Most businesses rely on word of mouth to stay afloat. Referral leads are a great source for new business and your business probably heavily relies on referrals. In fact, most businesses that haven’t allocated a marketing budget or undergone a marketing overhaul usually exclusively rely on referral business. Here’s a strange reality regarding referral business: the unknown. The problem with referral business is that you go into your first meeting blind as to where in the sales funnel your lead is. Are they doing their initial research on their needs? Have they already made the educated decision as to the experience they require with your products or services? Are they a good fit for your ideal buyer profile? These are questions that you cannot ask the referrer and thus you may find yourself in an interesting position in that first phone call or meeting.
In a perfect world, inbound marketing would qualify your leads for you based on lead intelligence. You would be able to see every interest by viewing their contact profile, including the pages they visited on your website, guides they have downloaded and gauge their interest in the different areas they seek your expertise in. When you don’t have lead intelligence and you go into a referral meeting blind, you have no idea what level of experience and education your prospect has, and you have to start the meeting under the assumption that the educational process has to start right there. This means that all of the work that your referral lead would normally do themselves by searching and downloading resources on your website has to happen manually. This means more time invested and an increased cost for that lead, since we all know- time is money.
Not Ready to Buy
One of the most important things about inbound leads is that they are closer to buying stage than outbound leads. There is nothing cold about a lead that downloads a guide on your website. While that lead may not be ready to buy immediately, you have some idea (based on the funnel level of the offer downloaded) where they are in their readiness levels. With a referral lead you have no idea. Even while you’re pushing them down the funnel manually, you can be met with hesitation and there are a number of different factors that can mean delaying the process, which if done manually, can easily lose a lead through lack of follow-up or providing the wrong content with poor timing.
Not a Fit
Your customers have all the best intentions in the world when it comes to referring businesses to you. They know that you’re the best at what you do – you’ve proven it in how you’ve helped them, but they have little idea of what your ideal buyer persona is. In fact, you’ve given them nothing to go off, since your marketing e-mails are lacking. The result? Most of the leads that are referred to you are for small retainers or cannot afford your services. Good intentions, terrible fit.
So, how can you situate yourself to receive better referrals from your customers and brand evangelists? Educate them. Just like you would a potential client. Use your inbound with social media and e-mail marketing to create content for specific industries you’re targeting – like construction, education or medical. Industry verticals not only make it so your company specializes, but provide your biggest supporters, your current clients, with fuel to work a vertical of referrals.
Being creative with your marketing is the key to getting more leads. Making sure that you’re extending your education through to all of your prospects and current customers will improve the quality of your referral leads tenfold. Be pointed in your marketing efforts and you’ll see your brand evangelists start to spread your message as well.