Nigel Temple

Nigel Temple

Within the Compass Points newsletter, I will be sending you marketing tips and ideas to help you to grow your business. We also share and discuss marketing ideas within our website.

How to generate more referrals – the magic of advocates

~ By Nigel Temple, Founder of The Marketing Compass ~

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. Few (if any) hands are raised. Here are some ideas for generating more referrals, based on the power of advocacy.

A few of your customers, a larger percentage of your (regular) 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. They enjoy the act of recommendation.

The challenge is that you may not know who 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 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 give them a gift, in order to reinforce their behaviour.  This could be a small, thoughtful gift, sent 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. Few of them do it with the expectation of pecuniary gain. The key thing is to thank them personally. When the opportunity arises, return the favour.

Within your sales and marketing database (hands up if you have one!), 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 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 say that you 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 newsletter.

I remember once being in a client’s office. They were saying how happy they were with my marketing consultancy service. One of the directors said:

“Actually, Mr Smith at one of our clients 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 and we worked together for several years.

Some homework for you

  • Write down the names of your advocates
  • 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.