They say that if you want to be successful, you should find a successful person and learn everything you can about what made them successful. That’s just what Bill Murphy, Jr., did in an Inc.com article, “Angie Hicks Shares Her Secrets Of Success.” Angie Hicks is the Angie from Angie’s List, the marketing and community-based reputation list business people refer to before hiring tradespeople, contractors or a number of other services in their cities. She was also the keynote speaker at the National Small Business Week in Washington, DC.
The best way to build sales is by referrals, and Angie's List has become the mega-referral list people trust. If you have a small business, you want to be on this list and protect your good reputation and recommendation. A true success story, Angie’s List has been around for 18 years and is on the Fortune 500 List.
In the Inc.com interview, Hicks said it pays to start early. A college student with a less than impressive resume, she capitalized on an internship, did a good job, and was hired by her now partner in Angie’s List. With a tough job market, it pays to find ways to get close to a successful mentor. Internships, paid or unpaid, can put young workers in positions with major companies or expose them to higher levels of an organization than they would through an entry-level position.
Angie’s List is a referral business. Customers expect to have a referral on the types of business they need. In the early years, Hicks faced callers who wanted a referral for a business that didn’t yet have any reviews. Instead of turning down customers, she would tell them she would go out and find some companies and referrals to meet their needs. Get out and talk to customers. Don’t be afraid to go out, pick up the phone or send out an email blast to get what you need for customers.
Know your strengths and find others to complete the picture. Hicks sees herself as doer, not a visionary. Entrepreneurs often gravitate to people who share their vision, work style, background, personality, etc. That can leave big talent “holes” in the business. All that creativity can be great, but someone has to get the work done.
Hicks said that you need to pick a good name. It’s not all that easy. One choice for their company, “The List,” sounded a little militant. People relate to names. The name has to fit the business and make customers feel good about doing business with you. The name “Angie’s List” sounds like you’re calling a neighbor or friend to ask if she knows a good plumber or hair stylist. The business has a community feeling, with referrals within communities.
Angie’s List is a business of communications, and Hicks encourages business to talk to their customers. In fact, the biggest complaint about businesses is they don’t communicate with their customers. It’s not enough to ask customers to complete a survey on your website, or pass out a customer service comment card. Businesses need a communication system that encourages customers to talk to service deliverers, and a method to get customer comments in front of those who can act on them. Customers give important feedback, but it may never get to those who can make the necessary changes.
The last tip is--keep evolving. Angie’s List doesn’t allow anonymous reviews. They are focused on the high cost of poor service providers. If a home repair is done by an incompetent or careless service provider, costs can escalate. Angie’s List is expanding the types of businesses they review, since customer’s needs are changing. Listening to customers and fiercely protecting the trust and reliability of their service is their key to an ever expanding customer base who just wants to hire the best.
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