Continuing with the thought stream started in this article Marketing Strategy Part 1: Reliable Approaches, I’ll now flesh out ideal ways of combining multiple strategies into a meta strategy.
While I am classifying each of these as a strategy, not a tactic, because it can sustainably stand alone as a complete marketing approach in and of itself, most businesses will benefit from combining 2 or 3.
Large companies with entire marketing departments generally combine ALL of these strategies. But if you’re a sole proprietor or micro-business, you would be better off mastering a two-point, or at most three-point, system.
In a nutshell, here are the 7+ again:
- Search engine optimization of a website/blog
- Appearing in front of other people’s audiences (influencers)
- Content marketing: social media sharing, email marketing, blogging, etc
- Offline events
- Outbound sales
- Networking/socializing/word of mouth
Adjunct Tactic – Referrals
While some may see referrals as a complete marketing strategy in and of itself, I generally don’t. The only exception being if you have an actual affiliate system set up, but generally that isn’t what people mean when they say referrals. They mean people giving out their email or business card without receiving any commission in return. That to me is a tactic.
In fact, I consider it to be a tactic that should be worked into any lead generation strategy you’re using. In other words, no matter what else you’re doing, you should always have a system of generating social referrals, yet I would never advise anyone to do none of the other 7 methods and rely solely on that.
Now do a small percentage of people pull off using referrals as a standalone strategy? Sure. For a long time Realtors are a prime example of a field that runs mostly on referrals. But I don’t think exceptions make for a good general plan, and I also see a lot of people who that used to work for now struggling or needing to add one or two of the other methods in. Realtors, for example, are some of the biggest markets for Facebook advertising. The way things are going seems to make this more of a tactic than a strategy.
So going with these 7 and the assumption a referral effort will generally be included, what are some combinations that you’ve used or seen used very successfully over a long period of time?
What are tried and true combos? And why do you think those combos work so well together?
Examples of Good Marketing Strategy Combinations
As I mentioned already, the most obvious combo is simply to mix referral marketing with any other type. For example, networking goes incredibly well with referral efforts. Let’s say you regularly connect with others, make sure they know what you do, then make it easy for them to send you referrals. That can be a complete marketing strategy if you have access to enough of the right networks for what you do. You might not even have a website or social media presence and be able to do well under those circumstances.
Having a search engine optimized website/blog can bring in a lot of new eyeballs, and then email marketing can help get the most out of that new traffic. Combine that with some advertising to drive a steady stream of traffic to that email list sign up landing page, so that you aren’t solely waiting on SEO to do its thing, and you’ve got a solid 3-point combo.
From my own experience with my first company, Aspiratech, I was doing high 6-figure years doing a combo of SEO (for a website with a blog), some strategic partnerships that gave me access to Fortune 500 companies very early on in my business’s history, and referrals. No email list. No ads. I didn’t even have business cards. Definitely none of that other stuff.
The website kept bringing in new business networks associated with each new client and this fed the referral engine. It worked because each new website lead became 2-5 new projects over time. That’s not quite viral, but close enough to scale.
I think the combo worked because I had a specialty that people were actually searching for. By the time they found my website, I could immediately enter the sales process with them. They were ready to buy something and I just had to convince them to buy it from me. I was really strong at inbound sales, and the projects were large enough that I only needed to close one every month or so to do quite well.
I got lots of referrals because clients enjoyed the process of working with me as much as the results that got, and they were the kind of people that others trust. So people would come to them asking for who they had used and they were thrilled to recommend me. I did nothing to elicit referrals. They would just send people to my website and in the “How did you hear about us?” field they would enter the person who referred them. Sometimes the referrer would email me to let me know they were sending someone my way, and I would write back my thanks.
If I had it to do over, and when I’m working with clients on this, I recommend being a little more intentional about referrals. It’s good to reach out to ask for them and not just wait for others to get the idea of sending people to you. It’s also good to acknowledge repeat referrers in some way. Maybe a dinner out, or a bouquet of flowers, even just a handwritten thank you card, anything you think the person will gladly receive as a token of thanks.
I also now have affiliate software set up for some of what I do (anything digital) and that is a type of commission-based referral marketing that could be scaled to be a primary marketing strategy. One would just have to make the effort to then build up the affiliate pool and empower them with the tools and training they need to be successful affiliates of yours.
How about you? What works for you and why do you think it works? Please share in the comments below.
In the next article in this series, I’ll be clarifying exactly how strategy and tactics interplay for reliable results.