Archive for January 2009

Getting More Referrals?

January 27, 2009

Let’s cut to the chase. There are books, blogs and countless articles written about building referrals. But there are three major reasons programs don’t succeed:

  1. To get referrals, you need to ask for them. As one blogger put it, most people would rather invite a neighbor to attend church with them than ask for a referral.
  2. Those who ask often don’t see the customer’s perspective. There’s a lot of benefit in a referral for you, but why should the customer put his or her neck on the line?
  3. Companies don’t make it easy enough for their customers to recommend them.

Instead of benefiting both parties, the act of referring often becomes too one-sided and discourages activity. Here’s how to develop a better referral strategy.

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Soften Up the “Ask”

The first thing you can do to make asking easier—or perhaps avoid having to ask at all—is providing great work. Look for better ways to serve your customers and be energetic and enthusiastic in delivering your service. People respond to excellence as well as to companies that hustle and try harder. If you’re a lesser-known up-and-comer, getting referrals might be even easier. Lots of people like to support the hard working, high-performing underdog.

Seth Godin, the author and speaker who popularized the topic of “permission marketing,” suggests that people will tend to give you referrals if you give a lot of referrals yourself. The key, though, is to genuinely want to help someone else—not just to get referrals back. You should only play matchmaker for the right reasons. But when you do give good referrals on a regular basis, the world tends to respond positively.

Finally, be sure to keep in touch with people who are important to you. According to Godin, every 30 days is about the right frequency if you’re serious about building referrals. Friendships and professional associations can easily drift into the background of our busy lives. It’s well worth your time to:

  • Send a card or letter.
  • Call them.
  • Send an email.
  • Stop by their office.
  • Put them on your holiday and birthday card list.
  • Do business with them.
  • Connect on LinkedIn or other business social media.

Keep your relationships strong. Remain on one another’s radar. You’ll benefit from more referrals.

Understanding the Customer’s Perspective

There’s lots of risk for the person doing the referring. You could screw up or otherwise disappoint. Maybe it isn’t even your fault, but the result is the same for the person making the referral. According to Godin, “Understand that low-risk referrals happen more often than high-risk ones, and either figure out a way to become a low-risk referral or embrace the fact that you have to be truly amazing in order to earn one.”

Just don’t make the mistake of thinking you can buy referrals. Offering rewards for referrals often doesn’t work because you’re asking the person to put his or her credibility on the line. Consumer companies in particular often try to skirt the issue by offering both the referrer and the prospect discounts. This might be better (or at least more upfront) than other reward programs, but enter this territory with extreme caution.

Making it Easy to Recommend You

The easiest and most effective way to get people to refer you is to give them something of real value to offer their friends and business colleagues. For example, a young chiropractor we know gives his satisfied patients a limited number of “referral only” coupons that they can give to their friends for an initial consultation and complete examination, including x-rays, for less than $20.

Combined with a referral from someone who benefited from the doctor’s services, it’s a great incentive for someone who is suffering from back or neck pain. Most importantly, it makes the referral even easier than saying, “You should see my chiropractor.”

One of the keys is to not make the offer something that is available to anyone. You provide it only to your best customers to use for referrals. If it’s an offer they can get anywhere, you lose the special value that helps make the referral easier.

Want Expert Advice?

Bauer Associates can provide all the strategic, tactical and creative support you need to develop a winning referral program. For more information, email Print Strategist Larry Bauer.

— by Larry Bauer

Referral Do’s & Don’ts.

January 27, 2009

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Referrals are too valuable to waste. Follow these rules to avoid costly mistakes.

Do

  • Provide excellence in products and services.
  • Constantly seek better ways to serve your customers.
  • Be energetic, enthusiastic and sincere in your business dealings.
  • Offer ongoing training and coaching to your customer-contact staff.
  • Keep in touch with friends and business colleagues every 30 days.
  • Provide referrals to others who deserve them.
  • Offer something of value for good customers to offer their contacts.
  • Make you and your company a low-risk referral.
  • Use business social media to build contacts and referrals.
  • Be a good person—it works!

Don’t

  • Think you can buy referrals—but be sure to promptly offer your heartfelt thanks and inform the referrer of the outcome.
  • Offer an incentive for prospects that you generally make available to the marketplace.
  • Underestimate the discomfort many people feel in asking for referrals—find ways to make it easier!
  • Snub people in lower positions—they move on to bigger and better things.
  • Give referrals solely with the intention of getting them in return.
  • Be nice only when you need to be—make it a habit.
  • Fail to work at gaining referrals everyday.
  • Forget about people who are important to you.
  • Lose sight of the customer’s perspective—make referrals beneficial to them and easy to do.
  • Think referral programs are built in a day.

