When these individuals or agencies propose your services to their friends and family, their peers and their own clients, you have achieved that Holy Grail of marketing … the word-of-mouth referral.
In addition to this, you benefit on several other levels:
- You become more credible in the eyes of your new client;
- Clients are more likely to be within your “ideal” client category, if you’ve presented your services correctly to the referrers;
- Less of an issue with cost as new clients attach a higher value to your services as they come with recommendations
However, referral – or word-of-mouth - marketing will only come about if you cultivate your relationships properly, and set high standards for your services from the start. Also ... it can help if you remember to ask these potential referrers to recommend you in the first place! This might seem obvious, but how often have you had a conversation with a potential referrer and come away from this without making that request … maybe because you thought it might be a little too forward … or you didn’t want to risk having them say no … or you think you’ll come across as desperate.
Don’t beat yourself up about it; we’ve all had these doubts. But, it is now time to take this bull by the horns and recognise that until you actually do the asking, some of your potential referrers may not actually realise that they could help you out in this way!
But, let’s take it as read that you are now of a mindset to do that ‘asking’ … what can you do to maximise the likelihood that you will bring people on board as cheerleaders for your services?
Firstly, as mentioned above, you need to ensure that you offer a top quality service from the start. Ask yourself what you would want from a service like yours? Now, ask yourself if you’re meeting those criteria. If yes, what more could you add to make your services even better value. If no, well, what do you need to do to bring things up to speed? At this stage, the ball is in your court, so what do you need to do to make your services the best you can get them.
Secondly, deliver that service. With every client or referrer contact, deliver your best service and value every time or work towards this. Your clients and referrers will recognise that you are doing all you can to deliver your best for them. This helps give them confidence that if they recommend your services to others, you will offer the same level of service to their friends, peers or clients.
Next, while you know who your ideal client might be, if you don’t tell your potential referrers what their characteristics might be, how can they know who to refer to you? So, tell them! One of my favourite authors on small business marketing, John Jantsch, even goes so far as to suggest that you create a simple guide for this purpose. This guide should:
- Explain What you Want - the type of referral you are looking for;
- Express Your Core Message - this is the essence of what you offer clients, e.g. relief from emotional distress; better parenting; children with confidence;
- Describe your Referral Process - what you do when a potential client first contacts you; how you move them through the early stages of working with you, the likely timescales for this. Referrers don’t want to point someone your way and then find out that they didn’t get a call-back or haven’t had their appointment confirmed yet; it makes them look bad, so be clear with them (and yourself) about how you will manage this process and build their confidence in your services further;
- Tell Them How They Refer – exactly what they need to do or say to someone they are recommending your services to, including the best way to begin the process (a telephone call, an email, a submission from the Contact Form on your website). Spell it out as simply as you can: “they can book a free consultation call with me at a time that suits them using the Call Me link on my website (supply web address!), or they can call my office directly on NUMBER”.
All of this is important, as this information will help your contacts know who to point your way, but in addition to this, I’ve added an additional element. I suggest that you also name names! Referrals and recommendations are all very well, but even better is having the opportunity to be personally introduced to a potential referral source. How good would it be to have someone who knows a key mover and shaker (in the company you want to get through the door of to pitch your services to) actually pass your name and number on personally to that person or, better yet, arrange a meeting and personally bring you together? The personal introduction and recommendation in this way adds so much more weight to your interactions, so these introductions could be priceless for your business. So why not ask for them?
Make it as easy as you can for your contacts to help you out. Give them the simplest of routes to your services and check with them if they need anything more from you to assist them.
With fellow professionals, a really powerful way of building these referral marketing relationships is to offer to refer potential clients their way first. Once you’ve created a guide to help them refer clients to you, as described above, cultivate the relationship even more by asking them to complete a version of the guide from their perspective* … telling you who they want to work with, etc., … so that you can guide ‘qualified’ referrals their way too. As you start to do this, and build their businesses too, how do you think this might reflect on your services and improve the likelihood that they will want to return the favour?
As referrals start coming through from these sources, don’t forget to acknowledge them. You don’t have to give them details, of course, but thank them for the recommendation. A call or an email expressing your gratitude can go a long way, and allows them to feel good about how they have helped you … which in turn will encourage them to do so again in the future.
Take these steps consistently and regularly, and you will have created a useful systematic referral system that is rooted in positive, mutually supportive relationships that will generate valuable word-of-mouth referrals for your business.
Okay, then … who are you going to call? And when are you going to start?
Here's to your success
Author: Colin Clerkin
* Download a free Preferred Referral Guide here and start to build your referral partners now!