You understand the value of referrals. With the goal of attracting new business coming in so high on the list of firms’ marketing priorities, it’s no surprise that the desire to generate more referrals remains a key marketing initiative. But in today’s increasingly competitive marketplace, traditional referrals from clients alone aren’t enough to accelerate growth
With this in mind, the Hinge Research Institute set out to rethink referral marketing and determine how successful firms are capitalizing on referrals today. After gathering responses from over 500 professional services firms, we found that 81.5% of service providers have received a referral from someone who wasn’t a former client.
This suggests that truly effective referral marketing needs to include strategies for generating referrals from both clients and non-clients. But where do these non-client referrals come from? Well, we discovered that most non-client referrals are a result of your firm’s reputation and expertise. In fact, we found there are actually three types of referrals that firms can utilize to attract more new business:
- Experience-based referrals are traditional client referrals. They occur as the direct result of your firm’s work with a given organization or individual.
- Expertise-based referrals are made when an individual or organization (who hasn’t worked with your firm personally) is aware of your firm’s specialty or expertise in solving a particular problem. They may not have detailed knowledge of your reputation, but you’re on their “radar” as an expert. They may have encountered your expertise through hearing you speak at conferences, reading articles you’ve written, or interacting with you on social media.
- Reputation-based referrals are another type of non-client referral and occur someone knows your firm only by your reputation. They may know someone who has worked with your firm or have simply heard about your reputation in your community or industry.
Expertise-based and reputation-based referrals are built on your firm’s brand. In order to generate more non-client referrals, firms need to increase their visibility and reputation in the marketplace. Here are steps you can take to build your brand—and generate more referrals.
Assess where you are now. Are your marketing efforts generating referrals? Who’s currently referring you and are those referrals resulting in new business? Determining where you are now will help inform what your strategy should be moving forward.
Understand your target audiences. To build a truly powerful brand, you have to thoroughly understand the audiences you’re trying to reach. By understanding your audiences’ challenges and priorities, you’ll be able to better connect with them.
Develop a strategy. Determine which direction you’d like to grow in and figure out which of your services can best address your audiences’ needs. Use these insights to develop a content marketing strategy for how you’ll increase your firm’s visibility and further improve your reputation in your industry.
Demonstrate your expertise. Focus on educating your audiences and focus your marketing on techniques that will prove your expertise. These marketing efforts might include speaking engagements, blog posts and articles, email marketing, or writing the go-to book in your industry niche.
Build your professional network. Making professional connections is a great way to position your brand as a trusted authority. Utilize social media networks — especially LinkedIn — to connect with other leaders in your industry and build a professional network.
Build out your visibility. Think about how easy it is for potential non-client referrers to find your firm online. Use SEO strategies to make your website more visible on search engines and showcase your expertise across the platforms that your audiences are on.
With a referral marketing strategy that takes into account both client and non-client referrals, your firm can stay more competitive and attract more new business. Rather than simply relying on current clients to provide the bulk of your referrals, your firm can use your brand to get referrals based on your reputation and expertise.
Lee W. Frederiksen, Ph.D., is Managing Partner at Hinge, the leading branding and marketing firm for the professional services. Hinge conducts groundbreaking research into high growth firms and offers a complete suite of services for firms that want to become more visible and grow. Lee can be reached at LFrederiksen@hingemarketing.com or 703-391-8870.