I was reading social media the other day and a post leapt out at me which said – “There is no longer such a thing as B2B (Business to Business) – there is only P2P (People to People)”. For many years now, business management literature has provided increasing evidence that success in business is underpinned by strong relationships with customers/clients. When it comes to gaining referrals, there are a number of processes. However, the success of these processes is couched in the 80/20 philosophy – 80% of effort is about relationship building (recognition of celebrations and feel good activities) and 20% is direct marketing.
We know from literature that it costs less to gain growth from an existing customer/client base than it does to gain new customers/clients. However, like cold calling, asking existing customers/clients to refer is revered by many business owners. So I asked the question of my business colleagues at the Albany Creek Business Contacts how they go about having the “referral” conversation with existing customers/clients.
In summary, it was identified there are two ways – subtly and directly. Subtle processes can include:
- message on email signatures or marketing material (like a newsletter) along the lines of – ‘Our business is primarily based on referrals. If you know anyone that we could assist please let us know.’
- when you meet a referred customer/client acknowledge the referral at the start and mention to them that you love receiving referrals from customers/clients.
- when finishing a job, leave a few business cards with a thank you note (and maybe some lollies).
A more direct process is to commence with a “Satisfaction” appointment with existing clients. Invite a client for a coffee and seek feedback from them in relation to their satisfaction with you as a provider (this is also a great quality check – but that’s a whole other blog). If existing customers/clients are not satisfied with you then they are not like to refer (in fact they are more likely to negatively refer – that is, tell prospects to stay away) – and why would they refer – if you don’t have happy satisfied customers/clients, are you really entitled to be referred?
Once you have established satisfaction with the customer/client, you can work in asking for them to refer. Keep it conversational and where appropriate, be specific. Examples to approach this could include:
- “since you are happy with how I solved that issue for you, do you know anyone else who has the same problem that you could let know about how I have solved it for you”
- “I am glad you are happy with my work – I am particularly interested in expanding into high performance car maintenance and I noticed you attend the car racing regularly – do you have any connections in the sport or is it purely pleasure?”
- “I am glad we have been able to take the pressure off you by doing your books and looking after your business’s financials so you can focus on what you do best. Are you involved in any business networking groups where members may need the same assistance?”
Once opportunity to refer has been established it is a matter of asking the question – “what would be the best way for me to meet them?” – that is, engage and involve your customer/client in the process of moving from the conversation to an actual referral.
Regardless of how you gain referrals, it is imperative that you look after and appreciate the referral with genuine interest and intent. It also doesn’t hurt to reward the person who provided the referral with a gift/acknowledgement for their generosity.
(Blog contributors – Leonard Whittaker (Action Cycle Learning) Rob Carmody (Australian Integrated Communications) Sally Balwin (Balanix Solutions) Kathy Patterson (Brendale Stationery Supplies) Matthew Fox (Brisbane hosting & Web Design) Kirsty Newbery (Caring Cottage) Brad Davies (Conquest Pest & Termite Control) Nathan Dobbins (Core Computers) Scott Deaves (David Deane Real Estate) De Wet van der Nest (Express Air Con Cleaning) Oriano Giammichele (GT Racing, Mobile Mechanic) Jason Matthey (Insurance Web) Anne-Louise Underwood (SMS Toolkits) Bruce Hall (Wombat Electrical) Tracie Palmer (Cornerstone Home Loans) Criag Chalmers (Royalty Home Services) Streten Mason Lawyers )
Albany Creek Business Contacts consists of local quality and reliable businesses who provide a wide range of services from home and residential services to B2B and commercial services. Our service areas cover primarily Albany Creek, Eatons Hill, Brendale, Aspley, Warner, Chermside, Strathpine, North Lakes. However many members will cover greater areas.
Albany Creek Business Contacts meet fortnightly on a Wednesday morning for a 7am breakfast and networking meeting.
Balanix Solutions – Taxation | Accounting | Business Advise.
Situated in Strathpine on Brisbane North, we partner with our clients to assist them in their accounting, business management and bookkeeping needs. Our clients vary in industries from professional services (such as law, vet and dentist) to the trades (mechanic, bricklaying, plasterer etc), hospitality and retail. Are clients are located in the Pine Rivers area (including Brendale, Lawnton, Albany Creek and Eatons Hill) through to Kallangur, Petrie, North Lakes and Caboolture, as well as Brisbane South, the Gold Coast and various other parts of Queensland.
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As business owners and managers we are told we must get on the social media wagon as a strategic marketing tool for our businesses. We must tweet, linkin, facebook, google places and maps, about me, womow etc etc etc or be left behind. And yes, these mediums can be terrific in supporting our businesses. However, recently a reality check merged which would stop anyone in their tracks.
A person was looking for someone with particular professional skills to refer to a client. They posted a shout-out on a social media group seeing if other group members could refer. A response came recommending a person. Simple!
Here’s where it gets interesting. The next post questioned whether the referred person actually held the qualifications being sought and was sufficiently skilled to do the work. The referring subject responded by saying they assumed so because someone else in the office used them.
Whether this person did or did not hold the qualifications was no longer relevant because potentially hundreds of members in the group read the thread of posts which, it is suggested, has impacted on this absent person’s reputation. The referrer’s reputation has not fared well either as they were recommending someone they had no direct knowledge of.
It was a very loud reminder that with social media, what is posted is reaching hundreds if not thousands of people in a second and once out there, can’t be taken back. Perhaps if the respondent had questions about the referred person, it would have been better handled in a private message rather than putting it out there for all to see.
What do you think?