This week I joined LinkedIn, which shows your network up to your third connection. Though someone once told me, or maybe it was by watching the movie, that everyone is separated by six people. It is necessary to be very careful and diligent with managing your personal and professional reputations. LinkedIn has vetting systems to assist you in managing your online professional reputation while Facebook seems a lot more open and less private.
This week we started to place more emphasis on developing “Buzz” around Lifemoves®, which is difficult for a small business with limited brand awareness. LinkedIn is helping me realize how many connections we do have.
We are a service business which primarily gains new clients through referrals from current clients based on the relationships they have with their primary provider. Our clients are also organizations such as ICBC, Great West Life, Sun Life and other disability insurance and extended health plan providers. Our challenge is developing enough buzz about our services from quality referral sources instead of just dropping random pamphlets like propaganda from an airplane.
Who do you tend to trust first? We trust recommendations from people we know such as colleagues, friends and family members and people we have done business with before and would do business with again. Our reputation, positive or negative, is a measure of what others think of us and how they speak to others about us.
Asking a colleague for a recommendation made a difference when someone from out of town needed a Kinesiologist. They called their co-worker in Vancouver and asked who could provide the service in North Vancouver; they then called Lifemoves® based on this recommendation.
Get introduced to the influencer: In Anatomy of Buzz, each person is considered a node to their network. Sometimes, like with LinkedIn, people aren’t in your current network and to access it they need to be introduced and recommended. Without having any connections, I even had trouble finding and adding my closest friends on LinkedIn.
Another client asked me, “Your hair looks good; where do you get it cut?” My reply could influence his choice of barbers. To create connections and referrals in new networks with the most impact, we need to find someone who can help us jump to our desired node. This is preferably an introduction from the influencer. Recommendations and introductions help start a new relationship on strong ground. We tend to have greater trust for those who we are introduced to when it’s done by a transmitter/connector (the person who is known by both parties being introduced).
In health care, the family doctor is an influencer because he has the opportunity to refer, which is often necessary for disability plans, extended healthcare and insurance to pay for services. They also refer patients to specialists and further diagnostic tests as needed.
We always encourage our clients to get a referral from their general physician (GP) because it provides an opportunity for the GP to be updated on their patients’ health status. The record that the GP keeps is a central hub for our clients’ medical history.
Once the introduction is completed, it is up to you to further develop a mutually beneficial and mutually valuable relationship.
Are testimonials and recommendations influential? In past it was important to gather testimonials, but now the conversation is much more active. It is important to monitor and participate in any online communications about your company.
Are recommendations in LinkedIn similar to testimonials? What about the Facebook business page? What the recommendations or testimonials may do is begin the relationship with an initial level of trust, which might be less tenuous than a random contact. However, it still needs to grow through a positive business collaboration or provision of service.
Do reviews or testimonials influence your decision to purchase in health care? How do introductions influence your trust and respect of the new person whom you are introduced to?
4 Tips to Developing Word of Mouth “Buzz”
- It is not the quantity of connections, but rather quality that matters.
- A positive reputation takes a long time to build, but can be destroyed quickly.
- Be proactive – do good work for clients with outstanding care and then ask them to speak about you to others or ask for an introduction.
- Keep at the top of their mind – maintain the connection with frequent contact that provides value.