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Opinion: The universal marketing strategy

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“The Go Giver,” by Bob Burg and John Mann, says, “All things being equal, people will do business with, and refer business to, people they know, like and trust.” This quote is incredibly simple and I overlooked it for years.

The more I learned about marketing, sales and business, the more I realized the wisdom packed into this simple statement. Let’s take a closer look by breaking down this quote and see how it can direct your marketing strategy.

“All things being equal”
The first part of this quote is a prequalifying statement. If all things – price, features, functionality, availability, etc. – are equal, the rest of this statement applies to you. It gets harder and harder to be unique in today’s business world. The rate at which someone can copy you and launch is astounding.

A killer unique selling proposition is wonderful if you have one, but most resort to something ambiguous like “we have great customer service” or “our quality” when asked what sets them apart. If the customer can’t immediately picture a comparison in their mind between your USP and that of your competitor, it’s back to the drawing board. If you’re still searching for that game-changing difference, all things are probably pretty equal and you can keep moving forward with this quote.

“People will do business with, and refer business to”
This part is simply the goal. You want people to do business with you and refer business to you. The rest of the quote is the roadmap to getting to this goal. Get customers, wow them and then get them to market for you because it’s cheaper than paying for every new customer. Pretty straight forward, let’s keep moving.

“People they know, like and trust”
I see a lot of people that do very well selling products on Amazon try to shift more of those sales to their website to avoid giving Amazon a percentage of every sale. Most of these endeavors fall flat. Why would they choose to shop at a site they’ve never heard of when they know Amazon will give them everything they want?

If you want someone to buy from you, instead of buying from a competitor, you have to build a relationship with them. They have to know you exist. Your brand’s personality – your image, message, voice, ethics, etc. – has to resonate with them, and they have to believe they can trust you.

Becoming known is pretty easy these days. You can network, run Google Display ads, engage in forums or social media conversations, get a billboard or a radio spot, or start a YouTube channel. If you show up where your market is, you can become a familiar name.

Becoming liked is not as easy. In fact, it’s not worth trying to get people to like you. All you can do is be true to yourself. Understand why your business exists, who you want to serve, what your values are and how you want to make a difference.

Once you know that, you can use it as a filter for how you operate and market your business. Odds are, there will be people that like your style and choose to do business with you.

Becoming trusted is the easiest part if you’re serving your market well. Just do a good job and treat them as valuable human beings. The trickier part is getting reviews, testimonials, case studies and referrals.

People are pretty distracted these days and we have to work harder to earn their time after helping them. Texting a short link to your Google reviews shortly after concluding business is a great way to increase your chances of scoring that social proof of their trust.

The universal marketing strategy
This principle of “know, like, trust,” as it’s known in the marketing world, is a universal framework for growing your business because it’s the pattern humans follow to build relationships.

Business is nothing more than a group of people building relationships predicated on the exchange of mutual value with other people. Marketing is just building more relationships with specific people.

If you want more business and more referrals, check each stage of this roadmap and find where you’re weakest.

Are you doing enough to become known by your target market? Are you being authentic in the way you present yourself? Are you pitching too early and making it all about you?

Have you collected reviews and testimonials to show your market that others trust you? Have you asked for referrals?

Focus on building relationships and your business will grow.

Ryan Baker is the vice president of digital strategy at 417 Marketing LLC. He’s a certified Google Ads specialist and a certified customer experience professional through the Customer Experience Professionals Association. He can be reached at


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