Crafting a referral marketing strategy is sometimes thought of in terms of automation and software tools. In doing so we run the risk of losing the essence of this form of word of mouth marketing.
Steve Sims, founder of Bluefish.com a luxury concierge company and author of the book – “Bluefishing – The Art of Making Things Happen”, shares how we can reverse the trend and still develop a powerful referral marketing strategy that continues to pay dividends to your business growth.
Consider this –
- Would you remove all web forms and contact numbers from your website?
- Would you only do business if it came through via a referral?
Then read on to discover how you can successfully craft a referral marketing strategy using a few essential yet proven tactics which don’t require automation or code.
- What is a referral marketing strategy?
- Why is it worth using referral marketing to boost business growth?
- Referral marketing is the ROI of relationships
- The 3 essential ingredients of a referral marketing system
- How to implement a referral marketing strategy?
- 1.Be picky and build the right relationships
- 2. Create great experiences for subscribers, prospects, and customers.
- 3. Ask people to make referrals—and treat rejection as part of the game.
- 4. Phrase it as a request for help.
- 5. Personalize your interactions and get connected with people you don’t know.
- 6. Increase the chances your content will go viral.
- 7. Podcast to build out your referral marketing strategy.
- 8. Use speaking opportunities to gain referrals and grow your audience.
- 9. Show appreciation to those that refer you.
- 10. Focus on both the mission and the numbers.
- 11. Host exclusive, invitation-only events.
- Implement your referral marketing strategy
- Listen to the Podcast Episode with Steve Sims
- Some topics we discussed include:
- Links and resources mentioned
- Connect with Steve
What is a referral marketing strategy?
Referral marketing occurs when a business’s customers spread the word about the business’s product or service as opposed to traditional advertising. Word-of-mouth marketing, which occurs when people tell others about a business, also is considered a form of referral marketing.
Why is it worth using referral marketing to boost business growth?
Consider these statistics:
- According to Nielsen, 92% of consumers believe suggestions from friends and family more than advertising.
- According to research by BrightLocal, 88% of people trust online reviews written by other consumers as much as they trust recommendations from personal contacts.
- Research by Ogilvy shows that 74% of consumers identify word of mouth as a key influencer in their purchasing decisions.
- McKinsey’s research shows that marketing-induced consumer-to-consumer word of mouth generates more than twice the sales as paid advertising in categories as diverse as skincare and mobile phones.
Referral marketing is the ROI of relationships
Why? Watch this!
The 3 essential ingredients of a referral marketing system
- There is unexpected utility in the experiences that you’re providing.
- It’s a meaningful story that sticks in people’s heads.
Steve thinks of the essential ingredient as a trigger. He says:
How to implement a referral marketing strategy?
Below are the 11 critical steps to building out your referral marketing strategy. Each step can help build on the others.
1.Be picky and build the right relationships
Why should you be picky with the relationships you invest in?
Because if you can eliminate 99% of your problems by concentrating on who walks through your front door, you’ll be a much happier person.
The fact is that people make referral decisions the same way they go about making purchasing decisions. According to research and neuroscience, we know that people make decisions based on emotion and then back them up with logic.
So, in order to have you or your business considered as being worthy of a referral, you need to tap the logic and emotion formula—maybe in equal parts. In other words, people have to believe you can help—that you will show up as promised (logic). But, they must also feel good about helping you, trust that their friend will be treated well and like the experience of doing business with you (emotion.) It’s not enough to have a good solution. Businesses that get a lot of referrals have a good solution mixed and make it a fun or unique experience.
This is also why monetary rewards for referrals are poor motivators. It would be better to make your business more likable, more referable, more energetic before you go out and offer any kind of incentive for referrals.
If you believe that your business is in a boring industry with nothing fun about it, get creative. Find ways in which your business can make genuine emotional connections with your clients. Once you have that covered, you can ensure that you make it easy for others to refer you—create tools, provide education, use follow-up systems, etc.
2. Create great experiences for subscribers, prospects, and customers.
We know that customer experience plays a crucial role in any business. It makes people take notice. So, when they take notice, they talk about their experiences which in turn causes referrals.
So, creating great experiences for your subscribers, prospects, and customers is crucial for separating yourself from the crowd in the market.
Creating great experiences doesn’t have to break the bank either. Here is how Steve approaches it:
Tip: You can’t create great experiences if your customer interactions aren’t sincere.
For example, Uber, the ride-sharing service, attempts to provide great experiences by providing customers with an incentive. They also top it off by reiterating why their service is great and getting better.
