Referral Partners – the key to cost effective marketing

Referral Partners

Why is referral marketing so effective?

In today’s mobile-driven, internet-fueled age of information, instant gratification, and Millennials with a do-it-yourself attitude, I’ve often been asked about the best strategies for attracting clients and getting referrals in this shifting business landscape.

Last week, I talked about how to use internet marketing and word of mouth marketing together to get more referrals and income from your networking efforts.

This week, I’m going to dive deeper into how you can use both the internet and in-person relationships to harness one of the most powerful client attraction strategies in the world: referral marketing.

Reasons to work with referral partners?

Here are two reasons why referral marketing is invaluable to your business:

Reason 1: Getting referrals is the fastest path to big sales.

With most marketing methods, you need to get busy people’s attention enough that they notice and care that your business exists, then gradually build up their trust until they like you and they’re convinced that you have the solution to their problems.

This customer journey can be long and challenging to predict, often involving delays and disconnections that can keep you from getting paid and your customers from getting the help they need for months or even years.

But when you’re recommended to them by somebody they trust, you instantly inherit much of the trust that the person referring you has built up.

This enables you to skip most of the customer journey, and go straight to making a much larger sale.

When you rely on advertisements to attract clients, you risk getting lost in a sea of similar banners, pop-ups, billboards and commercials that people have learned to automatically tune out, click away from, or use as opportunities to go to the bathroom between segments of a show.

People are constantly bombarded by ads, promises and information, and are often too busy or skeptical to act on them.

Recommendations from family and friends, on the other hand, are far more likely to be listened to and acted upon.

According to Nielsen’s Global Trust in Advertising survey, more than eight out of ten global respondents say they completely or at least partially trust the recommendations they get from friends and family.

Reason 2: Giving referrals makes you a more valuable expert, so you make more sales.

When you only serve people in a single specific area, you’re a valuable specialist, but people only think to go to you when they have the precise problem you solve.

But when you know experts in multiple areas, and people know that you know, you become the go-to person for ALL of their needs.

This means you have more opportunities to build goodwill by making referrals to your fellow business owners, you’re more valuable to the people who come to you for guidance, you can help more people, and you have more opportunities to see if the people who approach you need your services.

Referral marketing is one of the best client attracting methods out there, IF you use it right.

When you seek referral partners, it’s important to realize that just because someone says they’ll send people to you, and just because they are connected to your target audience, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll ACTUALLY send you clients.

Often, would-be referral partnerships end with both people saying they’ll keep an eye out for people, then going on with their lives, falling out of touch, and never actually recommending each other to anyone.

So how can you find great referral partners, and get them to send you people?

In the next section, I’ll give you some specific, powerful strategies for getting more referral partners, and – more importantly – for getting them to send you referrals, instead of saying “If I meet someone, I’ll tell them about you” but never actually doing it.

How to get more referral partners:

Great referral sources come in two shapes: satisfied clients, and business owners who have the same target audience as you.

In this section, I’ll give you some methods for attracting referral partners online and offline.

How to get more referral partners online:

Online Method #1: Interacting in social media and online networking groups.

While many people try to gain followers, referrals and sales by simply posting on their own pages, doing nothing but pump content onto a page that your clients might not even look at is a fast path to slow growth.

Even if you use hashtags to attract the attention of people who are looking for specific topics, you’re still waiting for people to come to you.

You’ll get better, faster results if you go to the places where your ideal clients are already congregating, such as social media groups and online networking groups that are relevant to your topic.

Once you’re there, don’t go straight to selling. Your interactions should add value to the group whether the readers click through or buy something or not.

Remember that givers gain, and focus on being helpful to the group. Ask relevant questions, answer other people’s questions, and share valuable tips, how-tos and life lessons that you’ve learned.

If people seem interested, invite them to schedule a call with you so you can get to know them better. This will give you a chance to learn about their goals, problems and needs, determine whether they need you, and encourage them to invest in your products or services.

