I’m a big fan of clever lead generation systems, turning quality web traffic into pre-qualified warm leads. Because it’s a very robust way to get new clients. I’ve built a number of businesses on the concept, including this one. Here’s a video I did on the subject a month ago.
But as clever and 2017 as that kind of system is, there is a better source of high quality clients for your business.
And that’s your existing clients.
Because the best source of new clients in any mature business, is referrals from existing, happy clients.
No wonder. When someone uses your IT support service for the first time, there is a high level of perceived risk.
“What if it goes wrong? What if they don’t know what they’re doing? What if it leaves us with no computers for a couple of days?”
When a friend says “you should use my business’s IT support company; they’re great,” then much of that perceived risk is removed. Because a recommendation from a friend is the ultimate form of social proof.
Most people prefer to do what most other people are doing. Yes, even business owners and managers. The majority of us are sheep and like to follow the herd. This is a very old piece of psychological programming that has driven human behaviour since we were in caves.
10,000 years ago, strangers could kill you. So you were suspicious of them. It was safer to stick with who you know and what you know. And you wanted to stay in your tribe, or group no matter what. Being pushed out of a group meant being picked off by predators. So you were socially compliant in order to stay in the group.
Today, if we can see that people like us are using a specific supplier – and if those people out and out recommend that supplier – then we perceive them to be dramatically safer.
What’s interesting as well is that people typically refer people like them. You want more business owning clients? Then ask your existing business owner clients.
This is sound in theory. But there’s a problem in practice. Maybe it’s a uniquely British one, or maybe it’s just human nature.
Most people don’t like making referrals. Few will do it off their own backs. And even when you formally ask people for a referral, the majority are very reluctant to do it. If you’ve ever tried to get referrals, it’s very frustrating.
Let me tell you why this happens. When you refer a friend to a business, there is an inherent social risk in doing so.
Because what if your friend doesn’t have the good experience that you do? What if they find the service crap, and don’t gel with the people?
That risk is on you! If they have a bad experience, they will remember it was YOU who recommended the company!
So it becomes easier not to make any recommendations or referrals. The same deep seated psychological programming that makes us socially compliant, stops us from making recommendations. And it’s why most IT support companies (and IT consultancies) fail to get an abundance of referrals from their existing clients.
There is an answer.
Instead of asking people to refer your business, you put together something called a referral kit. It’s a piece of educational marketing that you give away for free. Perhaps a book, or PDF, or a series of videos. Your referral kit can be the same as the ethical bribe you use in your lead generation system.
Then you formally ask your happy clients to tell their friends about your referral kit. Here’s a good script for an email, telephone call or conversation:
“Are you happy with the service today? Great. Then can I ask a favour please. You see, we’re always looking for more clients like you. We find that existing clients are the best source of new clients for us.
“Please could you tell all your friends and contacts who own or manage companies that we have written a new 2017 guide called ‘The 7 ways IT kills business productivity – and how to prevent 6 of them’. They can get a free copy by visiting www.yourwebsite.co.uk/guide.”
Make asking for referrals systematic. Put it in every follow-up email when a piece of support has been satisfactorily concluded. That’s the point people are most likely to refer you, at the point you have “saved” them.
Don’t be disappointed that even with a referral kit, most people still don’t refer you. It’s not personal. That brain programming is hard to overcome. The 80/20 rule applies here. The majority of your client referrals will come from a small number of people.
Just make sure that once you have sent out your ethical bribe, you have some kind of follow-up to the person who requested it. Weekly emails are good. Picking up the phone and speaking to them is even better. People buy when they are ready to buy. The only way to know that is to have a conversation with them.
Further reading: There’s a great book about referral kits, called Unstoppable Referrals by Steve Gordon.