Despite the wealth of marketing opportunities available to modern businesses, word-of-mouth referrals are still one of the best methods of attracting clients, according to a survey from Alignable.
Further research supports this – according to Nielsen’s, 22 percent of consumers are deterred from a purchase if they read a negative review. If you have a few negative reviews, that can be enough to ensure no new clients come through the doors.
How do you leverage this information for success? A strong referral network can build a community with strong loyalty to attract more clients to your business and boost your long-term business growth.
Service-based businesses, such as law firms, rely on a constant flow of new clients for growth. Referral networks aid in this by spreading the word about a business and bringing it to the attention of prospective clients.
A referral network is a group of individuals and organizations that offer referrals within their own network, whether formally or informally. The network may comprise industry professionals, complementary, non-competing businesses, suppliers, and loyal existing or past customers.
A robust referral network can complement marketing campaigns and attract new clients organically without high costs, which is necessary as the cost of client acquisition rises.
All businesses benefit from referral networks, from tech startups to home contractors to a family law practice. Referral networks are necessary to exponential growth of the client base and reaching new audiences. Here’s how:
In the digital world ruled by email and texting, communication can be cold and impersonal. If possible, seek in-person meetings or video conferences that showcase your investment in the client. Phone calls also serve as a more personal method of communication that is still convenient and comfortable, especially for long-distance business-client relationships.
After the meeting, schedule a follow-up meeting. It’s important to lay the foundation for a future relationship at the start, so make it apparent to the prospect that they’re welcome to contact you with questions or concerns.
Your unique value proposition, or unique selling proposition, is what makes you unique and superior to your competitors. What makes you different? How can you serve the client’s needs better or deliver a better experience?
You need to know this information inside and out in order to communicate it effectively and confidently to your prospects. Essentially, this is an elevator pitch, or a 90-second summary of what your business has to offer. Make sure it’s concise and direct.
Incentive programs are exactly as they sound – they offer an incentive to your clients to refer you to other people. While they may feel compelled to refer you anyway, building an incentive program ensures there’s something in it for them, too.
Any incentive program should have clear guidelines and eligibility criteria, however. This gives clients clear expectations for how to get incentives and protects you in the process. One example of this in practice is asking clients to leave an honest review on your website in exchange for a discount or free gift. If you wish, you can offer an incentive for both the client and the prospect, provided they sign on with you.
This is a rough outline, but your incentive program should be unique and relevant to your business and clients. Consider what you offer and what your clients come to you for to tailor the program to make it worthwhile for them.
Law firms can be challenging in this respect, since some clients are only with you for one case. You can get creative with your incentives and offer something of value that’s relevant, but not directly related to your services, such as a gift card or a donation to a charity in their name. You could also sweeten the deal with discounts for the prospect.
When you’re in business, everyone is a potential client. You never know where your next client could come from – they could be the family member or friend of someone you meet in your off time. Never discount the possibility that anyone could drive your next client referral, and treat everyone with respect.
It’s best to keep business cards with you and offer them if it comes up in conversation and seems appropriate. You can also share your business cards with business affiliates and ask them to display them in the office.
Referral networks do more than get you clients directly – they build your credibility in the industry and build a network of industry professionals. You can use your network to grow your business opportunities and attract more clients, or develop a mutually beneficial relationship with complementary services.
Here’s how to build your network:
- Join industry groups on social media
- Contribute to online forums related to your industry
- Make appearances at industry conferences and trade shows
- Attend networking events
This may seem obvious, but it’s an area in which many businesses fail. If you want positive long-term client relationships, you have to put the client first. It’s about more than being nice – you need systemization that ensures your entire organization offers the same level of service and same standards to your clients. This is important at any stage, but exceptionally valuable as you scale and lose some of the granular control of your operations.
Be sure that all aspects of the client’s experience, including the complaints process, communications and responses, and post-purchase experience, are as positive as possible. Formulate a plan to put your whole team on the same page.
The referral network has a lot of value for your business, and it’s only fair that you show your appreciation. Gestures like thank-you notes, appropriate gifts and discounts, and other small details matter to your clients and help you build strong, meaningful relationships.
When it comes to industry referrals, the relationship is two-way. Be sure to show your thanks by referring other businesses and help them succeed. Over time, you can develop a strong partnership.
For example, if you have a hair salon, you may develop a relationship with a local spa or makeup artist and recommend their services. It’s not a direct competitor, but you share an audience and can benefit from shared clients.
Referral networks are among the most efficient and effective methods of acquiring new clients and building long-term relationships. Create a referral network with clients, industry partners, and suppliers or affiliates to get your name out there and fuel your future business growth.
Author Bio: 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.