If you’re scheduling the call via email, text or IM, don’t use words like “tomorrow”, because if you send the message on Wednesday and they look at it on Thursday, they might not notice the send date, so they might think “tomorrow” means Friday when you actually meant Thursday.

Instead, offer specific times and dates, including the time zone. Just give them two or three dates to choose from; giving them too many options can cause decision paralysis, and giving them only a few shows that you have a lot of commitments and your time is valuable.

Online Method #2: An affiliate page on your website.

If people love your product and want to promote it, make it easy for them to do so. Give them a place to sign up as an affiliate or referral partner, and set up an autoresponder campaign that automatically sends them their personalized affiliate links and customizable marketing materials upon signup.

It’s very important to provide these pre-made emails, scripts and social media posts, because not everyone will know how to market your business or describe your offering in a way that makes sales.

Making it easy for people to promote you also makes it more likely that they’ll find the time to do so, instead of letting it slip through the cracks because they didn’t have the time, desire or know-how to create the materials themselves.

Once people have signed up as affiliates, reach out to them and start building a relationship with them.

Let them know you’re there for them if they have any questions, find out why they chose to sign up as an affiliate, and explore whether there’s an opportunity for you to refer clients to them in return.

This increases the likelihood that they’ll actually promote your business, and it gives you a chance to make their life better as well.

Online Method #3: Get recommendations from satisfied clients and subscribers.

If you have existing clients who are thrilled with your service, or newsletter subscribers who love your content, then you have a great opportunity to encourage them to help their friends, families and peers to receive the same benefits they’re enjoying.

Give them a call, or send them an email or instant message, asking if they know anyone who has the specific problem you solve or needs the benefit you offer.

Be sure to give them specific instructions for how to encourage people to check you out. For example, give them a script that tells the recipient what you’re offering, what it will do for them, and what link to click, number to call, email address to contact, or location to visit.

One way to encourage them to make referrals is to offer a special deal to the people they send to you. That way, you make them look better, because now they’re the well-connected person who knows about the inside deals that aren’t available to the public.

How to get more referral partners offline:

Now that we’ve covered the virtual side of referral marketing, it’s time to explore some methods for getting referral partners through live, face-to-face interactions.

Offline method #1: Networking groups and business training events.

These are some of the biggest sources of potential referral partners, because they have higher concentrations of potential clients than almost any other type of gathering or location.

The face-to-face interaction allows you to build relationships far more quickly than you can in most online scenarios, and if it’s a repeating event like a weekly meeting, you’re likely to encounter and interact with your newfound referral partners more than once.

One way to stand out and get the most out of your networking efforts is to make friends with the person in charge, and take a leadership role in the event. This could include greeting people at the door, announcing schedules or events from the stage, or handing out teaching materials.

Just make sure you don’t take on a role that makes it look like you aren’t a business owner. If you’re bussing their tables, they might mistake you for a member of the venue staff who’s too busy to talk to them, rather than a potential referral partner to whom they should talk.

When you’re out networking, have your elevator speech ready and memorized, so you can easily convey who you serve, how you serve them, what problems you solve, and what positive experiences your clients will get as a result of your product or services.

As with online networking, don’t go straight to selling, or spend the whole time talking about yourself. That will just make you look self-centered. Instead, remember that people love to talk about themselves, and encourage them to do so.

Ask them questions about their businesses, and find out who they serve and how. See if they have the same target audience as you, and whether your services or products complement or compete.

If they’re in touch with your target audience, and their offering complements yours, suggest to them that you refer clients to each other.

Once you’ve made an agreement to exchange referrals, don’t just leave it at that. Schedule regular times when you can check in with each other and see if you have any clients that might be good referrals for each other.

That way, you stay at the top of their minds, and both parties are more motivated to actively keep an eye out for potential referrals so they don’t show up at the call empty-handed.

As with satisfied clients and online affiliates, make sure to give your referral partners scripts for conversations or emails, so they don’t have to figure out what to say.

