I’ve found myself talking a lot about referrals over the last few weeks. And that’s because I’ve found myself talking to a lot of business people who want to grow business.
Here’s what I find interesting about the whole topic.
- If I ask 100 people to tell me the most common way they get new clients, 99 of them will tell me referrals.
- Yet, the same 99 out of 100 will tell me that they’re not doing all they should to get more referrals.
Oh, they’re marketing. For sure. They’re investing in social media, email marketing, direct mail, SEO / PPC, blogging, and more. And yet, their top answer to where they get most of their new business is referrals… which doesn’t align with where they are spending their resources.
It’s like they’re shooting an arrow blindly over a wall with the hopes of hitting a target on the other side.
Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against any of those marketing tactics, but doing them with the “hope” of landing clients when the majority of your clients come in through referrals just doesn’t make sense to me.
If you are one of the 99 above, I want to share some thoughts with you that just might save you some time, money and headaches.
See, the key to getting more referrals is to put resources in getting more referrals. (duh, Matt.) But hey, someone has to say it out loud.
I’ve boiled it down to 4 basic things. The four “Be’s” if you will. And if you will just do these four things in a strategic way on a regular basis, you will be shocked at how easy new business comes along.
Here they are.
1.) Be Referral Ready
I’m always surprised by the number of people who are not ready to get referrals — meaning, they are not ready to fulfill the promise that was made by their referral partner. Often this means that your marketing tools (such as your website, social media, etc) are not up to par, and therefore do not appropriately represent the work you do or what you know. Or you are not able to deliver the experience you intend for every client to have. Maybe you are not ready to follow up, or you are not able to handle more business.
Two quick stories to illustrate this.
I had a friend who asked me to recommend a landscaping company to him and of course I recommended one where I knew the owner well. I knew he did good work and was reasonably priced. The first thing my friend did was check out his website, and 5 minutes after that, I got a call from him. “Matt, are you sure you gave me the right guy? This landscaper’s website looks like he does this work part-time and he has no good pictures of his work.”
I immediate called this business owner and told him the feedback I received. It made me look bad and to this day, I’ve not found myself giving him another referral.
Story number 2, a friend (we’ll call her “Stacy”) opened a new business and I tried to referral her some people to get things going. After I sent her 3 referrals, I checked on one of them three weeks later and found that she had not returned their call. When I called Stacy to ask about it, she said, “Yeah, I got too busy and haven’t gotten to it.”
Again, “Stacy” wasn’t referral ready.
Point of the story is this, if you are marketing your business and want to grow, the first thing you need to do is to get yourself and your business referral ready.
2.) Be Prepared to Ask for Referrals
So who is MOST likely to refer you? It’s someone who knows, likes, and trusts you. But so often we spend our marketing resources reaching out to people who do not know, like or trust us. This is a long process and is fundamentally the reason why we don’t see as much success from social media, direct mail and the like.
But take a look at your current relationships. Do you have people you know that you can pick up the phone and say, “We’ve known each other a long time, and you know what problems I solve for people. Can you think of someone you can introduce me to that I can help? Or better yet, do you know someone that may know a lot of people I can help in this way?”
Of course you do! We all know people like that!
The key though is being strategic about using those relationships as well as how we build more. That’s what I mean by being prepared to ask for referrals.
Do this for me:
Go into your LinkedIn profile and view all of your connections. Spend an afternoon putting your contacts into 4 buckets:
- People who know me and my relationship with them is so good that I can pick up the phone and ask for referrals.
- People who know me, and I would pick up the phone and call them, but we are not at a place in our relationship where I would feel comfortable asking for a referral.
- People who “kinda” know me, but the relationship has waned, due to time or circumstances, and I’m not sure I could even pick up the phone and call them at this point.
- People who I no longer could help, and they no longer could help me.
Now that you have your contacts in these buckets, you need to develop a strategy to move people toward bucket 1. This could be different for each bucket. Maybe with people in bucket 2, you need to ask them to meet for coffee or find ways to refer them. Maybe bucket 3 you should watch their social media and congratulate or comment on their posts to rekindle your relationship.
With each effort, the purpose is to move them toward bucket 1 (and if you don’t feel comfortable asking people in bucket one for help, then they really aren’t in bucket 1).
Being prepared to ask for referrals means you are growing a network of people who know, like and trust you and are ready to lend their hand when you ask them.
3.) Be Proactive in Asking for Referrals
So many people have a big group in bucket 1, but don’t bother asking them for referrals. This is like having your star player sitting on the bench! Reach out to them and tell them what you need. So many of them would love to help you.
Here’s an example:
I recently had a conversation with a friend in bucket 1. He said, “of course I will refer you. But I don’t know anyone who needs your help.”
So what I did was write a simple message for him to send to his connections. It read something like this:
Hello everyone. I wanted to reach out to tell you about a friend of mine. He owns a marketing firm and he does great work! He’s waiting on a new project to start next month and has a gap to fill. He told me that if there are any of my friends who needed help with a small marketing project that I could promise them he would give them a huge deal! So if any of you have been sitting on a project like a new website, or a new brochure, or need a logo update, etc. let me know and I would love to introduce you to him.
My friend got three responses to this social media post and I got two new clients.
The interesting thing is that my friend was more than willing to help, but he didn’t know which of his friends needed the help! We’re all like that. So help your bucket 1 referral partners help you, just like I did.
4.) Be Appreciative and Follow Through
And when someone gives you a referral, gush on them with appreciation. Show them what it means to you. Send them something little as a sign of your appreciation, even if it’s just a card.
In addition, keep your referral partner informed throughout the process. Let them know that you followed up on the referral. Let them know that you met, and most importantly, let them know when their help has led to new business for you!
They will be much more inclined to do more of it when you show them it matters to you.
The main thing to remember is that people hire people to solve problems for them. So when you’re “marketing” to educate and create awareness to new clients, recognize that better results come when the message is delivered by a person rather than a “company”. This is especially true in B2B businesses.
Focus on getting more referrals and you’ll be surprised at how much more efficient and effective your marketing can “be”.