Businesses run on referrals. Just ask any business owner or salesperson what the number one source of new business is and you’re likely to hear some variation on the theme of referrals.
But, ask that same business owner, marketer or salesperson what they do to consistently generate referrals and you won’t hear much.
I’ve always struggled with this idea. It’s like knowing that your car needs gas, runs way better on gas, but then heading out on a long trip without any idea if there are any gas station along your route.
The fact that most referrals happen by accident leaves many business to conclude that the only way to get referrals is to sit and wait.
If you deserve referrals, because nothing I’m writing about here will change that reality if you don’t, you have every reason to make systematic referral generation a core marketing strategy and here’s how:
Target Your Sources – The first step in referral generation, heck in marketing, is to have a very clear understanding of what and who actually makes an ideal referral. If you don’t have a crystal clear understanding of this, how are you going explain to your referral sources how they might spot the perfect referral? This is the number one referral killer out there. If you can explain in sharp detail what a great referral looks like, it’s more likely that I’ll conjure up a list of several people that fit that exact picture – help me do that!
Educate Your Sources – Take the time to teach your best referral sources how to talk about your business in ways that spark interest and spell out the value of doing business with you. Single out every business that has ever referred a prospect and ask to meet with to teach them the value they’ve received and how and why to refer your business. Give them the actual words to use to describe what you do that’s ‘Wow’. Create marketing materials and tools for them to put in a referred prospect’s hands and show them exactly how you treat a referred lead when you get one.
Motivate Your Sources – You may find that offering cash rewards for referrals gets people motivated, but more often than not your customers, the ones that know your magic best, will be more motivated by a creative promotion that turns your referral program into a game for them, allows them to earn something worth more to them than cash (like free services or special perks) or acknowledges their contribution through charitable donations.
Reward Your Sources – Every business has those referral zealots. They can’t stop talking about your business to all they meet. Take those folks and give them a big hug, they are gold. Find ways to make them part of your team. Bring them into marketing conversations, put them on an informal advisory board and create special events for them. You will get referrals from rewarding this group than any other effort your might enact.
Get More Sources – The greatest overlooked referral opportunity lies in the development of a strategic referral network. Some businesses have a business here and there that they may trade leads or collaborate with on a pitch, but I’m talking about something far more integrated than that. Think in terms of building an entire team of best of class providers for every need your clients may have. The idea here it to turn yourself into the “go to” source for anything your clients need. Do you think that could make you more valuable to them?
The trick is to attract the right partners and this starts by asking your existing clients what other businesses should be on you team. Once you combine this information with your own observations, you can reach out to these businesses and ask them to teach you the best way to introduce them to your clients – I guarantee this will get their attention.
Ignite Your Sources – Once you get the attention of a handful of partners show them opportunities to benefit just by association. Interview them and place the video on your site, allow them to submit a guest blog post, offer them e-books you’ve produced and allow them to co-brand the content and distribute it, offer to do a free educational workshop on a hot topic for their clients, and create logical ways to start introducing them to your clients.
When you make these kinds of opportunities readily available to your partners you stand a far greater chance of gaining their trust and attention – just the kind of thing that will get you and your business intentionally referred to their entire customer community.
So, how do you engage with those customers that refer your business to their contacts?
Additionally join us for a live (free) webinar presented by the Verizon Small Business Center which will feature John as a guest presenter on Thursday, October 20 at 2 p.m. ET. This will be a great opportunity to ask John your questions. Click here to register (or go to http://www.brighttalk.com/channel/6255)
To win your free copy of The Referral Engine be one of the first 15 people to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org telling us you’d like a copy of John’s book. Of course, in the email, do share with us how you offer good service or what’s so loveable about your business as that’s one of the reasons people refer a business because they had a more than pleasant experience working with the business.
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