Repeat sales and/or word-of-mouth are vital to any company planning to stay in business for any length of time. Analyze the income of any successful business and you will discover that either repeat sales, or referrals, or both have played a major role. When one has an established relationship, selling becomes much easier. Referrals are an extension of this: because of an established relationship with one customer, another referred customer feels more confident about giving you their money.
But how does knowing this help you? How do you harness the power of repeat sales and word-of-mouth?
That’s an interesting question.
But now I am going to change the subject. Keep reading to find out why.
I want to talk about “Thought Leadership”.
Thought Leadership is defined in many ways but this is the one that seems most appropriate:
“Thought Leadership is establishing a relationship with and delivering something of value to your stakeholders and customers that aligns with your brand/company value. In the process you go well beyond merely selling a product or service and establish your brand /company as the expert in that field and differentiate yourself from your competitors.”
I am going to now propose a shocking notion. It is possible for you to become a thought leader. Right now, today. With no fantastic innovations or changes. It’s not only possible, it is something you should do.
Every company has its target niche. A contractor has a target niche of homeowners in his geographic zone. A chiropractor has a target niche of a certain type of patient in his geographic zone. An insurance agent has a certain type of customer in a certain area that he services. And to guarantee steadily increasing sales, all, or any, of these small business owners can become “Thought Leaders” within their target niche. That is: build your company and reputation by becoming the leading expert in your area, within your target market. Anything you introduce to your customers will be new information to them and therefore “thought leadership”.
Why do you want to become a leading expert in your area? Because if you leverage your company as the area’s leading expert, you will become… [drum roll]… the area’s leading expert.
Leading experts attract attention. Leading experts are the first to come to mind within their category of expertise. Leading experts are asked their opinion, invited to speak and leading experts have no trouble getting referrals. Leading experts also inspire confidence and confidence inspires sales.
What does this mean and how do you become a “Leading Expert” or “Thought Leader” for your target niche?
In the past, it may have been a rebellious or revolutionary idea to share information or give tips to one’s customers, but these days the practice of educating one’s customers is fast becoming commonplace. In fact, search engines like Google reward your efforts to educate your public and provide useful information in your area of expertise by sending visitors to your company website!
It is possible for you to become a thought leader within your target niche by providing useful and relevant data on something that you know more about than any of your customers. To provide information on that subject in which you are the area’s leading expert, because you’re constantly studying it, talking to industry professionals, attending conventions or expos and receiving trade magazines about it. You’re an expert on your industry and how it relates to your geographic zone!
For instance, a decking contractor in Maine will be an expert on which materials to use based on the local climate and geological conditions. He will also be an expert on the best maintenance practices and have tips and tricks he has developed from working with his decking materials in that specific region.
No one that you sell to knows more about your products and services than you do!
So start sharing useful information that will educate your customers about that subject. Do it regularly and based on what you most frequently have to talk to them about, include useful tips and provide useful content and watch your reputation precede you!
If you do this regularly and monitor the results to see what is most interesting to your customers, and then use that to improve your future content, you will start to experience a surge of interest in your business — even if you barely mention your business within the content.
As a leading expert you will have so much attention you may even briefly miss your empty inbox from before starting the course.
So let me break this down into something useful. As a “Small Business Marketing Expert” I constantly study, learn and practice marketing. I take what I have learned, remove some of the heavy-lifting and jargon and repackage it as useful and accessible information for small business owners who do not have the time to become a leading expert in small business marketing because they are constantly learning and practicing their expertise in their own business and industry.
As a result of engaging in “targeted marketing thought leadership” on behalf of my clients, my company gets more attention and sales, I get invited to speak about marketing, I get special invitations to represent the marketing industry at conventions and I get many referrals. My company has more opportunities and the sales quotas become easier to meet.
And now lets tie everything back together. The key method that I use to obtain repeat sales and word-of-mouth is my newsletter. The one you are reading right now.
I write a newsletter article based on what my clients are interested in. I send it out to my full database every month (and if I get any returns I quickly get the addresses updated).
