Small Business Growth Strategies - Recommendation
by Jo Shaer, on March 28, 2012
I am indebted to SmallBizTrends for drawing this infogrpahic from Manta about small business growth strategies to my attention.
Manta bill themselves as the largest online community dedicated entirely to small business and have made some major enhancements to their site to help small businesses to build their referral network through recommendations and social connection tools.
They recently ran a study of over 1000 small business owners and discovered that more than half cited customer referrals for giving them the biggest boost in business - more than Facebook, Linked In and other social media networks.
Over three-quarters of those polled admitted to asking for a recommendation and over half have given an online testimonial themselves. Even more importantly, nearly a third said that they had reviewed other online recommendations before selecting a new supplier or business partner.
Manta have produced a great infographic to help illustrate their findings about one of the more under-rated small business growth strategies.
Small Business Growth Strategies Through Networking Referral
When it comes to small business growth strategies, certainly my own experience has been that the majority of my work comes as a result of networking with other business owners - whether they are existing customers or colleagues from other industries. If they like what they hear, they are happy to recommend you to other people that they network with, with whom you might not have been in the same room.
This is especially useful for those of us who are not able to make the breakfast meetings so beloved of the professional networker.
Small Business Growth Strategies through Recommendation on Linked In and Facebook
Whilst I am still a great fan of LinkedIn and Facebook, in my opinion, it has not yet replaced face to face networking as an actual source of referrals. People tend to use it as a resource to go check out someone that a networking colleague has bigged up. This is why it is so important to get your social media profiles working for you like a much expanded online business card.
It should tell people who you are and what you do, as well as being a repository for recommendations from other members who have used your service.
If there is one thing that is likely to swing people in your direction, it is a referral from another networker that is reinforced by great social media feedback from other friends and acquaintances - or even friends of friends and acquaintances.
Some social media marketers will recommend acquiring thousands of connections. The problem is that people don't tend to just pick a business partner willy nilly off the list of their connections on Linked In - even if their bio purports to be a fabulous match to the service that they require. However, they trust the judgement of those they respect and that trust tends to extend to people that those colleagues then associate with. If they see that someone they know or a connection of someone they know has given a glowing recommendation, they will be more likely to contact the subject of that review when they have a need.
So, as it says in the graphic, 55% of business owners say referrals give them the biggest boost in business but, in contrast, almost half had not actually rated or reviewed another business online themselves.
We need to improve this statistic dramatically. It's all very well that three quarters of those asked have asked other people for a testimonial but no good if we're not returning the favour.
Having said that, the fact that 56% of those asked replied that they used this information to choose future partners for joint ventures, means that it is crucial that these reviews are not just a 'you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours' exercise. In order to be able to trust what we see on social media, we have to be honest.
As Thumper's Mother said in Bambi, "if you can't say something nice, then don't say anything at all". So it is not compulsory to respond with a review when asked. If you would not recommend that person in real life, then perhaps it is best to stay silent. And etiquette should demand that the person requesting the review will not badger you further.
If you're looking for successful small business growth strategies, recommendation and referral is a great way to go.