3. Ask people to make referrals—and treat rejection as part of the game.
So many people will not do something for fear of failure, for fear of being laughed at. I don’t care. Yeah, laugh at me every single day. It won’t stir my old fashioned at five o’clock tonight.
When you make a request and get a “no,” one of two things has happened.
You’ve asked the wrong question or you’ve asked the wrong person.
So you can turn the question around and say, “Well, okay, I know you said ‘no,’ but what if I could do this for you, or your family, or your kids, or your project, would that change the answer?” Nine times out of 10, it would. So, ask the right question in a way that the person cannot answer with a yes or a no.
To do that you need to do research. And by that, we don’t mean conduct research on the internet. Instead, you need to ask why something is important to the person. That is the core reason why people will be invested in doing business with you.
4. Phrase it as a request for help.
Steve says that people often think that a referral marketing strategy is passive … that because a business has loads of clients, the clients will refer them.
It doesn’t work that way. You have to incentivize them.
Here’s what you can do: Contact your clients and ask them, “What did I do wrong?”
And then just shut up.
The question causes a person to think differently as opposed to a question like, “Did you like the product or service?”
People will start saying things like, “Well, you didn’t do anything wrong. You were there on time. You answered my questions. You were alert and responsive. You gave great content to my people. You asked about the people we were going to talk about, so it established your credibility. No, you did everything great.”
And that’s when you turn around and say, “Look, I’m trying to be the best at what I do. So, I needed that information because I want to be good. Thank you very much for that feedback. Now, there is one last thing I wanted to ask you: ‘Which of your 10 friends needs to know that?’”
5. Personalize your interactions and get connected with people you don’t know.
Your referral marketing strategy needs to have a way to build connections with people who do not know of you as yet. To do that you need to establish credibility with them.
Steve says he has never, ever made the first phone call.
Instead he asks those who are most able to help him – Who is good?
When you know who is good, ask, “Would you mind making an introduction?”
Because it’s stronger for you to come in under the referee’s wings than it is for you to establish a fresh relationship.
There is always a danger with how you are introduced. Steve minimizes the risk by saying:
“Here’s a link, to this video. Would you mind forwarding it to your friend and introducing me?” And then on the video, he says, “Hey, I’m glad Jeff’s making this introduction, I’m not going to tell you what I’ve done with Jeff, but Jeff will probably tell you a little bit about me. I don’t know if he’s going to leave out the fact that I’ve sent people up into space and I’ve sent people down to the Titanic and pretty much everything in between. But, hey, you can check me out at the link below. Please come back to me and let me know when we can have a talk.”
Steve says you’ve enhanced the introduction by doing it on a video. And I quite often ask for the introduction to be done by text.
Because people answer texts.
People will ignore emails for three or four days. They never ignore a text, and there’s no such thing as a text junk folder. So always use text.
The link you send them could be to your website or to some page about a project you’ve done. You need to connect it to a relatable experience and say, “Hey I’m looking at doing something with you similar to what I did with XYZ company” and the link shows the work that you did with them.
In showing the work that you did with them you’re basically showcasing the experiences that you create for people and you’re also establishing your credibility. It’s not just talk—you’re already doing it.
6. Increase the chances your content will go viral.
The only time people will share something, is when they believe you’re solving a situation.
Steve suggests the best way to do it is to remove the problem completely. “Removing the problem instead of finding a solution” is Elon Musk’s tactic. He never looks at solving a problem, he looks at why the problem’s there in the first place. If you can start doing that, then all of a sudden, you become an instigator, you become an influencer, and you are a solution.
Here’s an example of removing the problem in a post that Steve shared on LinkedIn.
7. Podcast to build out your referral marketing strategy.
The advantage of having a successful B2B podcast is that it’s a way for people to connect and talk.
Steve asked me, “Had you not had a podcast, under what situation would we have ever met?”
For the listener, it gives them a point of view.
If the listener likes you and resonates with the way that you communicate, they are likely to refer you to someone else. It’s like their best friend nudging you in the ribs when they refer you, going, “Hey, you need to listen to this guy.”
If you’ve got someone that likes you, and you’re sending out an email going, “Hey, you want to listen to Steve Sims, he’s really cool. And remarkably good looking for podcasts.” If you go and say that to someone, they’re gonna say, “Oh, I want to listen to Steve Sims.” Then they may start following me, and the community grows. So, I think podcasting is a great way to get your tonality, your energy, and your vision out—and it’s free.
8. Use speaking opportunities to gain referrals and grow your audience.
Steve uses public speaking opportunities to gain referrals and grow his community while also building out his referral marketing strategy.
