As an entrepreneur bootstrapping your business with a small or no advertising budget, you are left with no choice but to depend on word-of-mouth advertising to grow your customer base. For some types of businesses, such as clothing companies and tech gadgets, this serves as an opportunity for them to do something remarkable with their design and/or packaging. For other types of businesses, such as service providers and digital sellers, generating word-of-mouth buzz is a more complex problem to solve.
Alert: This is a post from my Daddy blog series
This weekend was a typical weekend for the Mance family. My boys waking me up at the crack dawn requesting cereal, an hour of Phineas and Ferb on Disney, finger painting at the arts center, then a ride on the birthday party bus. And just like the wheels on the bus, the list of parties to attend goes round and round predictably year after year. What’s not so predictable is what’s going to happen at the establishment that host the 10 to 20 little boys and girls as they devour pizza and cake.
This past weekend I celebrated the birthday of one of my little ones. The party was held at an indoor children’s play center named KangaZoom. The facility had your typical inflatable jumpers, bouncers, and slides. From the outside looking in, there was nothing exceptional about KangaZoom. However, once the party was over I knew the owners of KangaZoom had the one thing it needed to grow its business virally with word-of-mouth advertising.
Over the years, I have found that the difference between a day of progress and a day of stagnation is separated by whether or not there was a written to-do checklist to follow. So now that I have declared that the only goal that matters for a bootstrapping entrepreneur is to create a viral referral loop, there must be a daily checklist with the things to do that will incrementally progress you to this goal. Both you and I know that without this checklist, the dream of going viral is nothing but a pipe dream.
Word-of-mouth advertising is by far the most relied upon form of advertising by bootstrapping entrepreneurs. The idea of having existing customers, friends, and family tell others about your business and you just sitting back and letting the dollars roll-in is how just about every entrepreneur imagines their new venture will take-off. This is a smart way to think. As a matter of fact, this is how the most brilliant engineers in Silicon Valley think.
I read a great article yesterday on the topic of companies paying to incentivize getting their customers to provide word-of-mouth referrals. The article was titled “The Real Truth About Referral Incentives” and the author Jeff Riddle puts into context a lot of what I have been blogging about over the last week. In my last post, I suggested that putting your best customers at the center of your advertising strategy was the first thing you should do to work towards achieving the coveted viral loop. In this post I want to share a few of Jeff’s ideas in the context of your desire to create a viral referral loop for your business.
I was chatting with my mom over the weekend about how the different online advertising campaigns she was trying were doing for her business. She is the business manager and co-owner of a chiropractic wellness center in Georgia. What I heard made me cringe. She told me that the money she was spending on internet advertising wasn’t providing a return on investment. She also told me that after several years of trying various online advertising campaigns most of her business still comes from word of mouth advertising.