So much of the literature on the subject of referrals focuses on the proper ways to network, ask for referrals, and create incentive programs for referral sources. While some of these more tactical things do indeed produce referrals for the organizations and salespeople that employ them, they are often little more than window dressing when it comes to the big picture.
Building a foundation that automatically generates referral momentum is not done through external actions like some many things in life, you do it from the inside out. Plain and simple the most widely referred business are purely more referable.
I’ve studied a lot of businesses that easily generate referrals and they share some common internal tendencies as part of their brand and culture.
Make people look good
Looking at all business relationships with an eye on making prospects, customers, vendors, mentors, and staff look and feel good is a tremendously attractive internal quality. I read this quote recently and I think it works well here – “To a large degree, our success and happiness in life depends on how much people like themselves when they’re with us.” Joe Caruso
Ready to refer
We all know that giving referrals is one of the best ways to get referrals, but the difference lies in the systematic preparation. There is a big difference between understanding this philosophically and practicing proactively. Building your back pocket with a group of “best of class” providers takes work. You’ve got to discover, recruit, train and build the trust necessary to develop a proven network of providers who can help you add value to your client relationships, but once you do, the rest is pretty easy.
The word trust is easy to use and even easier to lose. But, as Stephen M.R. Covey so correctly points out in his book, The Speed of Trust, trust is a hard currency and asset. Trust impacts how fast things are done and how much they cost. It is so much easier and less expensive to refer a business that keeps its promises.
Creates an experience
We will travel to the ends of the earth to be entertained or at least not bored to tears. The businesses we love to refer aren’t boring. They realize that it’s not just about the product and service they sell, it’s equally about the total experience, the marketing, the message, the people, the processes, the delivery are all carefully considered as props integral to a successful customer experience.
Educates, instead of selling
Nobody likes to refer a friend to a sales pitch, right? But, exposing a friend to information that might help them get more of what they want out of life, now that’s a different story. Even better when that information is packaged and presented in multiple locations, formats, and venues.
Adds value beyond price
In Bob Burg’s book the Go-Giver the main character, Joe, encounters the 5 laws of stratospheric success. The first law, the Law of Value states that your true worth is determined by how much more you give in value than you take in payment. This is a tough one for so many people because we often have no great baseline for the value we bring. The key here is to work tirelessly to understand, quantify and enhance the value our customer receives and the rest will take care of itself.
Does something talkable
My spell check isn’t balking at the word talkable, but I think it properly expresses this one. You’ve certainly encountered the concept of word of mouth constantly of late, but I think that concept tends to lean heavily on tactics and stunts, like viral videos, that might create a flurry of word of mouth. To do something talkable to me is to have something at the core of your business, a higher purpose, an inspirational story, a product or service that is simply brilliant, or a habit that makes people smile. Authenticity and consistency are what make something talkable.
This one seems pretty easy, but why isn’t it. When someone buys a product, toss other stuff in the box, right? Maybe, but the only way to actually exceed expectations is to know what they are. And that’s where people fall down. In business and in life, it’s extremely difficult to exceed an expectation you have not participated in setting. Widely referred business work very hard to set the proper expectations and then it’s pretty simple matter to exceed them. So, you see exceeding expectations might also include understanding and attracting the right customers, laying exactly how you work to get results on the line, teaching customers what’s expected of them, and even saying no once and while.
Focus on even one of the internal mindsets and practices above and watch how much more referable you become.
I also created a public mindmap of this article and would love it if you would contribute your thoughts on the tactical elements of each of these principles listed above. You do have to sign-up for a free Mindmeister account to add your thoughts, but it’s a pretty cool tool anyway so you might like to play around with it. You can find the map here – http://www.mindmeister.com/23949165
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John Jantsch is a veteran marketing coach, award winning blogger and author of Duct Tape Marketing: The World’s Most Practical Small Business Marketing Guide.
He is the creator of the Duct Tape Marketing small business marketing system. You can find more information by visiting http://www.ducttapemarketing.com