Offline method #2: Talking to people about your business in regular conversation.

Just because an event isn’t officially about business, that doesn’t mean you can’t get leads from it. You can get leads from almost any kind of event, even funerals, as long as you do it with tact and respect, and honor the event instead of trying to hijack it.

Offline method #3: Contacting people who share your target audience.

Even if your potential referral partners aren’t at the same events as you, you can still form relationships with them.

Make a list of the businesses in your area whose services or products complement yours, and contact them. Make sure you talk to the decision-makers, not to a secretary who won’t be able to explain your offer of partnership as well as you can, and who will likely get a “no”.

Once you’ve reached the main decision-maker, start by building a relationship, and by offering to serve their needs instead of focusing on your own.

For example, if you’re a baker who wants a wedding planner to encourage her clients to buy your cakes, don’t start by asking her to tell her clients about you.

Instead, mention that you make wedding cakes, and that some of your clients could use her services.

Get her contact information, and find out what steps your clients should take when contacting her, such as emailing her to set up an appointment, phoning her at certain times of day, contacting her via social media, or visiting a specific web page.

Find out who her ideal clients are so you know who to keep an eye out for, and then actually seek those people out and send them to her.

When she sees that you’re serious about sending people to her, she’ll be more inclined to send you clients in return.

How to combine online and offline strategies to get more referral partners:

Now you have some powerful methods for getting referral partners, both online and offline.

Here are a few strategies you can use to combine the two methods, and increase the chances that your partners will send people to you:

Strategy #1: Use the internet to build your in-person relationships.

Sometimes, people are too busy to take an hour plus driving time to have coffee with you, and they’d rather stay in touch via instant messaging, direct messaging, email, or a video chat program like Skype or Zoom.

Other times, they traveled a large distance to reach the event where you met, and they live too far away to meet with you easily. This is especially relevant to online businesses, which can exchange referrals with people far outside their geographic locations.

When you have a busy or long-distance contact with whom you especially want to stay in touch, find out what the most effective way to contact them via the internet is, and commit to using it for your communications.

Strategy #2: Use real-life meetings to strengthen online relationships.

Online relationships are great, but there’s no true replacement for face-to-face interaction. If your online acquaintances live nearby, or you’re planning to be in their area, offer to meet them for coffee.

 Strategy #3: Use specific calls to action.

Don’t just say “let’s exchange referrals”. Instead, say something like, “I serve this type of person in this way. These are the problems I solve, and these are the benefits I give. If you meet someone who needs me, it would be great if you could introduce them to me via email and CC me on the message. Please let me know who your ideal client is, and how I can refer them to you.”

When you’re booking appointments, don’t say “Let’s meet for coffee sometime.” Instead, say “Let’s meet at (your favorite coffee shop) for an hour sometime next week.”

Then pull out your mobile phone, open your calendar app, and say, “Here are the dates I have available next week. Which one works for you?” Once they’ve chosen a date, thank them, then promise to send them a confirmation email or text.

Want to attract more clients, and to meet referral partners who would be happy help you grow your business?

If you want to improve the lives of more clients, make more money, and meet well-connected referral partners who can send you more of your ideal clients, we’d be happy to see you at your local BNI.

There, you’ll have an opportunity to tell the group who you serve and how, and we’ll do everything we can to help you find great referral partners and create mutually beneficial relationships that result in actual sales.

In 2016, our average member made an average of $24,789 in additional income through referrals from their fellow BNI members.

With that kind of money, you can treat your family to a vacation you’ve always wanted, hire someone to take a task you hate off your to-do list, get your kids some great Christmas presents, support a cause you care about, and so much more!

How many more people will you help this year, and how much more financial abundance and freedom will you enjoy as a result?

Let’s find out together!

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Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] As noted above, networking events can be a challenging place to sell products, though they are an ideal place to get referral partners. […]

  2. […] Last week, I talked about how to use online and offline strategies together to find more referral partners and get them to send you clients. […]

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