I am an evangelist type of personality (bringing the good news).
If I like something, I want to let others know about this fantastic product or service… but sometimes it’s hard to quickly describe what a company does – and why anyone should care.
Not all remarkable experiences are easy to talk about. Often there is a confusing aspect of the business, which makes them hard to describe. And this gets in the way of evangelists talking about your product or service and referring your business.
Why are referrals valuable?
Driving traffic with money is easy, but expensive, and often the leads gained are not as qualified as you would like.
Referrals are free and come preloaded with trust. The amount of trust depends on who the reference came from. But, one super satisfied customer can tell a lot of people about their experience with you and drive high-trust traffic to you at no cost.
Ok, no cost is a bit of an exaggeration. The cost is the investment you make in delivering on your promises over and over, not just satisfying but delighting customers.
“One customer, well taken care of, could be more valuable than $10,000 worth of advertising.” – Jim Rohn
Are you getting in the way of referrals?
The answer to that varies, but it is because the offering enjoyed is complicated, and the company has not done the work of defining a message for the referrer to use. The referrer has to work hard to find a way to describe the company; to be honest, it is easy to run out of give-a-damn to pitch a product or service to someone else when you have no skin in the game.
Now, imagine it’s your business that people are trying to shout about from the rooftops.
Referrals are hard when…
- The first thing that comes to mind is “it’s complicated”
- You’re an undifferentiated generalist
- You think everyone is your potential customer
- You’re messaging is not clear
- You’re not consistent
- Online you don’t look as credible as you are IRL
- You offer a lot of unrelated services
- You can’t clearly say, “we do this for these people”
Your firm’s reputation lives in the minds of your audience, clients, and potential clients.
What they think about you is based on what you tell them what others tell them, and what they experience. Different scenarios make up your brand image, and it’s what people see in their minds when they think about your company.
You want to have a clearly defined place in their mental filing cabinet. “When I run into someone with THIS or THIS problem, THIS is the company I refer them to.”
What does branding have to do with referrals?
Many companies make the mistake of ignoring branding – they don’t see it as something important or necessary to invest in… we have a logo. (I want to go on a rant, just typing that)
“Only fortune 1000 firms need to worry about branding. We need to focus on marketing and sales.”
They spend all their time getting the word out about their services and focusing their efforts on marketing. That works sometimes, but more often than not, a message goes out but doesn’t land anywhere meaningful. Because they didn’t spend much time on what the word should be before “getting it out there.”
Creating an easy-to-understand message that conveys your value and relevance will help you become distinct and significant to the people you’re trying to attract. By showing them who your business is, and connecting with them on a different level.
“Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends.” – Walt Disney
But how do you know if you’re easy to refer to? And how can you make it easier for your clients to refer you to their friends, family, and colleagues?
Here are 6 key points to think about when researching how to get more referrals.
1. Are you easy to understand?
If you’ve got a vague company description, or maybe your slogan is a bit confusing, you could end up being forgotten or misunderstood. Try to be as specific and clear as possible when it comes to telling your audience who you are.
Taken from an actual homepage of an outstanding firm in Austin Texas
Our mission is to provide innovative solutions and diverse expertise to meet our clients’ needs, with the utmost quality and dedicated service, in an environment of collaboration and respect.
Congratulations – 29 words that say absolutely nothing. For the love of all that is good in this world, STOP writing copy by committee. THAT is watered down useless crap. And the industry is full of this type of content.
There are so many great companies being overlooked because they aren’t clear on what they do – or don’t know how to communicate what they do to their audience.
Open up your website. In less than 10 seconds can you answer any of these:
- What do you do, and who do you do it for?
- Where are you located, what markets do you serve?
- What are the company’s mission and vision for the future?
- Do you have core values that drive your business?
- Do you know our audience and what they give a damn about?
- Do you have a point of view?
2. Are you easy to find?
If you search your company name online, does your website come up on the first page of Google? This is called a brand search, and there is no excuse for not dominating your own name. If you don’t, it’s time to get to work and get noticed online. Look into search engine optimization techniques to get your website on the top of Google (or you know, find a pro to do it for you).