Keeping in Touch. One of the slickest systems we’ve seen is SendOutCards®. It’s a web-based program that lets you send a printed greeting card with your message, in your own handwriting if you wish, in less than 60 seconds. All you do is choose your card, write your message and click send. SendOutCards prints it, stuffs it and mails it, all for less than a greeting card at the store. You can even upload your own images as well as include high quality food and gifts for special occasions. And SendOutCards is a service you can offer your customers as a distributor. For a quick, one-on-one demo and an opportunity to send a free personalized card to a friend or colleague, we refer you to Kei Narimatsu.

— by Larry Bauer

Staying Visible.

January 27, 2009

maptoon-250All marketing programs require an investment of money as well as time. Referral marketing programs often require more of the latter. Add to that tactics designed to keep you in touch with clients, associates and prospects and you could be looking for an eight-day week. So let’s choose wisely. Below are some handy tools to consider working into your everyday processes and some that will require more ongoing effort on your part. No matter what tools you use, keep these three thoughts in mind:

  1. Stay in front of your clients, associates and prospects.
  2. Stay relevant.
  3. And above all, make sure your clients are happy, otherwise—no referrals.

Printed Cards

In this age of e-everything, you can stand out from the competition by using printed cards. The trick is to just be speedy about it. Afterall, if you can get it there within 24 hours, you’ve beaten most emailed follow ups.

In addition to SendOutCards®, which we mentioned in the previous article as a quick and inexpensive tool, you should also keep corporate thank you cards handy and use them liberally after initial meetings, final project deliverables, and of course, in response to referrals. If you’re meeting a client or prospect out of town, take some cards with you, write a quick thank you and pop them in the mail before your plane takes off. If you wait until you get back to the office, you’re less likely to remember the little things that made the meeting great and worthy of a thank you.

Personalized letters are very effective too. But added levels of personalization can definitely improve your outcome. According to a study reported by Marketing Profs in which researchers sent a survey to busy doctors with three different cover letters, each produced a dramatically different result:

  • A printed letter generated a response rate of 36 percent.
  • A printed letter with a handwritten message on it raised response by one third to 48%.
  • A printed letter with a handwritten message on a Post-it® note increased the response rate to 75%.

Corporate Blogs

How frequently do you update your corporate website with timely and relevant information? Thought so. Your website is necessary, of course, but may not be the most powerful tool you can use to increase your online voice. Having an online voice that’s frequent and relevant allows your clients more options to refer folks to you.

And not only that, group blogs expand your network exponentially. Invite guest bloggers to post on your blog. Of course, their followers will follow them and in turn, discover you. Likewise, offer to write guest blog posts for your associates’ blogs. Just be sure y’all are linking back to each other’s blogs and websites.

Social Media

Microblogging tools like Twitter have become the defacto way many folks maintain conversation with friends and associates as well as meet new ones. It’s about being part of the overall conversation and that conversation is not always about personal interests. Many folks also join Twitter Groups to meet others with similar interests. For instance, did you know there is a business Twitter Group for every city in the US? So get out there, create your Twitter persona, and look for a Twitter Group with similar interests. Or create a Twitter Group for your specific niche.

And don’t forget LinkedIn. It has a built-in tool that allows others to recommend you.

Monthly Newsletters

Whether printed or emailed, monthly newsletters are always a great way to stay in touch, so long as you follow these simple tips:

  • Don’t skimp on quality writing and design.
  • Don’t skimp on valuable content.
  • Be relevant.
  • Your newsletter should be targeted to both customers and prospects—especially prospects whom you haven’t met and aren’t necessarily on your mail list.
  • Create an editorial plan but be flexible so you can take advantage of timely topics.
  • Include a Send to a Colleague link.

Also keep in mind emarketing fatigue is increasing. In order to keep readership up and expanding, you’ve got to maintain a high degree of interest.

Co-Branded Opportunities

In a carefully planned co-branded situation, both partners share the resource burden and expand their clients and prospects reach. Keep an eye out for marketing and promotional opportunities that would allow you and your partners to benefit. Just make sure you’re partnering with a company with the same or better level of customer service and quality as your own.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Co-Branded Blogs: You could always take a leadership role in developing a co-branded and topical blog that allows contributions from one or several of your best associates. This is different than a corporate blog.
  • Co-Branded Monthly Newsletters: Of course a newsletter can be created and implemented solely for just your company, and it is a very powerful way to stay in touch with clients, prospects and associates.
  • Co-Branded Webinars: Conducting co-branded webinars of interest to your contacts and your associates’ contacts provides a mechanism for pooling all the prospects.

You can also maintain your own corporate blog, newsletter and webinars. Co-branding may or may not work for you depending on your business. If you need help determining what tools would be most helpful in your niche, just give us a call.

— by Julia Moran Martz

Upcoming Newsletter Topics.

January 27, 2009

Just a few of the topics we’re working on for future newsletters:

  • Understanding how customers read direct mail—and what to do about it.
  • Using research to improve your bottom line.
  • Developing effective taglines.

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