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I would like to share a disturbing little secret with you. Almost seventy percent of the people you do face-to-face business with will never speak to you again.
It’s not that they didn’t like you or get value from your services they just don’t care. They’ve got other things on their mind. The kids need new clothes, the toilet needs repairing and the cars making that strange knocking sound again and of course there is big report due tomorrow. These are the things that take up your customer’s bandwidth. They haven’t thought about you since you last spoke to them weeks ago.
Why wouldn’t they think about you? Didn’t you do a good job? Were you not friendly and professional? They didn’t seem upset with you. As the available research suggests its not that they don’t like you but rather they have just forgotten you. They have other things on their minds and there wasn’t any good reason to think about you. By the way, the research I read indicated that only about eight percent of customers would be dissatisfied with what they received.
I recently worked with a company that has worked with over 3,000 clients in the past 3 years. In this same period they have never sent out a card, email or direct mail piece to these past customers. What is really interesting is that they get almost half of their new business from referrals. So why are they not reminding happy, satisfied customers that they are still around and looking to make happier, more satisfied customers? The answer is simply that they are too busy managing the day-to-day business that they don’t have time to create clever correspondence to reach out to the customers. Instead they spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on expensive advertising to get the attention of potential customers. It’s much easier to call up the Yellow Pages and place a year of ads than it is to create a meaningful relationship campaign. Relationship building campaigns take time and energy. Something we often don’t have much of once the daily workload has been taken care of.
In the professional services industries, including coaching, there is no better way to grow your business than through referrals. Referrals are better for business for a lot of good reasons. Firstly they are the most cost effective way of generating business and revenues. Referrals generally make decisions quicker and are likely to purchase more often. The best part is that less negotiation or convincing is required to enroll them. What we sometimes forget though is that we have to remind them how great we are so that they will be more willing to make further referrals. Out of sight is definitely out of mind in this case.
So how do you remind your past clients without becoming just another telemarketer? This is best done in a four-step plan:
1. Identify the ideal referral candidates
2. Articulate the company USP and how it relates to their network
3. Create the ideal environments for referrals
4. Thank the referrers
If you have a small business or practice and can afford to meet with your entire network in person then one-on-one meetings are the best approach. By creating appointments to meet and educate others in our network we can develop lots of ‘pots on the stove’. Each educated referrer becomes an evangelist for our services. It is important to realize that it is not the referrer that offers the opportunity but rather their network of potential clients. We can expect to see the number of referrals increase with the number of referrers we have ‘activated’ in our networks.
Recently I observed how when two people sat down and systematically went through their rolodexes they were able to generate over 50 potential referrals. This one-on-one meeting was the result of a meeting where the two people were introduced. Finding that they could not directly work with each other they decided to try linking each other’s networks together to create opportunities.
Another example was when a client of mine hosted a cocktail party to ‘enlighten’ a group of carefully selected well-connected people in their network. The cocktail party aimed to educate these people so that they will better informed about the company’s services and therefore more likely to see potential referral opportunities. A short presentation that clearly articulates their USP gives the audience better insight into a complex service offering. The event was attractive because of the good food, good company and not-so-serious approach. Over 35 people attended the party. My client also intends on having one-on-one sessions with each of the guests in the weeks following the party to “work the rolodex” of each guest.
Further creative ideas for active referrals come to mind – seminars; educational workshops; letters of introduction; brain trust meetings; developing an advisory board of well connected people; sporting events and partnerships.
In summary I believe that referrals are the best business builders and the best way to make referrals work for you is to stay in contact with your network. Here is a list of elements for a successful referral marketing campaign:
1. Referrals are not based on a transaction but rather on an ongoing relationship
2. We should connect people with no thought of what we get in return
3. Figure out how to overcome the resistance of asking for the referral
4. Educate your network about what you do
5. Ask for appropriate referrals
6. Assist referrers to do their work by passing on cards and materials