Thursday, April 9, 2009

Think You Know Your Referral Network?

Today's blog was inspired by SmallBizBee, a prominent small business blogger, who posed this question earlier today:

"When my customers refer me to others, what three things are they saying about what I do?"

While SmallBizbee focuses on customer word of mouth, we thought it would be helpful to also ask the same question regarding your referral partners. In other words:

"When my referral partners refer me to others, what three things are they saying about what I do?"

There are some things to consider when making the distinction between how accurately your client's communicate your services and how accurately your referral partners communicate your services.

What are your client's saying about your services?

Your clients have no intrinsic obligation to learn and accurately communicate the benefits of your services. As SmallBizBee points out, what you "think" your clients are saying about you may be different than what your clients are "actually" saying about you. It's always a good idea to follow up with clients and get an idea of how they perceive your services. Yet, because they are your clients and not necessarily a referral partner, you must take a much more passive approach. Probe, ask questions and if you notice any trends or miscommunication; you may want to tweak the marketing message on your end.

What are your referral partners saying about your services?

Conversely, good referral partners need to maintain clear communication and meet the expectations you've both set forth. Because you're vested in each others success, there is a certain level of accountability. It is more acceptable to actively control the marketing message within your referral. Your strategy could involve anything from a periodic newsletter, to a lunch-date where you specifically tell your referral partner how you'd like to communicate the value of your services.

Referral marketing comes with a responsibility to accurately represent those who you've agreed to generate sales leads with. While the line between b2b relationships and customer relationships can sometimes be blurred, don't do market research on your referral partners; sit down with them, define clear expectations and be specific in how your services should be presented.

No comments: