By Bonnie Buol Ruszczyk
by Bonnie Buol Ruszczyk, president
I was recently honored to co-present a seminar on content marketing at the AICPA/AAM/TECH+ conference in Las Vegas. One of the great things about speaking at that sort of conference is that I get to attend other sessions and hear some really fantastic presentations. This one included a talk given by Lee Fredrikson of Hinge Marketing. I always enjoy hearing Lee speak, in part because his firm does incredible research that often uncovers interesting and surprising facts.
I pulled quite a few nuggets of wisdom from his speech, but the one that has most stuck with me is this simple fact: “43% of professional services clients don’t refer your firm because you’ve never asked them to do so.”
Yes you read that right.
Referrals are, and will likely always be, the #1 source of new business for a professional services firm. It’s always the answer I get when asking, “Where do you get most of your new business?” I mean ALWAYS. Therefore it was shocking to learn that for most firms, nearly half of your clients would refer you to their friends and colleagues but haven’t because you haven’t asked them to do so. Most likely, they just haven’t thought about it. So what can you do with this information? For crying out loud, ask them to refer you!
Make it easy for them. When you meet with your clients, take a few brochures or business cards with you. Tell them that you get most of your business from referrals and that you would love for them to pass your name to anyone who might benefit from your services. Most people are happy to pass along the name of a good service provider, and you just made it a lot easier for them to do so.
Create a referral program. This can be structured in a variety of ways. In some industries, there are legal restrictions on commission payments and such, so make sure you know what you can and can’t do. But in many cases, you can reward those who refer you with a discount on their next invoice or even pay them a small percentage of the new business they sent your way.
Share a case study. This is a wonderful way to promote your firm and your client at the same time. See if one of your best clients would mind if you shared how you worked together in a case study that details the process and benefits of that collaboration. First, it’s one of the best ways to talk about what you do because it allows the reader to step into the shoes of your successful client. Secondly, it gives your client something to share with friends and colleagues that demonstrates the value you can bring. Win-win.
Thank them! Now that your clients know to refer you, make sure you thank them when they do. Whether this is by sending a gift card for a nice dinner, a mention in your monthly newsletter, a bouquet of flowers or a simple, heartfelt, handwritten note, just do it. It’s amazing how much a simple thank you will be appreciated and inspire even more referrals.
This is just a start. There are all kinds of creative ways to ask for and encourage referrals. I’d love to hear your thoughts and tips as well. What has worked well for your firm? What fell on deaf ears? Oh, and by the way, we love and appreciate referrals too!