You can flip the 80/20 rule in your favor by devoting your marketing resources to creating a referral network that will compound in value year after year.
While you may have created your own marketing plan with good intentions, I can tell you—based on experience with thousands of clients—that it's probably based on a faulty equation, one that concentrates dollars in certain areas (seminars, mailings, radio, and so on) and focuses on an outward, public push.
Don't get me wrong. I applaud the effort. After all, marketing is by definition getting people to raise their hands. Conventional wisdom says your goal is to get as many qualified people as you can to raise their hands, and then you allow your salesmanship to kick in.
But I believe that's a flawed approach. It's old-school. It's the proverbial 80/20 rule at its worst.
Let me explain. In a recent survey I undertook with 1,388 financial advisers, 83.4% of advisers reported spending 80% of their marketing budget on outbound marketing and advertising efforts. The remaining 20% of the money went to current clients. That may be how the financial-services marketing game has always been played. But it's a strategy that will not win in today's industry, because the larger firms will outspend you every time.
Is there a smarter way for you to market yourself? What if you inverted the equation and spent 80% of your marketing dollars on your current clients? Does that sound like a ridiculous notion? Are you asking yourself what your return could possibly be?
I'll tell you right now, your return will be great. What I'm talking about is refocusing your marketing dollars on creating a client referral program. Here are three key concepts for redirecting your marketing focus to increase referrals during 2006 and beyond.
1. Ensure that your existing clients understand the full scope of your services
People talk most about your work when they really understand it. But, unfortunately, the majority of our clients have experienced the benefit of only a few of our skills.
Teaching tip: Referrals come faster when clients recognize the extent to which you can improve their lives—and have already done so. So they must be able to understand all your services. They must be able to explain to others what you do. Focus on educating them about all areas of your practice, ideally by giving them the direct experience of benefiting from all your expertise.
2. Discuss the subject of growth with your clients
Growth is a natural part of life. It demonstrates that you are a positive, optimistic, and enthusiastic adult. In fact, I haven't known many people who don't appreciate a person who is positive and active about advancing herself, whether personally or professionally. The problem is, most of us tend to get indifferent about advancing ourselves at times.
Have you noticed that when you have a growth mindset, other people just seem to match your level of excitement? Yet many professionals consider it taboo to discuss their desire to grow their business by referral—especially with existing clients. The common reaction is, "I can't discuss or ask for referrals. It will make me look cheap or salesy."
That's simply wrong. And while we're at it, let's dispel another false assumption that stops you from asking for referrals.
Teaching tip: When I coach professionals on improving their referrals, I emphasize that an attitude of conveyance of growth is absolutely essential. This attitude keeps you from alienating clients; it means that when you talk referrals, most clients are thrilled that you thought so highly of them that you're sharing your growth plans and requesting their help. Try it and you'll be astounded at the reaction. If you're still gun-shy, you can always plant a "quiet seed" that will blossom over time by beginning with referral letter (here's a free sample of a referral letter.)
3. Reward referral-generating behavior
It amazes me how many professionals don't recognize and reward referral-generating behavior—whether it comes from their clients or even their office staff.
Much as you reward a schoolchild who brings home a good report card, you must reward any person who sends business your way. Start by focusing on your clients. Make them all aware that there's something in it for them—a gift, free product, extra resource—when they refer people to you. And by all means follow through and reward them. But be careful: Don't fall into the trap of rewarding the client only when their referral does business with you, or when you close the sale.
Teaching tip: Reward clients just for giving you a name. This isn't some cheap, gimmicky sales approach. It's an honest appreciation and recognition for those people who have helped you. They've taken time from their schedules to do you a favor—refer someone to you. I want you to reward that behavior. Even if the referral doesn't pan out or become a client, even if they turn out to be the worst prospect you've ever seen in your life, reward the referral behavior! Always. People remember rewards. They enjoy them. And you'll feel good about it yourself.
* * *
Flip your 80/20 marketing budget ratio in your favor by focusing your marketing resources on creating a referral network that will compound in value year upon year. Good luck!