I then take my newsletter article and I send it out again as an enewsletter. Please note by the quality of this newsletter how seriously I take this. Further note that I did not say I do an enewsletter instead of a newsletter, but that I do a copy by enewsletter as well as my hard copy newsletter. This is because when I only send an enewsletter I do not get the same result. This is not the area “to cut back on costs” because it will cost you in lost clients and opportunities.
I use the same newsletter article on my blog for search engines to find and I make the article available through my social networking profiles for my friends and acquaintances to find.
The measurable result is always increased sales in the weeks after a newsletter mailing.
Let me repeat that for emphasis: the measurable result is always increased sales in the weeks after a newsletter mailing.
Tips To Newsletter And “Thought Leadership” Success
Over the years I have seen all kinds of newsletters. I have done all kinds of newsletters. I know exactly which ones have produced the best results and I have been carefully using these important elements. I know I have really cracked what a good newsletter consists of and the thousands of dollars I have spent researching the subject is now summarized within the following tips.
Provide Useful Information
Do not make the rookie mistake that your industry is not interesting to your customer. Reflect on the questions you have been asked in the past and use that as material for your newsletter. Make it interesting by providing what people are asking for. This may be in the form of buying guides, product comparisons, case histories or product reviews. It may be in the form of an editorial article that tells customers what’s hot or popular this year.
The only reason it will be uninteresting is if you fail to explain it correctly to the intended audience (i.e. words and ideas directed at their level of education in the subject) or if you fail to educate them on what they would want to know about (not what you want them to know).
Here are some ideas that will make you look like a hero because of your willingness to share information and your confidence in giving up your “insider tips” because you are obviously more interested in their long-term business and well-being.
A dentist may do an article like, foods that will yellow your teeth and how to prevent discoloration.
A contractor may do an article on easy maintenance tips. Or a checklist on how to tell when it’s time to call the experts in for help.
A chiropractor could write: It’s the weekend, my chiropractor’s not back until Monday and I am in pain. 5 tips for immediate pain relief.
Separate Your Advertising From Your Content
Placing ads in your newsletter is very important. After all, it’s your newsletter and you want to maximize on it. However don’t water down your useful, interesting information with sales messages as you will kill the goodwill you created by providing the content. Keep the self-promotion very minimal within the articles and use colorful, interesting ads to communicate your sales messages separately (just like the magazines do!)
Ensure Your Keys Products and Services Are Advertised
So the ads are now separated from the content. Make sure that all the key items are represented and that they are interesting and promote benefits as their focus.
Give Your Newsletter A Very Specific Identity And Don’t Change It
It is a mistake to change your newsletter format constantly. Imagine you subscribe to a newspaper or magazine but every month the format and content is different. You would get pretty irritated and stop reading it.
Your newsletter has to build its readership and certain elements need to be predictable so the reader actually starts to anticipate its arrival. So they will look for it in the mail and grab it to read as soon as it arrives just like any publication to which they subscribe.
Pick a format and keep going so that your readers become used to it. This includes the timing, the design, the colors, the layout, the type of content, etc. Over time you can evolve your newsletter based on experience but don’t make sudden major changes or change it up every month. It’s the content and article-writing that should be your focus.
Design A Good-Looking Newsletter
Take a little time, or have RESPONSE! lay out a really interesting newsletter that will get noticed in the mail, look interesting to open and be supremely readable. The professionalism and appearance of your business is going to be associated with your newsletter and you want to make a good impression. Bad editing, tacky typesetting, and ugly photos are not going to send the message that your business is doing well or that literature to the customer is a priority.
Besides, the better or more valuable the newsletter looks, the more likely the customer is to value it, store it for future use and, even better, share it with their friends. Go all-out for making your newsletter something worth saving, because it’s not just another ad, it is a step taken towards your thought-leading reputation and status within your community or target niche.
The benefits of word-of-mouth roll out from there. People will talk and pass on your advice. Many of them will cite you as the source of the advice and pretty soon your reputation will precede you and you will experience the power of being a “thought leader”.