Using the Authenticity of Personal Referrals in Inbound Marketing

To many people, the idea of inbound marketing just seems contradictory.  Isn’t reaching out to customers the very nature of marketing?  Don’t you need to find new people who might be interested in your product or service?  Don’t you have to identify those customers and inform them about the nature of your product or service?  If you don’t take the time to find and inform these people, then who’s going to do it for you?  Inbound marketing does seem to turn all these ideas on their head.  It’s a completely new way of understanding the process of marketing.  Plus, it also has practical applications that you can make use of immediately.

Word of Mouth Referrals

There are many ways in which people learn about new products or services.  For example, I was helping my sister look for an apartment the other day.  We went to look at an apartment share and the other girl who was staying there told us about this internet service through which she orders groceries.  She praised the quality of their produce lavishly and said it was a much better option than having to walk all the way to the grocery store and lug her groceries back with her.

Now, this girl had never met us before and she wasn’t allied with the online service she was praising.  She was just another person who had used this service and genuinely liked it.  This is the reason why her recommendation struck me so forcefully.  The fact that she wasn’t employed by the service to provide word-of-mouth advertising made her recommendation seem genuine.  And I decided to try the service myself.

Online Referrals

Now I’m generally a cautious person and I don’t like to try many new things.  But when my friends recommend something, I tend to listen.  Usually, they tell me these things in person but there are also times when I see them recommending things on social media.  Given that I know these people, I’m sure that they’re not just recommending those things because they’re getting money from those companies; they’re recommending them because they genuinely like them.

Similarly, when I buy a book on Amazon, I also tend to look up its reviews, either on Amazon itself or on Goodreads.  There are certain reviews which you can tell are written by paid reviewers.  These are the ones that run into several paragraphs but don’t say anything bad about the book.  On the other hand, there are the genuine ones, which are a paragraph or two at the most.  And the reader generally tells you what they liked as well as disliked about the book.

The Authenticity of Personal Referrals

What do all the above methods of receiving a referral have in common?  They have a feeling of authenticity about them.  When you see an advertisement on TV or in a magazine, you know that that channel or that magazine is being paid to display that ad.  They’re not praising that product or service because they’ve actually used it.  On the other hand, when your friends or family recommend things, you know they’ve actually used those things.

When you get a referral from someone who actually has experience with a product, it counts for a lot, especially in an age when we’re being bombarded with tons of images and content.  We see so many advertisements everyday that it’s pretty much impossible to make up our minds about what products and services to use.  Just because an advertisement looks good doesn’t mean that the product it’s recommending is going to be good as well.  Sometimes, we may even find that products which aren’t widely advertised work better than products which are.  In this type of commercial milieu, we tend to grasp at personal recommendations.  And once we’ve received a recommendation of this sort, we look up the product or service ourselves and take a stab at using it.

Changing Your Marketing Strategy from Outbound to Inbound

From the point of a view of a company who is making a product or providing a service, it’s necessary to understand the customer’s mindset when it comes to referrals.  This will enable you to change your strategy to fit in with the current state of outbound marketing.  Rather than joining the rest of the companies who are continuing to bombard customers with images and content, it’s a better strategy to use inbound marketing methods.

With inbound marketing, you’re not trying to get the word out about your product.  The customer hears about you, either through a personal or online referral.  And they look you up yourself.  Your job, then, is to impress them with your online presence, which can be done in the following ways:

  • First Impressions. Create a stylish but practical website.  Use beautiful images that will catch your customer’s eye.  Make sure that your company logo is easily readable.  There are times when websites take too long to load or look too boring.   You might genuinely be interested in the product but you can’t suppress a yawn when you look at the dull colors and amateurish layout.  Make sure that this doesn’t describe you.
  • Keep Your Website Organized. When someone clicks on a link, expecting to navigate to a certain page, they should be able to navigate to that page.  There shouldn’t be any dead ends or broken links.  Your “contact us” tab should contain contact information and not the content that should have been on your “about us” page.
  • Knowledge Is Power. Give your customer all the information they might need about your product.  And when you’re done with that, give them some more!  Tell them about what’s going on in your field and how you’re on top of it.  Let them know that your company is more than just a business venture for you—it’s something you feel passionate about.
  • Make Buying Easy. There shouldn’t be any glitches when your customer is ready to buy what you’re selling.  Make sure your website is ecommerce enabled.  Give them the option to order your product on the phone.  Or make sure your retail outlets are stocking the product.  The best option is to do all three.
Darren Faber

About Darren Faber

Darren is one of the first employees Foxtail ever had. Aside from that he enjoys starring in low-budget rom-coms (true story, look it up).

Foxtail Marketing is a digital marketing firm that provides content marketing, digital marketing, and lead generation services for small and mid-market companies.

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