Content marketing is the one-two punch your referral-fueled business needs

By Brittany Taylor

How content marketing fuels referral-based businesses

Oct. 22, 2015 

I’m a content marketer, and most of my business comes from referrals. I’m not alone—referrals are huge for small businesses.

According to the Small Business Association’s 2014 Small Business Profiles released earlier this year, small businesses report that 82 percent of their new business comes from referrals.

Kim Mays, in her review of the report for IT Business Edge, notes that this statistic confirms that word of mouth is still the best marketing tactic. Why then, she asks, do 38 percent of small businesses intend to increase their marketing budget this year?

This is how marketing (and content marketing in particular) helps you convert referrals

I have an uncle who won’t purchase a microwave without looking at Consumer Reports, much less a car. Consumer Reports is basically a content referral product. Its content you trust because of the values behind it. They vet everything. They research everything. They tell you everything. And because of that, you trust them, same as you do your friends and family (OK, most of your friends and family).

Your content can do the same thing. By creating thorough, educational, honest content, you inform readers about both your products/services and your business, establishing loyalty and trust. When you publish content that checks all of these boxes, two things happen:

  1. Your current clients adore you. They’re loyal. They want you to stick around, so they tell everyone they know about you. Hello, referrals!
  2. When your referrals check you out—because nobody hands over money these days without Googling, right?—they see that you’re legit. That’s when they go from being leads to customers.

Why does content marketing get the short end of the stick?

Credit often eludes content marketing because its results are hard to measure. Content marketing is subtle. It doesn’t say, “hey, here’s my product, buy it now!” That’s what advertisements do. There’s hardly ever a direct link or pixel you can track back to a certain blog post of social share that took a lead through your entire sales funnel.

3 scripts to help you figure out if your content is converting referral customers

Try asking your customer! Ask point-blank or send them a survey as part of your on-boarding process. It might seem like an awkward thing to ask when you’re on the asking side, but it’s 100-percent normal on the customer-side. Get out there and pop the question. The faster you do it, the better informed you’ll be about your current marketing efforts, and how you should strategize looking ahead.

Not sure how to phrase it? Try these three on for size:

  • “I’d love to know what convinced you to work with me. Was there any piece of content in particular that helped you make up your mind?”
  • “I’m working hard to finesse my website and blog. Are there any areas that were a big help to you when you were deciding which designer/writer/developer/assistant you wanted to work with?”
  • “My goal is to make this process as easy as possible for my clients. Is there any content that’s made a difference for you, or that you would have liked to have had?”

Now get out there and show ’em how it’s done!

Referrals are huge for small businesses. They drive 82% of new business. But leads don’t convert just because their friends told them you rock. You have to convince them—and content can do that.