Can you be found beyond a brand-specific search when a prospect uses a keyword or key phrase search?
Ok, let’s say someone finds you…
- Is your website engaging and clear?
- Is your website easy to navigate?
- Is your contact information and location easy to find?
- Is your website pretty but full of blah blah blah content?
There’s no point in attracting potential clients to your website if it’s a hot mess that hamstrings your sales team.
3. Are you easy to remember?
To get referred, you need to be memorable.
To be memorable, you need to be distinct.
If you are not memorable or distinct, you will blend into the crowd.
Referrers will have to work really hard to combat this. “Trust me, they do great work, but don’t go to their site, it’s terrible.”
If prospects can’t remember you or you are generic, you won’t get filed in their memory. In this industry, meaningful differentiation is everything.
For people to remember you, you need to wow them with what you offer and the value you create.
4. Are you easy to contact and buy from?
There is no phone number, no email address, and no city or state information.
Few things are as annoying as finding a company that appears to do just what you need, but you can’t tell if they are near you, across the country, or on another continent. This is overlooked too often. It’s akin to a fantastic sounding conference that has a landing page that doesn’t list the year, or the actual location in the city so you can price hotels, sometimes they leave out the date altogether.
The curse of knowledge is the culprit here. Look at your brand footprint from a prospect’s point of view.
If people can’t reach you, or you make it hard, then there isn’t really any point in networking and gaining referrals in the first place.
5. Is our value clear?
Don’t make prospects work so damned hard. I’m so tired of sites full of “solutions,” but prospects can’t tell if that will solve their problem.
This is not about you; it’s about them. It is about the value you create in the lives of others that is worth more than the money it took to buy it.
Like I said before, a brand is built in two ways; by what you tell people and what they experience.
Before they can experience your awesomeness, you have to make them a compelling promise to invite you to the table. You want prospects to want to work with you. Not because of price but because you are damned good at what you do. Then deliver like hell on that promise. These are the seeds of your reputation.
You have many ways to convey your value before anyone even meets you.
6. Do you have a plan to intentionally build and shape our reputation?
Your value is conveyed through your reputation.
To get a good reputation, you have to do good work and tell your story.
To tell your story well, you have to find and define what is distinctive about your company and is relevant to your prospects.
Then you need to have a strategy to intentionally build your brand reputation.
Here are some things that will help:
- Obviously, do good work
- Be clear. Be consistent. Look and sound credible.
- Clean up your digital footprint (contact info, message, and visuals)
- Make sure your LinkedIn personal and business profile is up to date
- Claim your Google My Business account and optimize it
- Make all of your social media profiles consistent and looking credible
- Have a point of view and a brand personality
- Have a content marketing plan
- Post relevant content (like blog posts and articles) online to convey your brand personality and point of view.
- Stay active on social media and engage
- Be visible in your market by getting involved with relevant groups
If you keep this up and remain involved in the industry, you’ll shape what you are known for and enhance your brand reputation, visibility, and referability.
Do you need help becoming more memorable?
You may think that you do just what everyone else in your market does, and there is nothing that differentiates you. I have not run into a firm yet that didn’t have a few goodies that made them meaningfully different. Most of my clients aren’t sexy businesses.
It takes an outside perspective to help you find your brand essence, define it, and design it.
Our clients are so close to it that they can’t see how special they are. They can’t see past the technical jargon and how much they know about the business.
We can help you create an easy-to-refer brand.
Attract customers into your business, get some amazing referrals, and let people know who you are. We can help you create and implement a solid brand foundation, refresh your website, and develop a brilliant marketing plan that will deliver.
Tracy O’Shaughnessy Founder / Lead Brand Strategist of Branding & Beyond
Tracy and her team help B2B firms in the construction industry and professional services look and sound credible online and off.
She has been in the industry since the early '90s and is tired of great companies being treated as commodities and competing on price because they don't look and sound as credible as they really are.
You can find Tracy on Linkedin and here on this blog.