How to Make Your Marketing Consulting Practice More Referable
Referrals are the lifeblood of any business. For B2B companies, 84 percent of decision makers will begin the buying process with a referral. But just because you know it’s important doesn’t mean you know how to execute it for your own business.
When you run an e-commerce shop, people can leave product reviews on your site. If you’re a restaurant or hair salon, people will post about you on Yelp. These are obviously not avenues that are available to the marketing consultant, so what can you do to make your practice more referable and get your good name out there?
Read on as we take a look at the ways to create a referral process that works for you and your business.
Simplify the Review Process
Most people who are happy with the service they received are very open to providing a positive review or passing your name along to a friend. This is particularly true in B2B, because your clients are business owners, too, and they understand how meaningful a referral or endorsement can be.
However, as a business owner, they’re also very busy and don’t have the time to jump through hoops to provide a referral. You need to make it as easy as possible for them to put in a good word on your behalf.
If you’re asking for a positive review, send an email with all of the pertinent information about how to do so. If you’re asking them to post a review online (which you should definitely be doing), provide them with the link to your Facebook page or the appropriate handle to use on Twitter or Instagram to tag your business. If you’re going to ask for an endorsement on LinkedIn, send the request through the site with a personalized message. If there is a form on your website for submitting feedback, keep it to the fewest possible number of fields and have it auto-populate as much information as you can.
Give Some Guidance
If you reach out to someone to ask for a review, you’ll want to provide a little insight into what specifically you were hoping they’d speak to. Sometimes a completely open prompt is overwhelming. On the flip side, you shouldn’t dictate the review word-for-word.
Let’s say you had a client who came to you with a rush job that you were able to turn around with lightning speed. You should feel comfortable saying something like, “I’m glad we were able to get that project completed for you in 24 hours and that you were happy with the results. I’d be so appreciative if you’d write a testimonial for my website that speaks to your experience working with us.” This lets them know that you’re hoping they’ll write about your responsiveness and turnaround time but stops short of writing the review for them.
Encourage Referrals Everywhere
There are some times when the referral ask is obvious. If you’ve just done a great job for a client, send them an email thanking them for their business, expressing an interest in working with them in the future, and asking them for a positive review.
Once someone becomes a client, though, you want to remain in regular contact with them anyway—to keep your business top of mind—so you should also be consistently reminding them about referrals. If you send a weekly email newsletter to clients and prospects, include a call to action button that invites them to forward your email on to a friend who might benefit from receiving it or joining your mailing list. Similarly, have a line in your email signature that reminds people to forward your information onto those who are looking for the type of marketing support you provide.
Look for Strategic Partnership Opportunities
A great resource for finding new business is fellow business owners. Obviously other marketing firms are your competition, but people who offer legal services, bookkeeping, or web design to small- and mid-sized businesses will have a client list that would be valuable for you to tap into.
I would recommend taking a systematic approach to developing a set of strategic partners: identifying prospective partners, reaching out, and establishing those relationships. Once you’ve gotten the first strategic partnership set up, it will be easier to replicate the process and to continue to grow this network.
Strategic partnerships really create a win-win situation. You are able to become the go-to source of information for your clients, referring them to other stellar business owners who can assist with their non-marketing needs. Your clients benefit from getting an easy referral to another great business. And you and your strategic partner get to create a symbiotic referral-generating system.
Create a Referral Marketing Program
Sometimes people need a little incentive to refer your business. Offering a perk to those who do refer you and help you secure new business might just be the extra little push that someone needs to keep you top of mind.
There is a right way and a wrong way to create a referral program. First thing’s first: you want to let people know the referral program exists and to offer meaningful rewards (they don’t have to be huge, but they do have to be beneficial) that will actually encourage your clients to take advantage of the program. Once you’ve let people know they can participate, you want to make it easy for them to do so by creating a clear and simple process for generating the referrals. Finally, you must be transparent about the way the system works for those providing referrals, those leads who come to you through the program, and your own employees.
The Follow Through is Key
If someone has taken the time to refer you to their friend or associate, you need to follow through. Reach out to the prospect in a timely manner, and be sure that you’re providing your highest level of service (which they’re expecting based on that glowing referral review). If you provide less-than-great service, you not only miss the referral opportunity for yourself, you also do damage to the relationship between the referrer and their friend. The prospect begins to wonder: if this shoddy work is what the referrer thinks of as amazing, what else are they wrong about? It’s important that you honor your relationship with your existing client by going the extra mile for anyone they refer.
You also want to be sure to reach out to your existing client to thank them for the referral. They went out of their way to float your name out there to someone new, and if you send a thoughtful, personalized email or give them a call to say thanks, they’ll be that much more likely to refer you again in the future.
Establishing a simple and repeatable process for generating referrals is crucial for any marketing consultant. A strong referral business will ensure your success, not just today, but well into the future.