Category Archives: Marketing & SEO

Focus on the Right People

Focus 50

The Mantra

I talk to business owners every day. “How do you market your business?” I ask. “Word-of-mouth is the most cost effective form of marketing,” they say. And I agree.

The Squirm

So I ask them what their strategy is for developing referrals. That’s when they start to squirm. Usually they talk about a networking event they attended, or the value of good customer service, or maybe a rewards program for customer referrals. Some are even pretty disciplined about attending a weekly networking group. But rarely do they seem confident about their strategy.

It’s Complicated

Strategy can be hard because of the many possibilities—so many ways to connect with people. You can get friends on Facebook. You can acquire Twitter followers. You can link with colleagues on LinkedIn. Feels like so much progress. But then what?

Making thousands of acquaintances doesn’t always pay the bills, especially if a referral to your kind of business requires a high degree of trust. Trust takes time. You have to earn it. And you need lots of touches, lots of little risks that pay off, lots of relational dimensions.

Stretched Too Thin

How many close relationships can a person’s network have? After about 100 or so, it gets difficult to maintain a relationship of any strength. (I have trouble even remembering that many names.) So let’s see if we can turn this truth into an effective marketing strategy.

Focus 50

Take a look at your database of networking contacts. Include clients, friends, consultants, coaches, and family. Pick your Top 50 and put them in a list. (Use your intuition here.) This is the core of your network. This is where you will focus your energy.

[You may want to experiment with this number. Some business thrive on a few strong relationships. Others make a living from many connections where the strength of each one is not so important. Knowing your business really helps make this decision. A pizza shop may benefit from a large loose network, but an attorney, accountant or psychologist may benefit more from a small concentrated core.]

The Work of Networking

Now that you have your Focus 50, your job is to:

  • Listen
    Find out what’s going on in their world and what problems they are facing right now.
  • Help
    Help them by offering your expertise, referring someone in your network, or suggesting a resource that can solve their business problems.
  • Inform
    Educate them on what’s going on in your business, who receives the most value from your expertise, and what challenges you are experiencing. Invite them to follow you online and subscribe to your newsletter.
  • Ask
    Let them know that you work by referrals. Ask who they know that might be a good fit for you.
  • Thank
    Warmly thank them for supporting you and your business. Find a creative way to let them know they really matter to you.

The key is that you are helping them. When they experience you as a good resource, they do your marketing for you.

Eliminate and Concentrate

The strategy works because you concentrate your time and energy on the relationships that matter most. At the end of 2012 you could have 50 people who see you as a valuable person to help them grow in 2013.


Most business consultants will tell you how important it is to listen to customers (as a recent example, note how much “listening” is mentioned into this article on what makes a great entrepreneur).

We’ve all heard that before. This week Peter Francis, principal of Clinical Laboratory Sales Training is setting an example for us by doing it.

One of Peter’s customers loves reading his articles on laboratory sales techniques, but he spends a lot of time in the car and wishes he could listen to them instead of just read them. “Maybe you could send me an audio version?” he asked. Peter took the suggestion to heart and sat down in the recording studio. Now he’s starting to offer free audio versions on his website. How generous is that?

In our next quarterly web marketing review, we’ll be tracking the analytics to see how popular they are. From there we can determine what kind of next steps to take with digital audio.

Ideas for Further Development

  • Sell CDs: maybe it’s valuable to package several articles and sell them on disc?
  • Podcast: if they like articles maybe they would like other kinds of recorded conversations?
  • Promotion: use the recordings to promote other business offerings, such as seminars, coaching, or the newsletter.

Do Something: Lessons from Peter

  1. Care about your customers more today than you did yesterday.
  2. Listen to their words and the desires behind the words.
  3. Play with options for how to give them what they want.
  4. Become a responsive, dynamic resource for customers and they will reward you.