Take off your marketing hat so you can make referrals to yourself

Some of my best marketing is done when I am not even trying to market myself. I have sold people on working with my business at social events, in stores and coffee shops, on Facebook chat pages, and even after a family funeral (long story, don’t ask, it’s not as bad as it seems).

The key is that at each of these events, I wasn’t selling my business at all. I just became involved in discussions with people that led to what I do and how it might help them. It was more natural than a 30-second elevator pitch or the 3-minute explanation you use at a formal networking event.

The success comes from people seeing and experiencing the real me, not the me trying to sell myself or my business.

Rather than being the advocate for my business, I was able to talk about it from more of an outsider’s point of view. Instead of pushing my business, I essentially became able to serve as a referral source for my business. I became someone who advocated for my business without showing the huge investment I, as the owner, have in it.

The difference can be stark and the benefits of taking off the marketing hat more can be tremendously rewarding.

Here are five tips for marketing when you aren’t wearing your marketing hat.

  1. Have business cards with you at all times, but don’t thrust them upon people. The worst marketing in the world is to have someone ask for a business card only to have you say, “I’m sorry, I don’t have any with me.” It happens, yes. But it should happen a lot less if you put a few in your wallet or purse, stash a few in your car and your briefcase, and if you give them to the people who want your business to succeed the most (your spouse or significant other). But don’t thrust them on people. If someone asks, give it to him or her. Don’t start into the elevator pitch. Just trust that the person has a reason to take it and see what happens over the next few days.
  2. Have the right answers ready to go at all times. Depending on the situation, I talk about my business in different ways. But each is designed to cast as little light on it as possible. Instead, the goal is to create intrigue. For instance, if everyone is talking casually, I tell people I have a marketing company. If they are more seriously discussing business issues, I might tell them that I help small businesses find their ideal clients. Sometimes, I just tell people I have my own business. Each of these responses to the inquiry is designed to elicit a request for more information. My success is in determining which answer will draw out the best inquiry. Play around and see for yourself.
  3. Tell stories. When I am in a social setting and people ask about my work, I will often entertain them with a story about something that I was able to accomplish on my client’s behalf. Telling a good story a quick and easy way to get people thinking about what I do. It’s also far more interesting and insightful than any elevator pitch. It doesn’t cost me anything, and I find that these stories can really help people to understand my business efforts much better.
  4. Have others ready and able to talk you up. When I am at family events, with friends or associates, I always make sure the people with me are fueled with the right information to help spread the work about what I do. They might not even know — in a perfect world, I don’t want them to know — that I have shared information that enables them to better discuss what I do if someone asks them. I might share a funny anecdote or a success story with them from time to time so they have the type of ammunition to help others understand my value if they find the opportunity. Stories are what people remember so stories are what I tell these people who can and do feed me great opportunities.
  5. Be yourself. Believe it or not, the times I sell myself and my business most is when I am just being me. When I talk to people about what they are up to and something sparks a discussion, which might lead to a mention of what I do, it is then that those people start to see me as intelligent, able and willing to make their world better. Those people who understand and appreciate who and what I am are the best source for direct and indirect connections leading to business.

These five suggestions are designed to move you from the business owner to someone who can share openly and honestly about your business. If performed correctly, these suggestions can lead you to become the best referral source for your business.

Give it a try and let me know what you find.

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