A few weeks ago, I was up way too early on a Sunday morning, as I normally am when my daughters force me from my bed. I flipped on Your Business on MSNBC and a business consultant was answering questions submitted by viewers.
One viewer said her company prepared legal documents and she wasn’t getting results from advertising on Google and Yelp. She was looking for ways to grow her business.
The consultant responded with something that I didn’t expect from a consultant. She said that she would need to know more about the woman’s business, audience and goals before making specific recommendations, but Yelp didn’t seem like the right fit.
She said that you would have to earn someone’s trust before they hire you to prepare legal documents. Instead of investing time and money into advertising, she suggested using those resources to build the company’s referral network.
Think about networking events that would enable you to connect with attorneys, accountants, financial advisors, mortgage lenders or anyone else who would need legal documents prepared. Approach networking strategically to build relationships and expand the company’s referral network.
Make no mistake about it. Referral marketing is critical to business growth, but often overlooked and misused.
When I say “misused,” I mean that most professionals only think about getting referrals instead of giving them. If it’s all take and no give, your referral partners won’t be referral partners for long.
Sometimes referrals fall onto your lap. If someone comes right out and says, “I need a new accountant” and you have a relationship with an accountant, your job is easy.
Suppose you hear someone telling a story about how his wife is in the hospital after some jerk who wasn’t paying attention knocked her down while backing out of a parking spot at the mall on Black Friday. If you know a personal injury attorney, your job is easy.
Of course, if you want to seal the deal for your referral partner, you won’t just hand someone a business card or give them a phone number.
Make an email introduction. This way, you have a record of the referral. Include both your referral partner and the referral. You’ll already have given both people a heads up, but remind everyone of the specific problem and solution in your email. Validate your relationship with your referral partner and give them an endorsement.
After you hit “send,” leave it to the two of them to connect, but follow up in a few days to make sure they do.
Sometimes a good referral isn’t easy to spot. But an effective referral partner will listen for triggers that may not be so obvious.
For example, my referral partners know to listen for statements like these:
- I hate my website.
- My brochure is ancient.
- I haven’t updated my blog in months.
- It takes me all day to write a (fill in the blank).
- People are going to my website but we’re not getting any calls.
The response isn’t always as simple as, “Do you need a content writer?” Most people don’t realize they need a writer. They can’t tell good content from bad, and because they know how to type, they can write their own content. Or so they think.
The Half-Court Shot
The secret is to respond to those triggers with questions that get the potential referral to state a problem that can be solved by your referral partner. After all, the first step to solving a problem is recognizing that the problem exists.
I write four blog posts a month for one of my clients, as well as white papers and other content as needed. During my weekly BNI meeting, one of my referral partners mentioned how he digs deep into analytics, beyond superficial metrics like opens and clicks, to find out what parts of your marketing are working, how many leads are being produced, where exactly those leads are coming from, etc.
I could have just asked my client, “Do you need someone to help you with analytics?” But I think we know what the answer would have been.
Instead, I asked how the blog posts were performing. I asked if there was any blog post, or type of post, that was performing better than others.
My client said they were very happy with the blog posts, and they were getting great feedback.
I said, “That’s great, and I’m glad everyone is happy. But how are you tracking and measuring their performance?”
My client said, “Well, we look at some basic numbers, but nothing too deep. We probably should look at the analytics more closely.”
That was the opening I needed.
Knowing my client is a one-person marketing department and barely has time to breathe, I mentioned my referral partner. I said exactly what he said during our networking meeting and offered to make an introduction.
She said, “Definitely, that would be great. I constantly get calls and emails from people selling their services, but I’d much rather work with someone you would personally recommend.”
I made the email introduction and they spoke later that week. They agreed that it would be best to circle back after the holidays, but the connection has been made and they’re on each other’s radar.
Not only have I passed an excellent referral to someone who has done the same for me, but I’ve strengthened my relationship with my client by helping her do her job more effectively. Win-win-win.
That’s the givers gain philosophy, as they say in BNI. It’s also being a good referral partner by doing some investigative work to find leads for others when the lead isn’t a slam dunk.
Prioritize referral marketing, and prioritize finding referrals for others. It’s good business, and it’s the right thing to do.
Merry Christmas, and all the best in 2017!