R Is For Referrals

Ah referrals from business contacts – the one thing most small business owners would like more of. Why then, doesn’t it happen as much as most people would like? I have a theory and it goes somewhere along the following lines: 

“Two business owners meet at a networking event. Their businesses compliment each other so they touch base after the event and they talk about how they could refer business to one another. But, after they put the phone down, they never talk again.” 

I’ve lost count of how many times the above scenario has happened to me. So, why is it that both businesses agree that referring customers to each other would be a good thing, but it doesn’t actually happen?  

Well, my theory is two-fold: 

Firstly, I believe that the reason small business owners don’t refer to one another is that it’s hard work getting a customer. And if a customer requests something that you can possibly do yourself, you’ll keep the work instead of farming it out to someone who might be better placed to help them. 

The second part of my theory is that even if you can’t do the work yourself, you’re only going to refer the customer to someone you know, like and trust and have built up a good relationship with. Let’s face it, why would you refer a customer to someone you’ve only met once or twice at a networking event? 

How do you get around this? 

Well, if you really want referrals, you need to be thinking about how to build a relationship up with that person and then you need to work at it so that they feel comfortable about working with you and referring their customers over to you. 

Certainly, if you want referrals from me, you’re going to need to work a bit harder than just asking me to refer all my customers over to you. I’ll usually give you a start by saying let’s swap website links or would you like to write an article for the newsletter. Then the balls are in your court – you need to work with me to build that relationship up by offering me something in return. 

What could you offer me? Well, here are a few quick suggestions: 

  • You could invite me to a networking group you’re in
  • You could send me an article that you’ve seen that you think would be useful
  • You could invite me to speak at an event that you’re doing 

Do you notice how none of the above are to do with referring customers to each other, but they do help to build the relationship and the more you work at doing this, the more likely I am to get to know you and refer my hard-earned customers over to you.  

Let’s face it – I know referrals are an easy way for you to get business. If you get a company to send you referrals, it takes all the hard work out of marketing for you. But, as in most aspects of marketing, remember that it’s not about you – it’s about the person you’re speaking to. Why should they refer business over to you? What’s in it for them? 

The more you get to know a company and the better you get to know them, the more likely they are to refer business over to you. So, that’s the place to start with referrals – don’t think about how much business you’ll get out of your referral party; think about what you can offer them instead!

About the author:
Exceptional Thinking provides advice and help to small businesses on their marketing and to people setting up in business.
My website is at: http://www.exceptionalthinking.co.uk


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