Are Your Referrals Lonely?

For most professional service providers, referrals are the difference between a real, prospering business and a hobby. And for good reason. Referrals pre-sell the customer, shorten the selling cycle and increase your odds of winning the business by a large margin. In fact, referrals are so good that most professionals depend almost exclusively on them as both their marketing and business development strategy. And during good years, they even got a little uppity about it. “Oh, I don’t need to market myself, I just provide great work and my clients constantly refer me to their friends and colleagues.”

Yeah, not so much anymore. Times have changed and my once-uppity colleagues have subdued, because depending on referrals alone is no longer a sound strategy (if it ever was). More is needed to produce stable and sustainable results. But the mentality of leaning on referrals is so ingrained that it’s a struggle for many people to get outside their comfort zones. Plus, it’s hard to know where to begin.

So, here are six mix-and-match actions and activities to consider. They range from super easy to a bit more demanding, but all can help keep your referral “strategy” from getting lonely.

Baby Steps

Widen Your Network – increasing your circle of potential influencers is still a referral-based approach, so you won’t be too far out of your comfort zone. But you will have to go to new places, meet new people, and follow up with those with whom you’ve made a real connection, regardless of their business. Nurture the relationship. Anytime a true connection has been established, a potential influencer is born or a new friend is made. I’ve recently gotten two of my biggest pieces of business from new friends I’ve made that I never would have considered “influencers” because their businesses are completely unrelated. But hey, they have other friends too!

Add Value to Your Website – If the only thing you’ve got on your website to offer your potential new customer is to “sign up for our newsletter,” you’re missing the boat. Does she really need another newsletter? Or is there something far more valuable you might offer. The results of a survey you’ve taken in your industry? A free how-to video that will measurably improve her business? You don’t even have to get out of your office to add this element to the mix. And by the way, if your website is more than 4 years old, it’s time for an update. There’s nothing like a tired website to make a potential new client yawn and keep searching. By offering them something of value in exchange for an email, you now have the name and contact information of someone who has self-selected as a qualified prospect. Now you can nurture and care for them until they are purchase-ready.

Toddler Jumps

Write – Write about the obstacles your industry faces and the successes you’ve had (as well as the lessons you’ve learned) – in articles, on your own blog, via press releases — wherever you can! Writing increases your subject matter expertise and lets your potential audience hear your voice and get to know how you think. People buy from people they know, like and trust. By reading what you write, they really get to know you and can readily decide if they like and trust you.

Add Video – Add video testimonials to your website. They are a great way for new people to quickly get to know you better. Think about it; isn’t it great when one of your raving fans introduces you to someone else? They go on and on about how wonderful you are and that they couldn’t have done (insert your skill here) without you? There is nothing sweeter. And with a video testimonial it doesn’t have to be done in person! By adding real people talking in their own way about how you helped them, your credibility shines through their voice.

Big Girl Strides

Speak – Getting in front of your best possible matches and being seen as an expert in your field is a great way to increase your brand recognition. Make sure you save time and create opportunities for the audience members to talk to you afterward. Don’t run out the door like you’re a celebrity! Like writing, speaking is a way to give people a first-hand experience of what working with you is really like, so don’t deprive people of your brilliance! You don’t have to be a professional, just be your well-prepared self and speak of what you know and love. You can’t find a better way to connect with your potential customers.

Author – Writing a book or publishing a paper takes quite an effort. You’ll need support, diligence and focused attention, but the rewards can be worth it. Talk to other authors about how they were able to leverage their books and what they might do differently before you embark on this effort; but don’t dismiss the opportunity. Imagine what it might feel like to have the description “best selling author” next to your name. You’ll go from credible to celebrit-able!

Referrals are wonderful, and you should treat them with all the care and attention they deserve. But, at some point, businesses cannot thrive by referral alone. Don’t wait until your referral sources dry up before you take action. Support those referrals with these added elements and oh, by the way, watch your referrals increase at the same time!

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