More and more companies are tracking that referrals are the best lead generator for each of their businesses. SEO (Search engine optimization) is certainly up there as a great resource but most of my clients and business contacts are stating point of fact that a high percentage of their new clients are coming from referrals. I would be willing to bet that a big reason that referrals are beating out SEO is due to the vast amounts of information a person must consider to find a solution to their problem. Whether you are lazy about looking at every possible result or frustrated by the browser generated “matches” for your internet searches, asking a trusted person IS easier these days.
The big push the past couple of years in marketing efforts has been to create content that is searchable by all of the internet tools. However, all of that content has flooded the internet and search engines with choices. There is no such thing as a “quick” internet search anymore and that is making it much harder to find the sources we need for problem resolution.
Your search results will bring white papers, opinions, blogs and online magazines that are first ordered by advertisement before offering the search tool’s best match. The newsletters alone that come across our computers continue to grow our “To Read” folders so that they feel like one more thing “To Do” as opposed to a way to build our own knowledge base and understanding. All that information is out there to be found. Where do we go for the quick answer? Starting with a referral is MUCH easier and faster.
Now more than ever, I am one of those people that will first ask my trusted network of peeps when I have a need. This saves a huge amount of time by not having to look through the pages of results. With group pages on many social websites, I can instantly reach out to many of my business partners with one quick question. Not only does this really narrow the field of possible follow up options but it is a base of already vetted possibilities. They ACTUALLY do what we need them to do to resolve our problem. So now we need only verify that they are right for our company and this specific need.
My process is to then go through the “trust but verify” procedure of logging onto company websites and social media platforms to see which of the referrals looks to be the best fit for my needs. After reading a few articles or white papers and a phone call or two later, I am on the way to a solution that is a great fit for my business.
I use it in my personal life too! If I want to make chicken for dinner, I used to go straight to the website to look for a recipe. Well, I will get not just the recipes but all the websites that might have chicken recipes, articles on chicken for dinner and reviews on why chicken is / is not the best thing for dinner. Too much work! Much easier to call my neighbor down the street and ask for the recipe she cooked last month at the pot luck. Tried and true!
Tried and true. Don’t we all want our businesses to be thought of that way?
Understanding that this is a legitimate and growing part of lead generation leads me to want to remind each of YOU that with a growing resource for your business comes a growing responsibility.
If referrals are a large part of lead generation for your business, then your company may need to make a conscious shift in your marketing plan. Just because referrals represent the coveted WOM (word of mouth) marketing this does not mean that money has magically appeared from your marketing budget. Business should be budgeting to manage or encourage this area. Remember, for this to truly benefit your company you must deliver on MULTIPLE levels.
- Referrals must know what you do to find a qualified lead
( Especially when adding new products or services!)
- Referrals must know that you deliver quality work
( So, you actually have to deliver quality work.)
- Acknowledgement and appreciation for referrals is required.
(No “Thank you”? This resource will feel no loyalty.)
- And just like with new leads, referral sources must have you and your company top of mind.
Too often a business owner will think that they do not need to market to existing contacts because their prospects are already coming in as referrals. They will network less because their referrals are up. They may even start to depend on certain referral sources without marketing to generate new client leads. This can lead to what many looking back at their downward trends consider as a down cycle or slow period.
As long as you are measuring regularly so you can be responsive, you should be able to change your process and grow again. Better is to shift the correct portion of your marketing budget to manage and grow this productive segment of your company’s lead generation NOW!
Which do you do first – search the internet or reach out for referrals? I’d love to read your comments!