How to Get Your Customer Evangelists to Sell for You
By Ted Janusz

Mary Kay Ash, the founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics, said making people feel important was one of the key factors to her success.

If you think about it, her entire business model was based on making other people feel important. Her best salespeople drove around in pink Cadillacs. And by the way, it wasn’t just a limited number of her top salespeople who drove those Cadillacs. If you achieved a certain goal, anybody on the team could get one. And how did a salesperson achieve that goal? By making their customers feel more attractive and important!

Wouldn’t it be great if you could get your customers to sell for you? Well, you can … simply by making them feel important.

Form an Advisory Council

One idea is for business owners/operators to form an advisory council. Once a quarter, take your best customers, if they are local, out to dinner to a fancy restaurant or country club. If they are professional customers in differing locales, you can do the same whenever you regularly see them at trade shows, conventions or conferences. It especially helps if these customers are what bestselling author Seth Godin calls “sneezers,” people who are most influential in your community.

After dinner, ask your advisory council some questions, like, “I’d like to give you a sneak peek at some new products and services we are thinking about rolling out. What do you think?” or “This is our new business plan for next year. What advice would you give us?”

While you could gain valuable insight, it doesn’t matter even if you don’t, as long as you make these people, who seem to know everybody in the community, feel important.

Not only will they be happy to meet other likeminded, influential community members at the quarterly meeting, trade show, convention or conference, your advisory council members are likely to become lifetime customers themselves. (After all, who among your competitors are treating them so royally?) Best of all, they likely will be unable to contain their enthusiasm around others about how you make them feel special.

After their quarterly meeting with you, if they overhear someone shopping for products or services that you offer, they are likely to chime in to the conversation, saying things like, “You know, if that’s what you’re considering, you really need to see my friends. They’ll take really good care of you!”

The power of personal recommendation and word-of-mouth are the most influential and effective forms of marketing you can get. And you too can get it for the price of dinner and some drinks, simply by making your best customers feel important.

Farm a Fraternity

We tend to like, trust and buy from people who are like us in one way or another; we tend to not trust or buy from people whom we perceive are unlike us. There are plenty of customers out there who are just like you! How do you know? They share the same interests you do, which is a great starting point for building a business relationship.

So, to what groups do you belong?

■ Chamber of Commerce

■ Other business and civic groups

■ Alumni associations and PTAs

■ Fitness centers

■ Toastmasters

■ Church groups

■ Softball teams

■ Kids’ baseball, basketball or soccer leagues

One person told me that every partner in their firm was required to join one of these affinity groups of their choice. Once they got to know the members of the group, it was an easy and effective way to market. And, of course, once you satisfy a few members of the group, the word will be spread by these evangelists throughout the rest of the group like a wild fire. And, these groups are generally enjoyable for the participants because they choose which group to join based on their own interests and likes.

Team Up for Fusion Marketing

A customer database is oftentimes the most valuable asset any small business possesses. Another business may not want to give up or sell you a list of their valued customers, but you don’t need to buy their list. You can simply team up with a noncompeting but complementary business to promote your products and services to those customers and share the marketing expenses.

Examples have included:

■ An auto dealer and a car wash owner

■ A veterinarian and a pet store owner

■ A sports bar proprietor and a sporting goods owner

■ A restaurant owner and the community theater (One of the best places for the restaurant to advertise or offer a coupon was in the program for the theater.)

■ A hair salon and a clothing boutique

For the last example, the hair salon had a display for the clothing boutique; the clothing boutique had a display for the hair salon. The only real cost was the time it took for the two owners to get together to devise the displays!

Figure out what businesses complement your own but do not compete and approach them about it. Further, the other business person can become an evangelist for your business, and you can do the same for them.

In fact, Jim Kelly, the former CEO of UPS said, “The old adage ‘If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em’ is being replaced with ‘Join ‘em and you can’t be beat.’”

About the Author

Ted Janusz, MBA, facilitates workshops, and has presented more than 4,500 hours on relevant business-related topics internationally. Janusz can be reached at [email protected]