There are two general kinds of marketing a business can do. You can do brand building or you can do direct response.
Brand building is what Coke does, what beer companies do, and what a lot of car companies do. They make expensive commercials whose only purpose is to remind you that they are out there and they have something to sell you. But they aren’t trying to directly get you to buy something from the commercial. Of course, if you do, they won’t be mad, but they are fighting for mindshare more than a direct shot at your wallet.
There are also fragrance commercials, but those don’t make sense to anyone and no one knows what they are trying to do with those, including I suspect the people making them. But that’s a whole different topic.
Brand building is not the kind of advertising done by small businesses because it costs too much and the results are hard to track, and most small businesses don’t sell products and services that you are going to have a lifelong relationship with so it just doesn’t make sense to do.
Small businesses are more interested in the here and now and making a sale that is worth more than the ad dollars it costs to bring it in – this is the direct response type of advertising I mentioned. The hope is you see the ad and you take action now to buy the product or service.
It’s still hard though and ad campaigns are fickle and platforms change over time and not everyone you want to sell to is reached by ads you can run. Plus, everyone knows an ad is there to sell them something so they naturally have work to do to overcome that built-in skepticism.
So if we’re a small business and we’re not going to do brand building and we’re not having any (or not enough) luck with direct response and we’re certainly not doing whatever it is the perfume companies are doing then what do we do?
For most businesses, the answer is to just rely on word of mouth. It doesn’t cost anything, but it also is very hit-or-miss and unpredictable. It also doesn’t scale well or give you any control over how much or when it generates new business.
But there is a better option that also doesn’t cost anything and works as well as word of mouth but is much more reliable and scalable! It’s what you should be doing as a small business, no matter what you sell or how you sell it.
The Best Free Scalable Small Business Marketing Method
And the winner is: partner marketing!
OK – what is partner marketing? Simply put, it’s having another firm that works with customers like yours refer them to you. This works for services or products and any kind of business.
For us, as an example, we work with a ton of different firms that work with small businesses that we can also work with. We partner with CPA firms, business brokers, franchisors, business coaches, marketing companies, ecom agencies, and on and on. Each of these businesses works with small business owners who need a source for bookkeeping and tax help.
Very few of them had even a single place to send these owners until we partnered with them. But now we get lots and lots of warm referrals each week as a result of making the effort to reach out and suggest working together. And they aren’t looking for a fee for the most part for referring us clients – it just helps their clients for them to be able to give them a place to go.
For the ones who do have more of an affiliate arrangement in mind, I don’t mind paying for a lead that becomes a client – it’s still much cheaper than an ad campaign for an unknown number of leads of unknown quality.
All it takes to start partnering with someone who can send you business is to think about who your customers are and who else they do business with. The closer the relationship the more sense a partnership makes. Partners can be other businesses but also just people who have the attention of your customers via things like blogs, podcasts, video content, etc.
The more groups who work with your customers you can in turn connect with, the more potential customers you will then meet. But instead of selling customers one at a time, with a good partnership, you can then get referred dozens or more over each year for each single relationship.
Your only obligation is to treat each referral like gold and make sure they are happy and well taken care of so your referral partner never has a reason to not keep sending you connections to their hard-won customers. But you do that anyway, right?
If you haven’t tried partnership marketing, now is the day to get started. If you already do it, then do more! And if you’d like to partner with us, let me know, I’d love to chat!