The bane of my existence is dog hair. To be specific, Sheltie dog hair. I have two Sheltie dogs. Shelties are “doubled coated,” meaning they have long flowing hair, requiring a pro to wash, trim and fluff on a regular basis, and a short undercoat. Shelties shed. Constantly. In the spring, they shed their undercoat. It’s called “blowing coat.”

My dog, Sasha, getting final touch ups after his fluff and buff.

My dog, Sasha, getting final touch ups after his fluff and buff.

As a consequence, I don’t have dog hair all over my house. I have tumbleweeds of dog hair. Everywhere.

So when the woman who does my nails started talking about vacuum cleaners one Saturday, my ears perked up. I’ve been wanting to replace my 16+-year old suck-up-the-dirt-and-then-blow-it-back-out-into-the-air vacuum cleaner for a while but hadn’t begun the research process.

My nail tech, Heather, brought up vacuum cleaners because she came home recently to find her husband with two unknown people in the living room — sales people who were planning on doing a demo of a Kirby vacuum cleaner.

Heather, as a matter of fact, had purchased a Dyson vacuum and told the Kirby people they had to leave.

She explained to me why she bought the Dyson: “Oh my gosh,” she said, “I showed my husband why we needed it by vacuuming our carpet. He couldn’t believe how much dirt it sucked up out of a supposedly clean carpet. We were appalled we were letting our daughter play on it — it was disgusting!”

Heather, I might add, is a neat freak. Her house is spotless. So if she said the vacuum was sucking dirt out of a clean carpet, then it had to be a great vacuum.

As she was talking, another of the nail techs walked over — this one a twenty-something with tattoos and gauges. “The Dyson? OMG, get one. Don’t look at the price. Just buy it. I have two dogs and bought the Animal model — pricey but so worth it.”

“I use Swiffer cloths,” I said.

“Phhhht,” she said, rolling her eyes. “Get the Dyson. You’ll never look back.”

So I did. Later that day, I drove to Home Depot, and after some internal debate, I bought a Dyson (yes, the Animal model). Then I came home and started vacuuming. Three hours and six canisters of dirt and dog hair later, I stood in my dog hair- and dust-free house. Nirvana!

Offline still drives online

While vacuuming, I thought about the process of how word-of-mouth drove my purchase. What I love about this whole process was that it didn’t start online. It didn’t start with a website or a Tweet or my seeing a friend “Like” a Page.

It started with a casual conversation — which is how word-of-mouth works and which is what social media replicates.

But here’s the thing: Social media is wonderful and an important part of the marketing mix. But word-of-mouth offline marketing still works, too. Within roughly three minutes, two women whom I trust endorsed one product, endorsements which resulted in a sale. Can’t beat that! 🙂

And, because offline still works (and quite well), it’s important that you integrate offline with your online marketing (e.g. your website). Before I drove to Home Depot to purchase my vacuum, I went to the Dyson site and read all about the company, its products and its story, and liking what I read, I bought the vacuum. (Telling your story is another post altogether.)

Takeaways for small manufacturers

Offline word-of-mouth still works — No matter where I go and what size company I work with, I hear the same thing: referrals still drive a boatload of business. Don’t discount it — which brings up my second point.

Reward people for referring you — One way to increase the number of offline referrals is to reward people who refer you. I personally send Starbucks or iTunes gift cards plus a thank you note for any referral. If the referral becomes a gig, I send an even nicer gift. (I also keep track of the connections between referrals and referees inside Nimble, my CRM — this way I know who are my best referees.)

Keep track of how people find you — One question I ask every new client is, “Do you keep track of how people find you?” Usually, the answer is “No.” For small businesses, keeping track of how people find you is really important as it lets you know which marketing tactics work. It also lets you know who is talking about you offline.

You can keep track any number of ways. If someone answers your phones, have him or her keep a sheet of paper nearby and when new people call, simply ask, “How did you hear about us?” Write down the answers and within 30 days you’ll have a pretty good idea of where your leads come from offline. Online you can add a field to your Website form — “How did you hear about us?” as well as use tracking software. Or if people email you, return the email and then ask, “By the way, how did you hear about us?”

Keep your website up-to-date — Nothing is worse than having a prospect, who has been referred to you, come to your site and finding it out-dated or worse, broken. (In fact, I recently visited a site of a prospect and when I told him it was broken, his response was, “Really? I never visit my site.” Oh dear.)

Visit your site on a regular basis. Make sure the navigation works. Keep information up-to-date. Test forms and other functions. Fix anything that’s broken.

