When it comes to generating new business, few things can work more effectively than word-of-mouth referrals. Passed along by trusted friends and associates, personal referrals carry an aura of authenticity that’s difficult to match through conventional advertising. It’s no surprise, then, that when it comes to generating new revenue, 61.9% of professional services firms cite increasing referrals as a priority, outpacing all other strategies. But in the internet age, when new clients may be local or from another state, it’s important to widen your scope of potential referral sources. Here’s how.
Publicize existing clients. Don’t underestimate the power of testimonials and case studies in winning over prospects. A client list on your website containing solid, reputable firms tells prospects you’re somebody they can trust. Get permission to include quotes from actual clients saying why they consider you a good partner (real names and titles have more impact than “Bob from California”). And detailed case studies will help prospective clients understand how your services could help them. Speaking of your website, keep it updated, attractive and informative. More than 80% of prospects will visit your site before contacting you.
Raise your profile. Word of mouth isn’t limited by your existing client base. Referrals also may come from people who have heard you speak, read something you’ve written or gotten to know you on social media, according to Hinge Marketing. You can develop your image as an authority by speaking at conferences and writing a regular blog on issues related to your field. While a blog will naturally be featured on your website, don’t just let it sit there: Share your posts on Facebook, Twitter and other social media, and always include a link back to your website.
Follow your reviews. One inevitable result of raising your profile is the likelihood that you’ll generate more unsolicited online reviews — of something you’ve said or written, or of your firm. While you can’t control everything that’s said, monitor feedback — especially criticisms — regularly. Avoid getting into online arguments, which can make both sides appear petty. Instead, apologize for any errors and politely but firmly correct misstatements and perceived slights about your service or company. A professional approach to critics can become its own referral generator, showing how you respond when challenged.
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