Every business dreams of receiving lots of unsolicited referrals. They are, after all, among the highest compliments you can receive in the business world. It's truly an honor to have clients independently decide (with no prompting from you and when you’re not even present) to talk you up as the best product or service provider they know!
Mamu Media has been fortunate enough to benefit greatly from unsolicited referrals. (Nearly half of our clients have come to use via this route!). In our early days, though, we never gave much thought to them. Back then, we were so focused on direct sales and general business development efforts that we actually did a poor job of asking clients for even regular referrals!
Recently, I've been thinking about what sort of advice I can offer to a company looking to increase its unsolicited referrals. Reviewing my own company’s history, I've found that there's no simple formula for obtaining them. They’re not easy to come by and are often considered to be the Holy Grail of marketing because you can’t actively make them happen. Instead, you have to wait for current customers to decide on their own to connect you with new prospects.
You can, however, create conditions that are conducive to the development of unsolicited referrals. Through my experience, I’ve found that the following factors are key to such an environment:
Offer a unique service that actually works as intended. This gives your clients something to discuss with their peers. If your business is a staffing company that consistently delivers on its orders, that's great—but it's also what's expected of you, so you’re really just doing the bare minimum. Ask yourself how you can wow your customers in ways that your competitors don’t. How can you differentiate your services from what others offer and increase the value you're adding to your clients’ businesses?
Focus relentlessly on customer experience and satisfaction. If you don't offer mission-critical elements (such as temporary employees or payroll services), then your contribution to a client is optional or replaceable—so you have to work extra hard to make sure that your customers both need and value you. If you're offering a unique service that works as intended, but you're a pain in the neck to work with as a vendor, the unsolicited referral becomes an unattainable goal (and you might lose your current clients as well!).
Don't think just about your customers—think about your customer's customers, too. Adding value that can be tied back to bottom-line results (even if the connection between the two isn't a straight line) has been one of my core business philosophies, and it’s worked out well for Mamu Media. When sourcing content for one of our custom or branded publications, we think about how it positions our customers and how it can help the target audience (our customer’s customers). In the staffing industry, if you’re providing employees who are more dedicated and work harder than the employees your competitors are delivering, you’re helping your customers create better products, services, and experiences that enable them to make their customers happy—and therefore get you one step closer to an unsolicited referral.
Taking all three of those steps doesn’t necessary guarantee that unsolicited referrals will start coming your way. But these actions definitely increase your odds of earning them.
These are the methods that have worked well for me. Do you have different strategies in your own toolbox? I’d love to hear how you’re working toward winning unsolicited referrals!