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In this blog we’ll discuss how to get more referrals…

Nigel Temple presenting at an Ecademy event in central London

Nigel Temple holds up a marketing seminar audience

When I ask my seminar audiences whether they like referrals, the room becomes a forest of raised hands. I then ask the audience to describe the systems they use to create more referrals. Interestingly, few, if any, hands are raised. Here are some practical tips and ideas on how to get more referrals – based on the power of advocacy. A few of your customers, a larger percentage of your clients and some of your (non-client) friends will become advocates. These are the people who recommend you. They are worth their weight in gold. Some 5% of people are natural advocates (i.e. 1 in 20). They simply enjoy the act of recommendation.

The challenge is that you may never know who all your advocates are – unless you start asking the following question (in response to a sales enquiry): “I wonder how you found us?”

The rule is: always try to find out where sales enquiries come from. If the lead is from an advocate, ensure that you thank them. In this electronic age, this may be via email. However, because advocates are so important, a nice touch is to send them a personal, handwritten note. A speedy way of doing this is to use postcards.

You may also wish to offer them a gift (in order to reinforce their behaviour). For example, you could offer to buy them lunch. Alternatively, send them a small, thoughtful gift in the post.

Money – that’s what I want!
I am often asked whether you should offer money to advocates. Interestingly, this may put people off, as it seems like a bribe. Sure – it would work if we are talking about a commercial relationship (such as a distributorship). But that is not advocacy. That’s ‘channel marketing’.

Advocates recommend you because they enjoy doing so. Very few of them do it with the expectation of pecuniary gain. The key thing is to always thank them personally. When the opportunity arises, return the favour.

Within your sales and marketing database (you do have one, don’t you?), create a field entitled ‘Advocate’. Whenever you find that a customer, client or contact has recommended you, ensure that you make a note in this field. Alternatively, you could of course make a list of advocates; however, the database idea means that you can keep your list of advocates up-to-date and also find them easily (lists get mislaid).

Start to talk about referrals early on in the customer / client relationship cycle. Assume that people want to ‘spread the word’ about you. After all, you offer great product(s) / service(s) don’t you?

When the time is right, ask for referrals. Alternatively, if you / your colleagues find this difficult – use a client satisfaction form, which includes space for two referrals. (Some people will ask if they can give you more than two referrals).

You should encourage clients and third parties to recommend you. After a ‘job well done’, most people will be delighted to make a recommendation. However, they may well be ‘backward in coming forward’. The answer is to tell them that you always welcome referrals, along the lines of: “Tell me, who else do you know who would like to hear about our work? If you can give me some names, we will write to them.”

Once you have an introduction, put the details into your marketing database. You can then send an introductory letter / emails – or call them if it is a ‘hot’ lead. You can also ask if they would like to receive your ezine.

I remember once being in a client’s offices. They were saying how happy they were with my marketing consultancy service. One of the directors said: “Actually, a friend of mine who runs his own business was talking about marketing just the other day.” “Do you have his phone number?” I asked. “Sure I do,” my client said. “Would you like me to call him?” “That would be great,” I replied. “While we’re talking about it, why not try and reach him right now? I’ve got my diary with me.”

The result was that he called and put in a good word for me. He then passed the phone over and a meeting was arranged there and then. As I had been recommended in this way, the client was quite happy to give me a try (we ended up working together for several years).

Some homework for you
* Write down the names of your advocates. (Pat yourself on the back if you already have this information, as a separate field within your sales and marketing database)
* Reflect on how you can thank them, for their gift of advocacy.
* Start to use some of the ideas we have just discussed
* Consider what else you can do for your advocates – to encourage them to keep on recommending you.

Oh, and by the way, by all means recommend this blog / The Marketing Compass – we really appreciate your help!

If you have any questions on how to get more referrals, just ask!

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