By Gilliam, Stacy
Black Enterprise , Vol. 36, No. 2
You could break your small business bank account on flashy advertisements. Or, you can follow the lead of successful entrepreneurs who know one sure-fire marketing tool: there's no shame in simply asking a friend to tell a friend.
Word-of-mouth campaigning is a cost-effective way to keep clients ringing your phone, and it forces you to run a tight ship, experts say. In essence, you're encouraging your happiest customers to create a buzz about the quality of your services. How hard is that? Well, it's an easy art form that many companies simply haven't mastered.
"Typically, less than 10% of businesses have a systematic formula," says Los Angeles-based Joe John Duran, a chartered financial analyst, whose book Start It, Sell It & Make a Mint (John Wiley & Sons: $19.95), reveals the top 20 secrets on how to grow and sell a company. By interviewing dozens of successful entrepreneurs, Duran realized that a majority, including himself, flourished with the help of referrals. "Referrals are the cheapest way and most effective way [to grow a company]," says Duran. Yet, the discomfort associated with asking for help prevents businesses from enjoying the growth they deserve.
That isn't a problem for Mia Jackson, president of Doro Marketing based in North Bethesda, Maryland, which produces marketing materials for companies and nonprofit organizations. When she launched her firm in 2000, she counted on friends and former colleagues to chat up her services. …