Smarter: How does technology help you to build relationships with your clients?
Alecia Hancock: We use tech heavily for free education. Being an education-based business, one of the best ways we can attract and retain customers is by giving them a taste of what we do and the opportunity to learn from us. We [offer] a lot of free tips and training across our social media channels. We have a weekly eDM that is literally just a free tip or piece of advice.
We do live webinars that are completely free as well, which is another method of free training. Towards the end of that, there’s usually a call to action about a product we’re developing, but only after a lot of free education.
It fits in with our offline activity, too. We do a free event called Change the World, and we largely promote that through digital platforms like eDM, private LinkedIn connections, and social media advertising. That is one of our biggest funnels.
Smarter: What is the core benefit of providing free education?
Alecia Hancock: Because we can have a clear sense now of exactly who we are talking to, it’s become obvious what different content we can put out there. When everyone is a potential client, that’s really difficult to market. Instead, we try to connect with one body.
I think the key word is trust. We build trust with people before they ever deal with us. Often people call us up and go, “Hey, we want to buy this product”. We ask them how they found out about it and it always comes back to our free education. I feel that the free content and being generous with education does come back to deliver value to our business.
By being really open and transparent, and freely sharing our knowledge, we are actually achieving our mission of helping Not for Profits and causes become more sustainable, and to thrive in a challenging digital market. By giving out free education, we’re pushing forward our mission as well.
Smarter: Does this help you to build stronger relationships over time?
Alecia Hancock: Yes. Because we are putting out so much free information, people see us for a long period of time. They’re coming to one of our events, they’re watching the webinars, they’re getting our emails, they’re watching us on social media. When they decide it’s time to invest in social, we’re the people they come to. That’s because we’ve built that trust. There’s no question of whether it’s going to work because we’ve already helped them progress with our free education.
Smarter: How is this different from attracting customers through word of mouth?
Alecia Hancock: It took me a long time to realise word of mouth only gets you so far, and if you want to grow bigger, you need a bigger strategy.
We were saying everything came through word of mouth. We never went out looking for people. Now, because we are so clear on who our market is, we can give value to our whole market in a genuine and honest way.
We write articles for national publications. Even just having a blog on our website with lots of stories has attracted attention. We’ve had journalists contact us to say, you had a great article on this topic, can we interview you?
Opportunities just come when you’re putting yourself out there and sharing. It’s amazing how many people have taken a workshop with us or applied for one of our grants and said, “I’ve been following you guys for a year now. I got on your list and have been learning from you for ages, and now I’m ready to do something”.
I’ve always believed that you have got to give value before you ask for anything back. We continue to build our database, and we’re constantly teaching new things, giving advice, letting subscribers know about new information and new features. Then, when we say, “Here’s a free event you should come along to”, they want to be there.
The value in building relationships like these is something I wish I’d known a lot earlier in my business journey.
*Originally published February 21st 2018. Updated August 9th 2018.
Find out more about how small businesses are finding customers online.
Download the 2018 Small Business Intelligence Report.Download free reportFind out more about how small businesses are finding customers online.