Employing a Winning Referral Strategy

“How do you get your work?”   It is a simple question I ask lots of people.  Funny, I undoubtedly get the same answer every time.  Referrals. The second question seems natural: “Why do they refer to you?”   This answer is increasingly unclear to most people.  They know they get work from referral sources, but they often chalk it up to random acts of referring.  Think about this gold mine for a minute.  There is so much marketing information bubbling below the surface waiting to be harnessed. With a systematic approach to developing referral relationships, it is conceivable to increase their frequency and reliability.  Here are a few thoughts:

  • Identify your referral target market(s) – Take inventory of what kind of services you want to offer, who you get most referrals from and how much competition there is within the specific markets you want to serve. Examples of referral target markets include existing clients with open matters, existing clients within industries you want to serve more or an industry-specific networking group.
  • Conjure up a picture of your perfect referral source. What do they look like? Choose the criteria that makes referral sources attractive and accessible for both you and the referral source.
  • Take inventory of your current referral sources.  Find out where you get your most valuable referrals from and analyze why they trust you enough to send you business.  Then build on what you find out.
  • Create a quick pitch. It is important to identify exactly what you want to ask and the best way to deliver the message. Write down a brief quick pitch and practice it until it flows easily. Create appropriate pitches for each target referral source.
  • Contact your referral sources regularly. It is important to be in front of your referral sources as much as possible without being a nuisance. That may mean in-person gatherings, social media connections, personalized emails or phone conversations.  Helpful, routine contact always keeps you top of mind.
  • Track referrals. Be aware of how referrals are sent to you, from whom and on which topic.  This is crucial to honing your network and harvesting more results. If you know why people think of you, it is easier to repeat.
  • Thank referral sources often and sincerely. Every time you are referred a matter, make sure you thank that person. A thank you can be as simple as a handwritten note, an email or a phone call. The important part is that you touch that person in some way and show them that you are grateful.

Carefully cultivating your referral sources will always pay off.  I believe that people like to help other, appreciative people who demonstrate solid skills. Ultimately, referral sources trust you to take good care of the people they send your way, making them look good. It is a win-win-win in every sense!