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In the ABC of Marketing – A is for Ask for Referrals

In October 2017 I was asked to give a short talk about how coaches, consultants and trainers can promote themselves. There’s a lot of marketing that you can do when you provide a service and you could spend a lot of time doing it. However, much of it won’t work and won’t give you the results that you want or need. In my talk I simplified marketing by telling my audience that when you provide a service, there are three main marketing activities that you need to carry out. I called them the ABC of Marketing a Service business. Not very original, I know, but they are tried and tested, having stood the test of time. In this blog we’ll look at A, which is for Ask for Referrals and I’ll bring you B and C very soon.

Why do Referrals Work?

When you provide a service such as coaching, consulting or training, your clients have to know and trust you before they will buy from you. They are much more likely to contact you when someone recommends you, than just from seeing your advert in an internet search. When you were last looking to buy a business service, did you ask people you know for recommendations, or did you turn to the Yellow Pages? We all prefer to buy from someone that we either know, or who has been recommended by a friend or colleague. There is less risk in working with someone who is highly recommended.

The last time I measured the marketing that we do at Appletree, I saw that 45% of our current clients had been introduced to us by someone who knows us. This ‘someone’ might be a client, a prospective client who has seen me speak, or a person who hasn’t worked with us, but who knows what we do and the sort of clients we like to work with. These people are fans of ours and will happily recommend us to others, either when we ask them, or when someone who needs our help talks to them.

Ask for Referrals

How do you ask for referrals? The best time to do this is when someone says “thank you” to you. This could be a client who you’ve just helped, because they’re paying you for your time and support. Or it could be a prospect who asks you for some advice. When anyone says “thank you” you can ask them who else they know who might need help with solving a similar problem. Why ask now? Because you’ve just helped them – you’ve just solved their problem or answered their question and they are happy with the answer you gave or the service that you provided. (You know they’re happy because they said “thank you”.) They are seeing you in a good light and are much more likely to gladly think about who they could recommend you to.

Generate more Referrals

Every time we receive a referral, we send a personalised thank you card to the person who has recommended us. This it takes more time than firing off a quick text or email, but whoever receives your card will see how much more time you put into writing to thank them and be pleased (and impressed) that you took the time to do this. I’ve had phone calls from people thanking me for thank you cards that I’ve sent!

These cards are sent when we receive a referral, whether it turns into work or not. On the happy occasions that a referral becomes a client, we send something else to thank the person who referred us. This could be flowers, champagne or chocolates, depending on the individual and what we know they like (yes, we have to spend some time finding out.) Or the thank you could be in the form of taking them out for lunch or dinner, to really thank them properly. This helps you to build up an even stronger relationship with this person, which could lead to more referrals in time.

Give and Receive

One of the best ways to receive referrals is to give them. Be generous and think about who you can connect to others. Every time we ask for a recommendation on LinkedIn, we also give one. We love surprising our suppliers and contacts with a recommendation that they haven’t had to ask for. When someone does the same to you, you’ll know how this feels!

When did you last give a referral? Who could you recommend right now? And what will you ask, the next time someone says “thank you”?

In the next blog in this series, what will B be for? Answers on a post card (or a quick email will do!)

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