Do you believe referrals are good for business?
I’m guessing that that the majority of answers to this are going to be a big, fat yes. It’s always lovely to have new clients come to you because you’ve been recommended.
Speaking to these people makes the whole selling process just easier, doesn’t it?
But here’s a slightly bigger question to ask you; have you ever stopped to consider whether your referrals today are the right clients for your future growth?
Here’s the thing about referrals; referrals often come to you based on what an existing or previous client has told them.
And as so many of you have morphed, and even possibly reinvented your business over the past few months, adapting to our new virtual way of working, many of your potential referrals may not be the right client for you going forward.
When someone comes recommended to you, you are being recommended based on your present or past performance, rather than what you’re capable of delivering in the future. Unless you are consciously aware of this, saying yes to every referral can keep you and your work in the past.
Let me give you an example.
One of Momentum members came to us last year having built up a solid marketing consultancy. She was doing well, working with several clients managing their Facebook ads. On one hand it was good money, but on the other hand she was working too many hours, always switched on and admitted to responding to messages from some clients 24/7.
Her work boundaries were non-existent and, for the quality of work she was able to deliver, she was hugely undercharging.
So guess what; any referrals were coming from her existing clients who loved her ‘always on’ service and good value pricing, and she was saying yes to work that was keeping her so busy, she didn’t have time to think about where she was heading.
Another member who has joined us this month, had a similar situation with her training company. She is booked solid for the next four months, which on one hand is amazing (especially considering how many training companies are struggling to adapt well to remote working), but on the other hand, has made her feel she’s lost some of the direction of where she’s headed.
She had pivoted her business to deliver everything remotely and although she was getting plenty of work, she realised she was falling into the trap of ‘order taking’; giving the client what they wanted and how they wanted it, rather than spending the time to develop her commercial opportunities to grow and scale.
Of course, I am not suggesting that you don’t take work from referrals. A good referral marketing strategy is GOLD! But most business owners take referrals passively, rather than thinking through a process to have it as a strategy for growth.
Order taking is great if you are a freelancer and you are happy to do what ever work comes your way. But working as a freelancer can keep you working hard, without having any say in the direction you want to take your business.
So here are some things for you to consider to ensure your referrals are a marketing strategy, and help avoid unconscious ‘order taking’.
1) Be thankful for your referrals, but be careful not to be overly grateful.
It can be humbling to have someone tell you how wonderful they’ve heard you are. But if you are overly grateful (AKA you tell yourself how lucky you are to get this work rather than appreciate the fact that it was your expertise and results that made it easy for someone to recommend you), it’s easy to let your boundaries slip, especially around the price and time they want from you.
You want to be of service to your clients, not a servant.
2) Know that’s OK to say NO to a referral.
If the person isn’t right for you going forward, then know that it’s OK not to accept the work. I know we want to be nice people, but taking on work for the only reason that you don’t want to miss out any income opportunity, can lead you to working hard for little profit.
3) Do your present and past clients know who it is you want to work with going forward?
When was the last time you asked them for an introduction to a specific kind of person? Or let them know about the direction you are headed this year?
Remember, your past clients will know you for who you were ‘back then’, so if you’ve morphed your business over the past year, then let them know the work that you want this year and ask them if they know of anyone.
(BTW Asking for referrals is something very few people do and yet can be the easiest way to find yourself more of the right clients … so yes, ask!)
4) Give yourself space to know where it is you are headed with your business this year.
Being busy with client work is obviously good for the money flow, but if you aren’t giving yourself time to reflect, review and connect with your bigger vision on how you want your business to work for you, it’s easy to keep on taking orders and working harder and harder.
This is one of the big reasons why many come to work with me. They are at a pivotable moment in their business; doing OK but, like the proverbial swan, when I dig into how their business is running (the systems, team, processes and revenue model), they are working way too hard, often with the wrong clients.
If you know you need help in finding the space (and then what you actually do when you get in that space!), get in touch. I’d love to see if I can help.
Until next time, do less, be more and play bigger.
About the author
Karen Skidmore is a midlife leadership & business coach for entrepreneurs scaling their purpose & profit. Business Books Awards finalist 2020 & podcaster, Karen uniquely combines the being-ness and doing-ness of business to help you grow, without burning out.
The first step in discovering the True Profit in your business is to take the True Profit Test.