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Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Power of Referrals

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Although I've talked about referrals on this blog in the past, maybe even recently, I thought I'd spend some more time focusing on this very important aspect of marketing. Whether you are a marketing manager, business owner, or salesperson, referrals make the difference between success or failure.

Referrals come in all different shapes and sizes

It's pretty common for someone to think of a referral as one person telling another about how great a product or service is.  However, referrals go beyond the obvious.  Many times, individuals seek out referrals from others.   A great example is that of a neighbor who has a well manicured lawn.  The guy next store looks at his own lawn and says, "my lawn doesn't look so good."  As a result, he seeks out information on making his lawn look better.

The lawn service should be supportive of this type of referral-seeking behavior.  Is there a sign in front of the neighbors house that indicates the lawn service provider?  Are the trucks well appointed with lawn service logo, name, and phone number?  Has the lawn service provided all of the neighbors with "we cut Bob's lawn at 123 neighborhood way, let us cut yours?"

There are many different ways to support what I call sought after referrals which are often overlooked.  The yellow pages are also another great tool to use when trying to capture those seeking referrals or points of reference.  I recently needed some repair work done.  Since I like to kick it old school every now and again, I reached for the Yellow Pages - yes the actual 4 inch thick book!

Setting yourself apart

I saw a number of vendors who could provide a service for me but the one I chose said, "Serving [townname]... hundreds of satisfied local customers."  I checked around and in fact, there were plenty of people in my own neighborhood who had used the guy.  His ad was focused on the local flavor I wanted and the fact that he had already serviced many of the homes in my neighborhood.

The motto of this story is, don't think that you always have to hard sell people head on.  Rather, consider the softer approach with leverage.  Leverage is using your existing customers and those especially satisfied with your services to help sell for you.  When prospects know they will be in good company, they're often much easier to convince.

You can always rely on the more direct referral approach.  You know, "Please recommend us to five of your best friends," but how often has this really had the impact you've hoped for?  Probably never.  Instead, think about making it easier for others to find you and create the leverage you need for getting them to buy.


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