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In a recent conversation with one of our Solution Providers, we chatted about Super Bowl advertising and the fact that one 30-second ad cost between $3.8 and $4 million this year.

We agreed that while this type of marketing is only used by behemoth brands, sometimes it’s fun to imagine a small business having an ad splashed across millions of viewers’ TV sets at the same time.

As most marketing consultants know, just because thousands, if not millions, of people see an advertisement, this doesn’t mean they’ll become customers. Rather, you rely primarily on word of mouth to grow your business, as do most of your customers.

After all, referrals are the warmest leads you get and are the most reliable method for growing a business. So when looking to take your business to the next level, the question really is, how do you market effectively to create positive word of mouth that leads to those valuable referrals?

The key to building a small business—whether it’s a marketing consultancy or a bakery—is to flip the funnel from marketing to the masses to engaging current customers through a simple, three-step process using email and social media.

Engagement: a simple three-step process

The first step is to ask the customer’s permission to add them to the email list and also make it easy for them to subscribe. The second step is to create email newsletters with compelling content that balances relevant and interesting information with valuable offers. The third step comes within those newsletters, when you add a social sharing toolbar.

Now a common question at this point is “how do I create compelling content?” By compelling, we mean that it’s fresh, speaks to the interests of the audience, and provides some value. It’s not strictly a sales tool. If your expertise is in website development, you could send an e-newsletter to your subscribers that highlights top considerations for choosing website colors, or if you’re on the sales side, offer tips on selecting a sales analytics tool.

When you freely share your insight and it improves a reader’s life in one small way, you’ll be seen as a go-to expert that caters to your customers’ needs. This drives engagement. And when you consistently deliver great content, inspired readers will take action by forwarding and sharing it via email and social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

Essentially, think of email and social media as ways to amplify word-of-mouth marketing, thanks to the “forward” and “social sharing” buttons.

Benefits of Engagement Marketing

The process of engagement helps you learn more about your customers’ interests, by tracking which articles are being read and which offers were redeemed. Based on this information, you can continue to tailor the content you send them, resulting in even higher readership and social sharing, as well as repeat business and referrals.

Along with the benefits cited above, email and social media marketing takes less time, money, and energy than more traditional marketing, and creates opportunities for authentic conversations with customers.

Now that you know flipping the funnel fosters stronger ties to existing customers, attracts qualified referrals, and successfully grows your business, why not pass it on?