Despite all the newest trends in marketing, one of the oldest is still one of the most effective – word-of-mouth referrals. For as long as anyone could remember, people have relied on the recommendations that come from friends and family, people they inherently trust to give them honest reviews of brands or products.
Word-of-mouth has changed a bit in recent years. Now, customers can check out reviews to see what others thought of their experience, often using them to inform purchases. If too many negative reviews show up, that could turn them away from a business.
Conversely, positive reviews can bolster a business and give prospects more trust. A referral network works in the same way, directing people to your business based on a positive experience and recommendation.
What Are Referral Networks?
Businesses need an influx of customers or clients to stay profitable, and this is especially true of service-based businesses like law firms, home improvement contractors, software providers, and more.
A referral network helps businesses spread the word and draw in new clients, using the word-of-mouth recommendations from partners like past clients, suppliers, non-competing businesses, or other industry professionals.
Building a Referral Network
Whether you’re a family law practice or software provider, referral networks can be used to grow your business and create a steady flow of new clients.
Leverage Your Unique Value Proposition
The unique value proposition is the aspect of your business that sets it apart from your competitors – what makes you different? You must determine your unique value proposition and make sure you know it and can pitch it. When it comes time to discuss your business with prospects, you’ll be ready to go with your elevator pitch to summarize your business and what you have to offer.
Build an Incentive Program
Incentive programs are big motivators for referral partners to get something in return for their recommendation. It doesn’t have to be a big incentive. Something as simple as a discount, a free gift, or an exclusive offer could do the trick.
Make sure you outline the guidelines and criteria in advance, however. Your referral partners need to have a clear understanding of what they need to do to get an incentive and any exclusions that apply.
Make sure you tailor your incentive program to your business. This can be challenging for some, such as child support law firms, that don’t have a product. Get creative and come up with something of value, such as a donation to a charity or a discount for the new client.
Get Involved in the Industry
Referral networks do more than just getting you new clients. Effective referral networks should also create more authority and credibility in the industry, building your network.
You can improve your visibility in your industry by getting involved with industry groups on social media, making appearances at trade shows and industry conferences, guest blogging, and attending local network events.
Stay Client Focused
Clients are what make your business run. While many businesses try to keep the focus on the client, the true client needs can get lost in the shuffle of the day-to-day operations and pressures.
If you want to build lasting relationships, however, the client absolutely needs to come first. This isn’t just about customer service, either. You need to create repeatable, scalable systems that deliver exceptional service to all clients, no matter the location, employee, department, etc. you should also consider every touchpoint in the client experience, from the first impression to how they’re treated once the job is done.
Treat Everyone Like a Potential Client
Businesses often find clients in surprising places, especially when they’re just starting out. Never discount an interaction as a long shot. Your next client could be that person’s cousin, brother, aunt, best friend, or coworker.
Treat everyone with respect and take advantage of opportunities to discuss your business (without being salesy!). You could also offer your business cards to people for future needs, and ask your referral partners if you can display them in their offices or workplaces.
Bring a Steady Flow of Clients with a Referral Network
Referral networks leverage the power of word-of-mouth recommendations in a streamlined system that brings new prospects your way while rewarding your loyal clients, industry partners, and non-competing businesses.
Maxwell Hills is the founder of Hills Law Group, a premier Orange County family law firm with a concentration on high net worth divorces. Max’s entrepreneurial career stretches back to his teenage days when he had his music used in Grey’s Anatomy and ESPN. Today, Max has used that experience to build Hills Law Group with 0 customers and $0 in revenue to a respected firm in the industry.