Referral Marketing is one of the most powerful lead generation techniques for people running smaller businesses.
It’s like having an unpaid sales team out there, listening out for signs from their clients and contacts. Personal recommendation makes the sales process much smoother.
It’s easy to overlook the potential for referrals through LinkedIn. And there are major benefits for people who put a little time and effort in to boost their online referrals position.
Who is more likely to provide Referrals?
Lets start with satisfied and delighted customers. They have already gone through the Know, Like and Trust journey, and made a commitment to you and your business. A little bit of effort in the post-sale period using LinkedIn to create a public win:win situation will pay huge dividends.
Then there are those who offer complementary services. They may well have clients who are your ideal customers. It may help them to develop relationships and protect their clients if they introduce an ally. There is also a reciprocal aspect, where they may look to you for an introduction in return.
Then there are people who recognise your expertise and are willing to put a good word in for you when the opportunity arises.
How can people provide referrals?
Ideally this is happening out of sight as it were, and your name is being mentioned by many people although for the large part you are unaware it’s happening. The first you may know is when the prospect gets in touch and mentions that so-and-so gave them your name. Sometimes this is visible in LinkedIn, when people say they are looking for a supplier and they ask for recommendations.
Taking a more pro-active approach, you may be looking for a way into a company or to an individual. And through LinkedIn there are suggested links of people you both know. From this you could ask for an introduction, or a specific referral to that person.
And in a low-key way, when people like, comment and share your status updates and articles there’s an implied referral aspect, or endorsement going on.
How can we encourage referrals?
Delivering an excellent service is the starting point. Satisfied clients may refer, whereas dissatisfied customers won’t refer, and may put out negative messages generally or specifically.
Having a well written LinkedIn Profile will make the referral process easier. And if the profile makes it clear not just who an ideal client is but also the circumstances for a referral so much the better.
And then being visible through activity on Linkedin is pretty important. Staying front of mind will prompt people to refer us, rather than stay silent or refer someone else.
There’s also an approach that starts sowing the seeds for referrals from the first contact with a potential client. It’s much easier to ask for a referral if it’s not a surprise at the end of the sales process, part way through, or in various other ways.
Next Steps to develop referral marketing
Showing appreciation and reciprocating with people who have previously give referrals is a good move.
Identifying other people who could be encouraged to provide referrals is another step.