By Martha Spelman

We’ve all heard the line: “I really don’t market – my work comes from referrals.”

Three times in the last week, I’ve had meetings in which the business owner said, “My company used to survive on ‘word-of-mouth’ and now, that’s not happening.” Friends of friends, client referrals or industry colleagues — used to fuel their work pipeline. The business owners I spoke with hadn’t been executing an active marketing strategy but still the phone rang; somebody had always knocked on their door.

Apparently that is no longer the case. The referrals have stopped. And with no other marketing plan in place, the well is running dry.

There are several reasons that your referrals might have slowed down or stopped (aside from your work or product quality heading severely downhill…which is doubtful):

  • The economy is down and your previous referral sources aren’t getting work or coming in contact with potential clients to send your way
  • Your referral sources stopped networking, marketing their business or cultivating new clients (some of whom used to get passed to you)
  • Your source has moved to a new job or has retired and no longer has clients or projects to offer
  • On the two-way street of business referrals, you haven’t been doing your part; no referrals going out — and sooner or later — no referrals in

For any business, it is imperative to ALWAYS BE MARKETING. Market when you’re not busy but especially when you are…because inevitably, the calm comes after the storm.

Craft a marketing strategy — and stick to it. The marketing plan you develop will depend on the type of product or service you provide, the profile of your ideal client and what their needs are, and your resources — including human, financial and time. Your strategy could include an updated website, a press release announcing a newsworthy company event, content marketing that includes a weekly business blog and email blast or monthly newsletter, becoming active in an industry networking group, attendance at events frequented by your target audience, speaking engagements, social media updates, etc.

Keep the pipeline open…once that well of potential clients and referrals runs dry, it’s tough to get the work flowing again.

Martha Spelman is a branding and marketing consultant with extensive experience and expertise in starting, running, marketing and selling businesses. She emphasizes developing a strong visual and verbal branding message and a marketing strategy that creatively utilizes effective design and content marketing. Email Martha: or visit:

Photo Courtesy: Martha Spelman