His first question when securing a speaking opportunity is – “Who are the people that we’re speaking to? Because we want to benefit them and talk to them in their language.”
He says he doesn’t do anything unless there’s a game plan in place.
He has two goals:
- To provide actionable items that make you smarter and make you more impactful. This is because he doesn’t see value in being a motivational speaker as opposed to being an activational speaker.
- To do a great job so that those that he resonates with in the audience will then come to him. A by-product of doing a good job with speaking opportunities is that some in the audience will start following him on Facebook or Instagram. They’ll join his consulting classes, come to his private speakeasy events, they’ll buy his course, etc. In other words, the community will grow, and he is able to get his word out further by people implementing what it is he does.
9. Show appreciation to those that refer you.
People want to be appreciated. So, when those referrals do come through show appreciation to those who sent them your way. Consider this: If someone refers you, they aren’t just giving you a compliment. They are going out of their way to help you.
Therefore it only makes sense to thank those that refer people to you. It needn’t entail some grand gesture, but acknowledging their help and informing them of outcomes will serve to reinforce the positive outcomes from their referral.
It’s building these types of deep relationships that will keep you connected with your target market while building out your referral marketing strategy.
10. Focus on both the mission and the numbers.
Dr. Jeff Spencer, in talking about building a champion’s mindset, says is crucial to have a focus on the mission as well as the numbers in business. To ensure your referral marketing strategy boosts your business growth you will need both. In fact, it’s a common reason why salespeople don’t get referral business.
So, create a goal for the number of introductions or referrals that you’d like every week, then create a plan and system to hold yourself accountable. Keeping your goals realistic and using an online calendar and CRM to track your introductions will help. In turn, this will lead to a dramatic increase in sales and business growth.
11. Host exclusive, invitation-only events.
Steve hosts exclusive events on a regular basis like this recent one in light of the Covid-19 situation.
This strategy can be a great way to attract new clients. Sales strategist and best-selling author Marc Wayshak shares more in this video
To make it work for you:
- Ensure that your event feels very exclusive.
- Invite high-level prospects and clients so that your best clients can help sell for you by sharing their experiences.
- Ask everyone in your network for introductions to those who would get value out of your exclusive event.
Implement your referral marketing strategy
We know that no-one can encourage your future customers to buy from you more than their peers and friends.
Having said that your referral marketing strategy needs to be systematic and smart to have the right impact.
The problem is that most people have misconceptions about referral marketing … or they simply don’t know how to go about getting the referrals they need.
As we have seen, experiences—not cash— are key to gaining referrals. Research backs this up. Non-cash incentives were found to be 24% more effective than cash incentives.
The following strategies can help you create a powerful referral marketing strategy to boost your business growth.
- Be picky and build the right relationships.
- Create great experiences for subscribers, prospects, and customers.
- Ask people to make referrals—and treat rejection as part of the game.
- Phrase it as a request for help.
- Personalize your interactions and get connected with people you don’t know.
- Increase the chances your content will go viral.
- Podcast to build out your referral marketing strategy.
- Use speaking opportunities to gain referrals and grow your audience.
- Show appreciation to those that refer you.
- Focus on both the mission and the numbers.
- Host exclusive, invitation-only events.
Which ones are you using? Let us know in the comments below.
Listen to the Podcast Episode with Steve Sims[smart_track_player url=”https://downloads.pod.co/f445505a-52b9-4c50-8226-a0d5f3742291/2836b87f-2897-463c-89ed-f23ce11df96c.mp3″]
Some topics we discussed include:
- How Steve defines a referral marketing strategy
- How to gain referrals the right way
- Why referral marketing is the ROI of relationships
- How to embed utility in a referral strategy based on relationships
- The secret to creating viral content
- Why social platforms are not social
- Why you should invest in podcasting as part of your referral marketing strategy
- How to use public speaking opportunities to build your audience and connections
- and much much more
Links and resources mentioned
- Check out the Bluefish
- Check out Steve Sims site and Steve’s inner circle membership – Sims Distillery
- Get a copy of Bluefishing – The Art of Making Things Happen
Connect with Steve
Subscribe to & Review the Predictable B2B Success Podcast
Thanks for tuning into this week’s episode of the Predictable B2B Podcast! If the information in our interviews has helped you in your business journey, please head over to iTunes, subscribe to the show, and leave us an honest review. Your reviews and feedback will not only help me continue to deliver great, helpful content, but it will also help reach even more amazing founders and executives just like you!