Remembering referrals: Can you improve your process?

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There aren't too many brighter marketing ideas than developing an effective referral program

The ongoing Construction Marketing Ideas poll asks a simple question: “How do you attract most of your new business?” and the top answers should be a wake-up call for anyone seriously trying to figure out how to improve their business marketing on a frugal budget.

At latest review (Sept. 20, 2017), the largest single source of business comes from “Word of Mouth – Recommendations”.  Combined with the second largest – “From existing clients” — we have 71 per cent of the total business volume.  Everything else: Leads services, advertising, and hard-rock canvassing/telemarketing fills the rest of the pipeline.

I’m not advocating against any of the other marketing strategies, other than canvassing/telemarketing which really works for only five per cent of businesses in the survey (and I expect these are businesses which I would like to avoid). We sell advertising for our revenue, after all, and if you don’t replenish the 29 per cent from the two primary sources, you will ultimately have problems.

But . . . there’s a catch/converse argument here, and it is this: If you can increase your effectiveness even slightly in the repeat/referral side of the business, your return on investment will be phenomenally greater than with any other marketing strategy you can consider.

Consider, for example, the consequences of increasing repeat/referral business by 10 per cent?  You would have a 7.1 per cent uptake in volume — and this would be high margin, low-marketing cost revenue.

construction marketing ideas poll
The Construction Marketing Ideas poll updates in real-time. This is data from Sept. 20, 2017

This leads to the next question: What resources are you allocating to improving your referral/retention volume, and how much are you simply relying on passive strategies, and not considering active initiatives?

These themes caused me to read with interest an article by Ryan Suydam of ClientSavvy in the SMPS Marketer magazine.

He advocates a combination of research, relating, and reacting — creating post-project referral/follow-up interviews in a structured, systematic manner (with the type of background research including reviewing performance assessments and the connections between client contacts and potential new business through LinkedIn searches.)

I think some of his approaches may come off a bit stilted, if you don’t build them into a more natural framework. One challenge in overtly asking for referrals (and perhaps the reason people don’t do it more often) is because it can feel artificial and somehow “wrong” to ask for the connecting leads and information. Suydam suggests a way to handle this process would be to build on the satisfied client experience and explore how you can provide even more value to the client.

He makes it clear (like most sales call situations), that you should not try to do this in a mass manner and you should have face-to-face (or as a second best) a scheduled phone conversation to set up the referral/rebusiness conversation.

He suggests this email:

Subject: Project Success Conversation Request

Dear Client:

Thank you for the opportunity to work with you on (project name). My team and I liked the experience and we’re glad to hear from your feedback that you’ve found success in the project as well.

I would like to schedule a time to talk about your success, and what things we are doing specifically that help. It’s critical to us that we don’t take success for granted, and that we carefully examine how to continue achieving for you in our quest to always improve.

We heard you say that (something positive from their feedback) is making an impact, and that’s just one area we can investigate.

Could we perhaps meet for lunch on (date optional) or find a time in your office or via phone to connect?

Thank you very much for helping us be our best.

Your signature.

This sort of email is just one part of the package. I think however, it touches on the fundamentals here. If your current business isn’t 71 per cent repeat/referral, what do you need to do to improve the numbers. If it is, should you not spend 71 per cent of your marketing time on improving the results — because if you can just add that 10 per cent incremental gain, you’ll have a whopping big improvement in your margins.

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