I would like to share a disturbing little secret with you. Almost 70% 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, but they just don't care. They have other things on their minds. The kids need new clothes, the furnace needs repairing, and the car is making that strange knocking sound again, and, of course, there is a 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.
So, why wouldn't they think about you? Didn't that last marketing campaign garner great results? As the available research suggests, it's not that they don't like you, but rather, they simply forgot about you. They have other things on their minds and there wasn't any good reason to think about you. By the way, popular research suggests that, in general, only about 8% of customers are dissatisfied with the product or service they received. To illustrate this, I recently worked with a company that has served over 3,000 clients in the past 3 years. In this same period, they have never sent out a ‘thank you’ card, email or direct mail piece to these former clients. What's more surprising, is that they were still getting a third of their new business from referrals. So, why are they not reminding happy, satisfied customers that they are still around and looking to make even more happier, satisfied customers? The answer is simple: they are just too busy with managing the day-to-day business, to create marketing pieces to reach out to the customers.
Instead, they spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on expensive shotgun-style advertising to get the attention of potential customers. It's much easier to call up the Yellow Pages and place a year's worth of ads, than it is to create a meaningful relationship-based campaign. Relationship-building campaigns take time and energy; something we don't often have much of once the daily workload is taken care of.
To change this, a campaign was conceived which would thank the 3,000 past customers for their business and remind them that referrals had been the key to the company's success. The campaign also provided each past customer with both online and offline tools to pass on consistent referrals. At the same time, the company reduced its print ad placements to ensure results were not overshadowed by alternate forms of lead generators. The result: this company was able to triple revenues in just 12 months, almost solely attributable to referrals.
In business, there is no better way to grow than through referrals, which are the most effective form of marketing/advertising for many reasons. Firstly, they are the most cost-effective way of generating business and revenues. Referrals generally make decisions more quickly and are likely to purchase more often. The best part is that less negotiation and convincing is required to enroll them, because they already trust you and have seen your results, first-hand.
But referrals don't happen by accident. They are the product of a great customer experience, including sales, marketing and customer support efforts. What we sometimes forget, though, is that we have to remind customers how great their experience was, 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 of their experience with you, 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 environment 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 your network, you can develop numerous ‘pots on the stove’. Each educated referrer then becomes an evangelist for your services. It is also important to realize that it is not the referrer that offers the opportunity, but rather their network of potential clients. You can expect to see the number of referrals increase with the number of referrers you have ‘activated’ in your network, and that number will grow exponentially as you ‘activate’ more and more people.
Recently, I observed how when two people sat down and systematically went through their rolodexes, they were able to generate over 50 potential referrals for one another. This one-on-one meeting was the result of a past meeting where the two people were introduced. Finding that they could not work directly with one another, they decided to try linking their networks together to create further opportunities.
Another excellent example of networking, was when one of my former clients hosted a cocktail party to ‘enlighten’ a group of carefully selected, well-connected individuals in their business network. The cocktail party aimed to educate these people, so that they would be better informed about the host's professional services, and, therefore, more likely to see potential referral opportunities. A short presentation that clearly articulated their USP gave the audience improved insight into a complex service offering, resulting in the host's desired outcome; more referrals.
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, to name a few.
In summation, I believe that referrals are the most efficient form of marketing/ advertising available, and the best way to make referrals work for you, is to stay in contact with your network constantly.
Here is a list of elements for a successful referral marketing campaign:
**Referrals are not based on a transaction, but rather on an ongoing relationship.
**We should connect people with no thought of what we may get in return.
**Figure out how to overcome the resistance of asking for the referral.
**Educate your network about what you do.
**Ask for appropriate referrals.
**Assist referrers in doing their work by passing on cards and materials.
**And lastly, please don't forget to thank them for their help. . .
Richard Banfield is based in Boston, Massachusetts, where he lives with his wife and their two young boys. He is always available for discussions about extraordinary marketing and can be contacted at:
Richard is an experienced marketing executive, entrepreneur, coach, speaker, workshop leader, writer and business developer. He has founded several companies throughout his career and describes himself as a ‘serial entrepreneur’. He has lectured on the subjects of marketing and online advertising and has authored guides to sales, account management, global business development and marketing strategy. Richard also writes extensively on entrepreneurship, marketing, networking and the philosophy of working in a modern society. Richard has consulted and coached Marketing Strategy and Management to clients in the US, UK, Europe and Africa.