Word-of-Mouth Acceleration

By: • 7 months ago •

How to accelerate word-of-mouth in your coaching business

By Robert Gerrish


It’s a common misperception that referrals only come from past customers. Undeniably they’re an important group, but to presuppose someone has to experience you before they refer others to you is simply wrong.

I recently asked a group of small business owners to share who typically referred business opportunities to them and below are just some of the responses.

‘Past customers!’ ‘Close friends.’ ‘Parents I met at the school gates.’ ‘Members of my industry association.’ ‘Other businesses in my neighbourhood.’ ‘My mother!’ ‘Random people in my local community.’ ‘Members of staff.’ ‘My next door neighbour’ ‘General business contacts.’ ‘The networking group I attend.’ ‘My Instagram followers.’ ‘Suppliers’ ‘My barista’ And so the list went on. The responses are so broad and frankly it seems that anyone with a heartbeat can talk about you with others. While that’s a huge opportunity, it also presents us with a problem.

How can you develop any semblance of a word-of-mouth strategy when the audience for your effort is so gargantuan and diverse? It’s because of this very challenge that so many entrepreneurs are inactive in this regard. I figure it’s time to change all that! The solution is to group people together, regardless of where they come from, by characteristics rather than sectors. Think of people in terms of where they’re positioned within your sphere of influence and from there the job is to work to draw them closer.

People start out as what I’ll call the great unknown and that’s an unwieldy audience! Once some kind of connection and dialogue has commenced, we might begin to think of people as new acquaintances and from there friends, fans or the altogether perfect raving fans and advocates.

Raving fans and advocates are ultimately where we want people to get to. Not all will get there, but the ones who do have the power to open the door to a stream of referrals.

These are the people who help grow your business by word-of-mouth. Surround yourself with enough of them and it’s possible to nail your marketing for life. We all know of those tradesmen, therapists or sandwich shops that have a constant queue of customers without spending a cent on marketing.

That’s the power of referral marketing, and the good news is that it can be replicated in any business.

How can you develop any semblance of a word-of-mouth strategy when the audience for your effort is so gargantuan and diverse? It’s because of this very challenge that so many entrepreneurs are inactive in this regard.


The referral-bullseye technique
If there’s one device that I found incredibly valuable in the development of my own business and that I have shared countless times, it’s the referral bullseye.

Let’s pull it apart now.

As you can see, it resembles an archery target, a series of concentric circles, where the word ‘Advocates’ sits in the centre, the bullseye.

With this target in your mind, strangers (or the great unknown if you prefer) is where a new relationship sits and advocates is ideally where each new contact will ultimately end up.

Advocates actively spread word-ofmouth about the work we do and who we do it for.
Often when we think of those who refer business to us, we tend to group people by business sector, or where you first met them. Much more useful, I think, is a model based on the nature of your current relationship.

The challenge is to gradually move those at the edge of the target to the ‘bullseye’ where the true advocates for your business are. The ones who really get where you’re coming from and want to see you do well. You only need a few to work wonders for your business.

When you start to think of your communication and actions based on where your relationship stands, it soon becomes clear what you should be doing at when.

Do you promote heavily to new acquaintances? No of course not, you’ll repel them. Instead, consider fixing up a coffee catch up or take steps to help them in their life and business. Just don’t start selling!

What about fans, the people who clearly like and support who you are and what you do? At this stage, this is perhaps the point to host a small event, an opportunity to ‘give back’ to those who already

feed your confidence and provide warmth when you meet. At your event, you can thank fans for their support AND invite them to become advocates, to take the next step.

If I had a roomful of fans, I might say: “I really appreciate your support of my work and I’d like to invite you to help me help others. I’m looking for three creative entrepreneurs who would like to build a clear vision for the next stage of their ventures."

Does that sound clumsy or pushy? I don’t think so, because I’m saying it to the right people at the right time.

Robert Gerrish supports individuals starting, growing, fine-tuning or exiting their business. He founded the Flying Solo online community, co-wrote the bestseller of the same name, and in mid-2018 his latest book ‘The 1 Minute Commute’ hit the bookshelves. He’s a podcaster, speaker and works one-on-one with a small group of independent professionals and creative entrepreneurs. Find him at www.

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