Start With the No-Brainers
While that title might appear to be an idiot-proof, no-brainer itself, aggressively following that principle is not always the case in my company or in yours. Most of us spend too much time fighting fires and juggling what it takes just to keep our businesses running. In most businesses, owners and leaders do not take the time (or have the time) to actively identify what they are doing that verifiably works and has proven most effective for maintaining the business; more notably, the processes effective for growing consistently. We all need to identify more clearly the established people and/or processes that generate the best results from the resources you have invested, and do those a hell of a lot more. It’s plain and simple.
Just Do More
More of it means doing whatever it is more often, with more prospects or customers. It can mean putting more people or financial resources behind it, doing it in more markets or more profitably (or any other means you may have for evaluating success).
The bottom line is every company does some things that are smart, effective, productive, proven, and profitable. The number one way to be more successful is to identify those things one at a time across the company, and to make sure everyone is doing more of them, starting right now, today. Do it even more tomorrow, and the day after, more than that, and never stop doing more and more and more of what works. It’s just common sense: build on what is already working.
Read the Other Two Articles in This Series for more no-nonsense, candid advice that can help your business do Better, Faster, More.
Ask and You Shall Receive
Where do you get your business now? Most businesses grow via referrals. Most likely, yours does, too. These referrals often come unsolicited. Referrals, by nature, imply your company is doing a good job and is lucky to have customers that hype up your service or product. But do you really want your business to passively rely on the luck of unsolicited referrals? Shouldn’t you be in charge of that process so you can generate your own referrals? How do they come to you now? Do those people making referrals on your behalf know more people? Are you doing everything you can to encourage those other folks to find out about you? What about the vast and silent majority that makes up the rest of your customer base that isn’t generating new business for you? If your product or service is great, ask them to tell others about it.
Do Unto Others What You Would Have Them Do To You
Give those who help your business an incentive for their time. Buy them a box of steaks, take them out to a nice dinner and a concert, go boating or to a game. Personally, I love photography and really enjoy capturing moments and people’s personality with perspective. I also love giving those photos away. I am always printing out shots for people of every softball game, swimming meet, or sixth grade play. I’m blessed to see how happy the pictures make these people with whom I have created a connection. Share your passions and get to know these folks. Most importantly, get to know their businesses so you can refer them in return, creating new opportunities all around. Get into the habit of helping to build other people’s businesses, and they will get into the habit of building yours.
Referrals: Just What the Business Doctor Ordered
An incredibly simple, but great example of a business growing by referrals is Olson Chiropractic, a local clinic. One morning, I woke up with terrible neck and back pain (beyond the normal pain in the ass). I probably whined about my neck and back pain in every conversation I had. A friend of mine, Bill Pendleton, told me about his chiropractor. Dr. Olson helped Bill out a few times in the past, and Bill raved about him. Bill knew the doctor could help me and actually got the guy on his cell phone to make an appointment for me that afternoon. Because Bill had developed a friendship with Dr. Olson, the good doc fit me in even though he was soon heading out of town.
Bill obviously knew what he was talking about. Dr. Olson’s office was comfortable. The doctor was very helpful, and his services went beyond any preconceived notions I had from prior experience with chiropractors. (You know the drill: they will help fix your problems, though they suggest you will “need to come back every three to five days for the rest of your life” because you are maladjusted. Heck, I already knew I was maladjusted, but most of that is in my head, not my back.) Anyway, he was able to work out the kinks in my neck and back, and he gained a lifetime customer in the process (my choice, not his). All thanks to Bill’s one phone call.
On my way out of the parking lot, I noticed a personal, attractive, strategically placed wooden sign that read, “The best thank you gift you can give a doctor is the referral of a friend”. “Wow,” I thought, “What an incredibly simple and professional way to actively pursue referrals!” Nothing too pushy or shiny-suit-sales-ish, just a direct reminder to pass the doctor’s name along if you think he is doing a great job. Because of the quality of his service, his investment in that nice wooden sign has probably paid off one-hundred fold.
Many Small Examples That Each Can Have a Big Impact
This example shows how damn simple it is to expand your business by increasing the volume of referrals you receive. I never would have received that great treatment if Bill had not dropped Dr. Olson’s name on me. The doctor’s practice would not be as successful if he wasn’t actively looking for referrals as well as being responsive enough to squeeze me in when they get one. This is just one of a hundred simple business practices that, far too often, are passively handled. Ask yourself, honestly, how often you and everyone else on your team let those you serve know that you would appreciate them passing along a good word about your business, if they are so inclined. Then, if you answered that question candidly, ask yourself why the hell you don’t do it more often!
Be the Driver (Not the Passenger) and Hit the Gas
There are a million different ways to establish referrals. Go out, find someone who has business related to yours and form a referral affiliation with them. Maybe they provide a service related to yours and you both are trying to reach a similar target market. Maybe they have nothing to do with your company, though they happen to provide something that another colleague, business, or personal contact is looking for. Either way, you are helping by connecting the two. Take a minute to learn a bit more about the company and bring them up to anyone who may need their services. Their appreciation can (and will) drive a steady flow of new business to you for darn near forever.
Then go find ten more just like them. It does not matter the type of business—just follow the principle. This can feed on itself and become a constant driver in your success because you’ll always be branching out to connect with more related firms providing products or services that can introduce you to your next customer. Every connection expands your sales force!
No matter what method you use for growing your business, you and your team need to actively do that method and then do it more. Be an active participant in that process. Your company can grow as fast as you drive it, so embrace every contact that helps you to step on the gas.
Chris Mahlmann is the founder, CEO, and publisher of the LIFE networks and has developed the industry standard for connecting people with all that is positive in their community. Visit Chris on Google Plus, LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter.