you, the more chances you have of getting work from them. Here are a couple of easy places for coaches to network:
- Attend conferences and other networking events
- Get on LinkedIn and start connecting
- Join relevant Facebook groups (business groups, niche groups)
- Start a blog and/or an email list
- Join forums related to your niche, and post or comment there
2. Stay top-of-mind
‘Top-of-mind’ is a pretty significant marketing concept that requires a novel-sized article to explain properly. In layman’s simple terms, it’s a state that occurs when a subject is at the forefront of someone’s mind, usually triggered by environmental stimuli.
An example: someone says ‘basketball shoes’, so you think of Nike Jordans, because they’ve been one of the most popular type of basketball shoes.
Another: when someone says sports car and most people will say Porsche or Ferrari, someone says ‘tissue’ you may think of the brand Kleenex first.
This gets particularly powerful when a brand can use sensory triggers to elicit the memory of their product. For example when we hear a noisy motorbike most people probably think of a Harley Davidson right? If you smell greasy food you may think of chips from Maccas or KFC.
Brands use these triggers in their marketing all the time. They associate their product or service with the solution to a specific problem, so when consumers encounter that problem, they immediately think of the brand as the answer. Think of an ad that shows you a person reaching for their wallet to pay, getting you to identify with the ‘problem’: do i have enough cash. The ad then presents the solution: Credit card XYZ. Voila!. The aim is to get you to think of that card next time you think about paying.
As a coach, your approach to ‘top-of-mind’ for your network might be slightly different. You still want to emphasise that you are the solution to a certain problem, but you’re going to do it by positioning yourself as an expert in your niche. You might do things like:
- Regularly post helpful advice and tips on social media so your network are constantly being reminded of you and your services.
- Write and share useful blog posts – just like social media, people who read your thoughts on a given problem or situation will be more likely to think of you when solving that situation.
- Regularly attend in-person events or meetings with your target audience.
- Check in on past clients who were happy with your services – ask for a testimonial. A friendly reminder that you exist and can help them or someone they know is often sufficient to prompt a “nice to hear from you, I would like some advice about …”.
3. Start a referral network
A referral network is basically the flip-side of affiliate marketing – you can pay former clients or members of your network a ‘finder’s fee’ (typically between 10–15%) if they refer work to you. Incentivising the referral process is a great way to encourage your network to channel leads to you, especially if you work in a highly competitive industry. There’s certainly a place for this, especially if you sell package deals or training courses.
4. Maintain relationships
Building relationships with new people is important, but so is maintaining and strengthening relationships that exist within your current network. Who are you more likely to recommend – your best friend, or that person you sort of know from gym class?
You can’t invest hours into every relationship, but there are a few easy ways you can show you care about people without throwing away big chunks of your time.
- Like and comment on their social media posts in a supportive way. Don’t forget LinkedIn!
- Send messages for their birthday or other special occasions. This is a great tip if you have a small but exclusive selection of clients, as they’ll probably appreciate the extra touch.
- Make an effort to have a catch up in person when appropriate. Face-to-face interaction has taken a serious blow in 2020, but it’s a good way to show you really value someone. If this is still a challenge in your location, a video or phone call is always well received to connect in. Have the courage to reach out and make an art form out of it while being genuine.
- Forward articles to them that you think they’ll find helpful. You can also use this to disseminate guides or blog posts that you write – “hey, I just put together a guide I think you’ll find useful. I know you were struggling with [X], and I’ve included a template that breaks down the process for making [X] easier. Reach out if you’d like the link.”
Using your network to build your business and get new clients isn’t necessarily easy. It’s certainly not something you can do without putting in effort. But if you take the time to do it right, the rewards are immense.
Servicing clients with a short engagement? You can use networking to complement your other marketing strategies. For clients who stay with you for months or even years, a good networking strategy might be all you need to keep new leads coming.
If you’re not sure how to get started, drop a comment or get in touch. I’d love to hear from you.