Many agencies live and die by the referral. This is their most valuable source of new business. Yet, many firms don’t get as many referrals as they deserve and want -- and it may be their own fault. They don't take advantage of key opportunities that would lead to a referral. Or, worse yet, they waste the referrals they do receive.

Watch this webinar to learn how agencies can use a research-based referral strategy to increase their visibility by getting high quality referrals from clients

If you want to get more referrals and make the most of those prospects sent directly to your agency, avoid these pitfalls. 

1) Hidden expertise

According to our Referral Marketing Study in which Hinge surveyed nearly 1,200 professionals, the best way to reduce the number of referrals you receive is to make sure your expertise is not visible. My mother used to say this was “hiding your light under a bushel.” It doesn’t matter how good you are, if people don’t know about your capabilities, you won’t get the referrals.

A better approach: According to additional Hinge research Referral Marketing for Professional Services, you can increase your visibility. How? Speak at industry events, publish blog posts and other content that demonstrates your thought leadership, be active on social media, or even write a book. You can also boost prominence and credibility by having an impressive website with content that ranks high in search engine results for keywords relevant to your agency and services. 

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2) Clients left in the dark about additional services

Your current and past clients have a professional relationship with you. Naturally, if you did a good job for them, you would expect them to be able to refer you. But here’s the rub. They only know you for the work you did for them. They likely know nothing about the full extent of your service offerings. Two problems here:

  1. Past clients may not think of you for the additional, ancillary services they need.
  2. They certainly won’t refer you for services they don't know you offer.

A better approach: Educate your clients the same way you do prospects. If you have a speaking engagement, invite them. Also, make sure it’s easy for them to find your educational content.

3) Being un-sociable

Referring a firm or individual can be risky. Some referrers may even feel their reputation is on the line. They want to be confident that whoever they refer will do a good job. If they don’t know you well, they may not trust you. As a result, you will not get that prized referral.

A better approach: Don’t lose that referral opportunity. Work to build trust with your contacts, use social media effectively, and set aside a budget (both time and money) for key networking and social engagements.

4) Unclear explanation of what your agency does

Your actions, intentional or not, may be killing off the referrals that you receive. And the best way to destroy referrals is to be unclear about your expertise, capabilities, or services. Many buyers (43.6%) rule out a referral because they don't know what the firm does. This may be because there is no content online to demonstrate or explain a company’s expertise.

A better approach: Ensure better follow through by clearly addressing your service offerings on your website and any other point of engagement with prospective clients. Explain what you do and who you do it for.

5) Emphasising on selling not educating

Buyers do not want to be sold to. They want guidance in solving their problems. We've found that nealry 32.9% of prospects do not follow through on a referral because a vendor’s marketing materials focus on selling rather than educating.

A better approach: Instead of selling, share your insights in blog posts, guides, webinars, and more. Write content that shows your knowledge of an industry. Teach first, then sell. 

6) An unimpressive website

Your website is often a buyers’ first impression of your firm. If it’s unimpressive, it may also be their last. When faced with a mediocre website, 29.6% of buyers have dismissed referrals.

A better approach: Your website is the center of your online marketing universe. Make sure it shines brightly. 

7) Lackluster content

Almost a quarter of buyers (23.5%) walk away from referrals when they see poor quality marketing content. It could be a whitepaper that reads like a brochure or a blog post that’s shallow and uninformative. Weak content will keep referrals at bay.

A better approach: Unique, informative marketing content will engage your referrals and make them eager to learn more.

8) A rinky-dink appearance

Some buyers (22.2%) simply make the assessment that your firm is not in their league. It’s likely these are buyers from larger organizations who base their appraisal on your website, branding, and overall online presence.

A better approach: If your website is impressive and jam-packed with helpful content, you can look every bit as impressive as your competitors.

9) Concealed industry knowledge

One in five buyers (21.4%) might not consider your firm because they think you lack industry knowledge. If you do not make it obvious that you understand the buyer’s industry, they are likely to walk away without digging any further.

A better approach: Demonstrate your industry knowledge through the content you publish, as well as your client list, case studies, and testimonials.

10) Operating in stealth mode

Even if they have been referred to you, buyers want validation from a variety of sources. Some of them (12.4%) will drop you from consideration because they had never heard of your firm before their friend or colleague referred you.

A better approach: Stay visible on and offline to reap the rewards of referrals.

Don't Lose Out on Referrals

While referrals are hard to come by, they are easy to lose. Your actions, intentional or not, may be keeping you from the referrals you deserve. In fact, more than half (51.9%) of professionals who receive referrals rule them out before they even speak with the firm they have been referred to.

If you do good work, you should get your fair share of referrals. Don’t fall victim to these common referral-killing pitfalls. Take advantage of every opportunity to gain a referral, and then keep it.

Originally published Mar 22, 2016 9:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017

Topics:

Referral Marketing