The power of referrals

If I had a dollar for every time someone told me that “all of my work is word of mouth”, I would be a very rich lady. Put simply, referrals work. Why do they work? I’m so glad you asked!

A referral comes from a trusted source – someone who has experienced first-hand what it’s like to work with you, and is happy to recommend others work with you, too. Referrals are highly persuasive. In fact, a study by Nielsen reveals 92% of consumers are more inclined to trust personal recommendations over traditional marketing.

I’m always curious about the referrals I give, and in 2020, I knew I had referred a lot of work. What I didn’t realise was how much – more than $300,000 worth!

Let that sink in for a minute … that’s a lot of work for a lot of different people, isn’t it? My numbers for 2021 (until this point) aren’t dissimilar. It’s a powerful network I hold in my little hands, isn’t it?

What about you? How much work did you refer this year? A lot? Not much?

And how much work did you receive from referrals this year? A lot? Not much? Why do you think that is? Do you believe there is a correlation? I reckon there is.

Give, and you will receive!

I have a friend who runs a multi-million-dollar business. And they have not paid a cent on marketing. All their work is the result of word of mouth, and they have clients who have stayed with the business for 5, 10, 15 years. I asked them to tell me the secret of their success. They told me that, first and foremost, they make a lot of referrals to people outside their business (a “give first” mindset). Eventually, that’s paid forward, and once the business is secured, they treat their clients so well that they never want to leave (who wouldn’t want a business like this?!).

Not referring work ultimately means less work for you. Those who refer a lot of people get a lot of work – it’s as simple as that. People who refer genuinely don’t do it to get something in return; it just turns out that way. Ensuring your intentions are in the right place helps, too.

So, you want more referrals, huh? Here is a simple (yet not easy!) way to get referrals:

1. Give referrals
2. Give more referrals
3. When you get referrals, follow up – please
4. Use gratitude and say thanks to the referrer
5. Review where your referrals come from

1 & 2. Give referrals … then give more referrals!

OK, technically, 1 and 2 are the same, but hear me out. Deciding to give referrals is not a one-day job. It means being on the constant lookout for ways to help your clients, friends, family, and business buddies. It means talking about them on socials, sharing their events, and speaking about them often with the right audience. And just when you think you are done, do it some more!

3. When you get referrals, follow up – please

There is nothing worse than giving a referral and then not hearing anything about it. It’s like the client and the referral have fallen into a black hole.

I want people who get referrals to do the right thing. Let the referrer know what happens. Keep them in the loop, let them know if you work with their contact, and update them when the project comes to an end.

Full disclosure: One of my pet peeves is when I refer a client to someone (because that someone is so good at what they do), and I never hear from that someone again. No follow through, no thank you, no acknowledgement of the work I bring in for them. And I wonder to myself if they even care that I’ve spent time sending people their way. If you don’t want people to feel this way, follow through, make sure you have the right systems in place to make this happen (hello, Dubsado) and get it cranking, so you and your referrer know exactly what has happened. If you are sloppy with this, the referrals will dry up, I promise.

4. Use gratitude and say thanks to the referrer

At the very least, send a note of gratitude. Find a way to appreciate the person who keeps sending work – especially if you want more similar work or clients. It’s just manners, isn’t it?

5. Review where your referrals come from

Do you have a system in place to review the source of your referrals? Have you ever thought about who is doing the referring? Have you done an audit so that you know exactly where and why clients come to you? Knowing this information is so powerful in today’s business world.

It’s the old 80/20 rule. Known originally as the Pareto Principle (coined by economist Vilfredo Pareto), it goes something like this: “The 80/20 rule states that the relationship between input and output is rarely, if ever, balanced. When applied to work, it means that approximately 20% of your efforts produce 80% of the results.” So, if we look at our client base, does that mean 80% of our clients come from 20% of our efforts? What does this mean for a referral network?

So, by now, you know you need to focus a little more on referrals, huh? Yes, you do! One of the first things you need to do is some networking. To get started, here is an article that will NOT make you eye roll!

Remember, if people don’t know you, they don’t like or trust you, and there will be no referrals. But as soon as people get to know, like and trust you, watch those referrals roll in – oh, and do amazing work!

So, what are you waiting for? Let’s do this!

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Emma also has a podcast.