If I had a quarter for every time I asked a VAR or MSP about their marketing program and was told, "The only marketing we do comes from referrals," I'd be retired in comfort by now. I used to have to keep myself from rolling my eyes when I heard what so often is simply a euphemism for "no marketing at all." But, ever since I went into business for myself six months ago, I've come to see this type of "marketing" in a whole new light. The reality is that when someone introduces you to a new prospect and they talk about how good your company is and validate your expertise, it can make a world of difference. Sometimes, if the person giving the referral has enough credibility, the prospect may forego comparing your offering to other competitive offerings altogether. How nice is that?!
Although I've come to appreciate the power of a good referral, I still maintain that it shouldn't be confused with a marketing program, unless of course your purposeful in your intent, which is something you should consider. Rather than leaving your next referral to chance, why not formalize your referral process and let customers know about your referral program? Make it as simple as possible for them to participate via phone, email, your website, and/or social media sites. Also, even though your happiest customers may not need any special incentives, recognize the fact that they’re as busy as you are and offering a special incentive or seasonal promotion with a deadline attached to it is a great way to get them to take that extra step. Just like with any program, it’s important that you track it so that you can see which activities produce the best results.
For some ideas about how to formalize your referral process, check out 7 Sure-Fire Ways to Build Your Referral Business
by Darrell Zahorsky. One of my favorite tips in his article is to identify the top 20% of your clients. "Not all customers are referral candidates. Find the top 20% that are ecstatic about your business and ask them for referrals. Make sure their network is the type of client you want," he says.