Smart Marketing: Do you have walking, talking billboards?

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    By Karen Rosenzweig

    While you are reading this article, who is selling for you? If you are a small business owner or solopreneur — without any staff! — this is a big question!

    Today I was thinking back to a post by marketing guru Seth Godin that, as usual, was short and to the point — and reminded me of the huge difference between marketing and selling:

    “Marketing tells a story that spreads. Sales overcomes the natural resistance to say yes.

    If you don’t pay the salesforce (because you go direct, or you go free), then who is going to do that for you? The only answer that occurs to me is, ‘your users/fans/customers.’

    This means that a critical element of any strategy that ditches the sales force is to figure out how you will empower and encourage your customers to take their place. Easier said than done.”

    Many business owners do not have paid sales forces; some of us don’t even have a single salesperson! We are one-person operations, all the way from CEO to receptionist, and we handle anything and everything about our business. But not really.

    Who can say they really succeed alone? We outscource many things that make us successful — graphic design, accounting, web hosting, etc. But the pitfall is that many business owners try to do the selling alone, without thinking about outsourcing that most critical task.

    Instead of thinking of selling in the traditional “hire someone” approach, what if you had a sales force of “walking talking billboards” for your company, that are constantly out talking about you, promoting you and finding leads for you? What if that sales force, as Godin says, was actually your little herd of users/fans/customers and you could empower and encourage them to replicate themselves into more and more business for you?

    One way I (One Smart Cookie Marketing), and many of my peers have found success is through word-of-mouth marketing. We have found various networking organizations that allow us to be bigger than we are, to teach us how to use our “raving fans” to become those walking, talking billboards for our businesses. That’s the power of marketing, using the fans to tell a story that spreads.

    When I think about this concept, I always get the image of the omnipresent Verizon man in those TV commercials, with “the network” behind him. What makes the venture successful is the network, the hundreds of people behind each person you know — and the key is to interest and empower them to talk about you everywhere they go!

    Recently I wrote a column here about several organizations that practice and advocate this powerful word of mouth marketing concept. There are many, and I encourage you to find one that works for you — whether it is a weekly meeting, a monthly luncheon gathering, or a professional organization.

    I challenge you to tap into the power of a network, and turn your raving fans into walking, talking billboards that will become your sales force to deliver a steady stream of business for you. I’d love to hear what works for you — please leave your comments below and share the wealth!

    Edmonds resident Karen Rosenzweig is a social media consultant/trainer and owner of One Smart Cookie Marketing. She writes weekly about how companies, entrepreneurs and restaurants can increase their customer base and gain visibility through Twitter, Facebook, blogging and other social media tools.

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