As an aside, over the summer I bought two Vornado fans while standing in the aisle at Home Depot. Why? The product packaging had a call-to-action URL that took me to a great customer testimonial page that I read via my iPhone. Sold!

What do you think? Do you have a good story of how an offline referral drove a purchase? Or, do you have a good Dyson story? Please share!

  • I’m most shocked that you vacuumed for three hours. When I moved, I couldn’t believe how dirty my house was. I have two Japanese Chins. Great illustration of on- and offline marketing. 🙂

    • Suzanne — I hadn’t vacuumed like that in a long time because I’m serious when I said that my old vacuum was spewing the dirt back into the air. It was a very old vacuum. It was amazing how CLEAN my house felt and looked after.

    • Suzanne — I hadn’t vacuumed like that in a long time because I’m serious when I said that my old vacuum was spewing the dirt back into the air. It was a very old vacuum. It was amazing how CLEAN my house felt and looked after.

  • A great way to get word of mouth referrals is to attend an industry trade show. Better yet, see if there are speaking opportunities. In doing so you expose your website to possibly hundreds of attendees, and these people are going to be more inclined to visit your site because they have made a face to face connection with you and with your business/brand.

    • Yes — absolutely. In fact, I just passed on a great gig to a colleague (it was more in line with her work than mine). I got called in by the CEO because someone he knew had heard me speak. Amazing how all this stuff works. 🙂

  • A great way to get word of mouth referrals is to attend an industry trade show. Better yet, see if there are speaking opportunities. In doing so you expose your website to possibly hundreds of attendees, and these people are going to be more inclined to visit your site because they have made a face to face connection with you and with your business/brand.

    • Yes — absolutely. In fact, I just passed on a great gig to a colleague (it was more in line with her work than mine). I got called in by the CEO because someone he knew had heard me speak. Amazing how all this stuff works. 🙂

  • I had my dog for almost 5 years before I married my wife 3 years ago. She’s a cat person, and a neat-freak. She’s constantly on my case about my Lab/setter cross’s hair.

    When we open the doors (now that we have some warm weather here in Ecuador, the hair starts its tumbleweed impersonation and ends up right where my wife can see it. And be upset about it.

    So, while the hair doesn’t bother me, I think a good vacuum is definitely in order, especially for MY sanity.

    Thanks for the ONline referral!

    • Jeff — ha! So glad you understood the tumbleweeds reference. 🙂

  • I had my dog for almost 5 years before I married my wife 3 years ago. She’s a cat person, and a neat-freak. She’s constantly on my case about my Lab/setter cross’s hair.

    When we open the doors (now that we have some warm weather here in Ecuador, the hair starts its tumbleweed impersonation and ends up right where my wife can see it. And be upset about it.

    So, while the hair doesn’t bother me, I think a good vacuum is definitely in order, especially for MY sanity.

    Thanks for the ONline referral!

    • Jeff — ha! So glad you understood the tumbleweeds reference. 🙂

  • Nancy Passow

    We’ve been through multiple vacuum cleaners over the past few years — my husband never liked any of them. They were hard to push, they didn’t pick up the dirt, etc., etc. Plus we have two cats.

    There was a vacuum cleaner discussion on one of my Facebook groups and everyone said, if you can afford it, get a Dyson. I was trying to justify the expense and then, for the Black Friday sales, Lowe’s was giving 25% off Dyson. I was able to order on-line for in-store pick up and then didn’t go in to pick it up until the following Monday (avoiding the crowds). We didn’t get the animal one, but even my husband likes the one we got. It definitely works better than any vacuum cleaner we’ve had before.

    • Nancy — How wonderful, a 25% discount. It wasn’t easy paying as much as I did for the vacuum, but the one thing I’ve learned is that buying the best is never a mistake. It is a wonderful vacuum! So well designed.

  • Nancy Passow

    We’ve been through multiple vacuum cleaners over the past few years — my husband never liked any of them. They were hard to push, they didn’t pick up the dirt, etc., etc. Plus we have two cats.

    There was a vacuum cleaner discussion on one of my Facebook groups and everyone said, if you can afford it, get a Dyson. I was trying to justify the expense and then, for the Black Friday sales, Lowe’s was giving 25% off Dyson. I was able to order on-line for in-store pick up and then didn’t go in to pick it up until the following Monday (avoiding the crowds). We didn’t get the animal one, but even my husband likes the one we got. It definitely works better than any vacuum cleaner we’ve had before.

    • Nancy — How wonderful, a 25% discount. It wasn’t easy paying as much as I did for the vacuum, but the one thing I’ve learned is that buying the best is never a mistake. It is a wonderful vacuum! So well designed.