26. March 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Uncategorized

Every business person has found themselves “thirsty” for more new customers at one point or another. Despite all of their networking, marketing and advertising efforts, there may come a time when the new business and referrals just are not coming in fast enough.

While the reasons for the drought can vary from events that are totally beyond our control (such as a local construction project which closes the street our business is situated to extreme weather conditions) to those that we have control over, it is important that we have a plan in place to help reduce the impact of the drought, especially when it comes to generating the referrals we need.

Here are three ways to avoid the referral drought and keep the stream of referrals flowing from your existing customers and your referral partners.

 

1.  Identify a niche area within your current client base and ask for referrals from them: Regardless of what your product/service is,  there are different segments within your current client/customer/patient base.  Your job is to a) identify the different niches within your client base, b) then select one to three (maximum) that you would like more referrals from and c) then ask your current customers and referral partners for more referrals or introductions to people who work in this particular niche.

For example, EZ Office Supply has hundreds of clients which range from solo entrepreneurs to non-profit organizations to Fortune 500 companiesTheir first step is to first divide their current client base into market segments and then into smaller niche areas.  EZ Office Supplies identifies that some of their non-profit clients focus on raising funds for research for diseases like cancer and AIDS.  Others provide services to people with other serious health issues, such as autism or multiple sclerosis and still other of their non-profit clients focus on more social issues, such as homelessness, drug addiction, adoption of older kids, job training for youth, etc.

The next step is for EZ Office Supply to identify the one to three types of non-profits within the specific niche that they want more referrals from.   EZ Office Supply decides that they want more clients that are non-profit organizations that focus on social issues,  specifically those that help people with drug addiction and those that provide job training for youths or formerly incarcerated people.  They identify three specific non-profits that are not their clients who they would like to be introduced to.

The third step is to ask for specific referrals to these types of non-profits from their current client base and from their referral partners.   When communicating with their current clients (in person, via email, and in phone calls), EZ Office Supply’s sales people mention that they are looking for introductions to directors or people who work for these three specific non-profits or others like them.  At networking events, business expos and seminars, they mention that although they work with a diverse client base, they excel at working work with non-profits and that they are looking to meet people from the three non-profits they are specifically targeting.

2.  Introduce your clients to your current referral partners.  The more opportunities you have to introduce your client base to your referral partners, the easier it will be to generate referrals for your business.  You can do this in a variety of different ways, ranging from spotlighting a referral partner in your client communication and marketing materials such as your newsletter or on your blog to writing a testimonial on their Facebook page

You can also do this in-person at different events.  For example, a dentist I know gives bi-monthly seminars, usually relating to something that is new or improved about his practice and health issues that go beyond oral health. He invites his patients to attend as well as his referral partners from a variety of different businesses. Before the start of the seminar, he personally introduces his patients to his referral partners and speaks highly of them to each other.  He differentiates himself from other dentist through adding value to his patients’ lives by introducing them them to potential product/service providers they may need at one point or another.  This also results in referrals for his practice from his patients and from his referral partners.

If you are in a networking or referral group that allows you to provide a small overview about your business or one that provides a  featured speaker at each meeting (usually someone from the group’s members), invite your clients/customers to hear the featured presenter or to hear you when you are speaking about a specific topic. This will provide a forum to easily introduce your clients to your referral partners without any pressure of them to “buy” anything. 

3. Create Add-On Opportunities (also known as Joint Ventures).  An Add-On Opportunity is a chance for your prospects, current clients and past clients to purchase your product/services bundled with those of one of your referral partners. You do this by focusing on working with professions that share similar client bases.

For example, if you are a carpet cleaning company, you may want to partner with a person who sells air purification systems to offer a discount on the units.  If you are a photographer, you may want to partner with a local restaurant to offer free photographs taken of guests, one or two nights a week, offering the photos for sale in a nice frame afterwards. (The frame will have your contact information on the reverse side).

By offering an add-on opportunity to your original product, your referral partner can pay you a percentage of the their fee.  If you are not comfortable splitting fees, your referral partner can give you their product or service for free in exchange for access to your new customer’s information.  That way, they may separately market their products/services to them at a later time.

What are some other ways you have found to be effective in avoiding the “referral drought?”  Share your comments/ideas below.

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