Note: I haven’t done a guest post in well over a year, but John Jantsch is a good friend, a fellow Third Triber, and his ideas are 100% spot on. I hope you enjoy! (Oh, and because guest posts drive traffic!)
The content from this guest post appears in complete form in the new book from best-selling author John Jantsch, The Referral Engine. Find more information on John’s book here. (amazon affiliate link)
When it comes to getting a significant amount of business by way of referral some companies are better at it. It’s not that they have implemented a better process for asking clients and partners to refer them, it’s that they are simply more referable.
Organizations that create the kind of easy buzz that turns into business possess certain qualities at their very core. While these qualities may not come as naturally to some, they can be learned and instilled in any business with enough attention.
I studied the habits of numerous organizations that generated most of their business by way of referral and found the follow qualities existed in all and contributed what I’ve come to call their referability factor.
The most trusted option
In the business of referrals, trust is the most important reason a recommendation is made and, conversely, lack of trust the single greatest reason referrals don’t happen. There are countless ways that companies build and break trust with their customers, but most can be summed up with the term â€š”honesty.”
Trust is earned by keeping promises: tangible things like delivering on time, paying bills on time, and honoring guarantees; and less tangible things like authentic marketing messages, caring service, and a culture of respect. Are you the most trusted player in your industry?
Staff as customer
Here’s something your customers won’t ever tell you but that you had better understand: Your employees probably treat your customers about the same way you treat your employees. Let that soak that in for a minute, and think about the ways your everyday behavior might be affecting your organization’s ability to generate referrals. Organizations that easily generate a high number of referrals consider referral factors when they hire and treat their employees like prime target customers.
Hire for fit
One recurring thread in many of the businesses I interviewed was the idea of hiring the right people. And this notion starts first with knowing who or what that is. In much the same way a business might research and attempt to attract the ideal customer, referral-based businesses also focus on attracting the ideal employee. The company takes care of the staff, the staff takes care of the customer, the customer takes care of the business.
Another common trait among staff-oriented businesses is an openness to communicating the financial aspects of the business. For instance, many offer stock ownership to their employees as a way to keep everyone focused on the growth of the company. Creating a “dashboard,” a simple one-page, high-level view of key strategic, marketing, and financial indicators allows even those in entry-level positions to be a part of the company’s success and strategic vision. It’s also a great way to keep everyone in the organization focused on key goals like referral generation.
A culture of buzz
Highly referred businesses are good enough to make people want to talk about them, but they amplify this natural desire by making word of mouth an essential element of the culture. Companies create buzz with great follow-up, T-shirts and other promotional merchandise, free events, outrageous acts of kindnessâ€šÃ„Ã®anything that contributes to an overall culture of buzz. Companies that focus on creating positive customer experiences at every turn tap the power of buzz quite naturally, and this habit is something that can be learned. Let me emphasize the natural and authentic nature of this habit. A culture of buzz is not created by attempting to do things that get attention; customers recognize publicity stunts when they see them.
Give to get mentality
There are a handful of golden rules, which vary depending on which set of books you were raised on, but in the business of referrals, those who give usually get. It’s not too hard to grasp this concept; everyone in business has experienced the â€šÃ„Ãºwhat goes around comes around” phenomenon. But I’d like to suggest that something deeper exists in the true referral-based mind-set. When a referral strategy pervades your entire business thinking, you begin to approach customer relationships by asking “What am I here to give?” or “How can I serve?” as opposed to “What can I sell?”
It stands to reason that a customer who comes to your organization by way of referral and then experiences your remarkable level of service is far more likely to become part of your referral team. Remarkable companies expect to receive referrals as a matter of course. In fact, they are confident something went wrong with their process when a customer does not voluntarily refer. If you find yourself saying, “I believe you get referrals by doing good work, not by asking for them,” then I’m going to suggest that you’re not really sure of the value of your products and services. Remarkable companies always ask for referrals, not simply as a way to acquire new business, but also as a way to help the most people get the results they are after.
Too often price is the first and only measure of differentiation when a prospect attempts to compare products, services, and organizations. In the eyes of a prospect, there is risk involved in any transaction no matter how large or small. So, the prospect thinks, if it doesn’t work out with the low-priced company, at least I didn’t overpay. Referred prospects, on the other hand, have the ability to factor value into the equation. When your business comes highly recommended by a friend, the role of risk is minimized, and that fact alone moves the significance of price comparison down the list. I have yet to find a business that relies heavily on referrals and low price leadership as shared strategies.
So, how did you do? Where are the gaps? Where can you go work on being more referable?