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Are You Referable?

by Steve Woodruff  |  
August 14, 2012

The holy grail of any business is be referable (i.e., to have new clients show up because of positive word-of-mouth from existing customers).

There is no shortcut to becoming referable. We have to earn it. At minimum, we need to have at least the following three things in place.

Be able. Yes, the table stakes in this game of business is competence. You are capable of performing the challenges and responsibilities you take on. If you're sloppy, tardy, or unskilled, you cannot expect existing clients to help you gain new customers to disappoint. Or it may be that you are quite a capable worker, but not in the particular role you occupy---which means you may need to re-evaluate what you want to do when you grow up!

Be remarkable. "Yeah, they were OK, I guess..." is not a ringing endorsement. Referrals come through providing extraordinaryservice--- exceeding expectations, having a great attitude, making the entire user experience a positive one. Just recently, I experienced exceptional customer service from a high-end boutique provider of chocolates---remarkable enough to be blog-worthy. Commodity-level service does not earn word-of-mouth business.

Be transferable. This is the capstone. If anyone is going to refer you, they'll have to use words (and, increasingly, links) to pass you along to others. Do you have one Web link or blog post that gives a great summary of your service? Perhaps it should be featured in your e-mail signature. Do you have a punchy, one-sentence summary that creates a memorable word picture in the mind of your clients (and potential clients)? Don't do any marketing without it.

There's a lot of noise---and also plenty of competition---out there. However, there is also a boatload of opportunity for any great business or entrepreneur that is outstanding (or standing out) in the field. Social media is an amplifier. It can accentuate and highlight your greatness. But you still have to be able, remarkable, and transferable if you ultimately hope to be referable!

(Photo courtesy of Bigstock: Happy Young People)

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Steve Woodruff is the world's only Clarity Therapist. He connects people with their purpose, their message, and with other people in order to create new business opportunities. He writes at the

Steve is an unusual hybrid of conceptualizer, strategist, marketer, analyst, wordsmith, semi-techie, and all-around decent fellow, except when there's bad coffee or lousy wine.

Steve can also be found on Twitter, LinkedIn.

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  • by Jennifer Kelly Tue Aug 14, 2012 via blog

    "Be Transferable" is such a good point. You clients have to know when to suggest their colleagues call you in if they're going to refer you. It's good to sum it up for them in a conversation. We may think (or hope!) our marketing messaging makes it into their heads, but a simple "I work with companies who XYZ and the best time for me to enter the process is at ABC." can do wonders to cement when to refer you in their minds.

  • by Linda Sherman Wed Aug 15, 2012 via blog

    Thanks for the reminder on point 3 Steve! I have no problem with points 1&2 but often fall into a "the cobbler's children have no shoes" situation when it comes to promoting myself.

    G+'d this article to bookmark for myself and circled you. Happy to see you are active there. So much has happened in the world of web since we met at Blogger Social 2008.

  • by Steve Woodruff Wed Aug 15, 2012 via blog

    Linda, thanks for stopping by - good to see your smiling avatar again! And, yes, there is the cobbler's problem - I'm in the midst right now of updating some of my on-line stuff because my message/offering(s) have evolved...

  • by Michele Price (@prosperitygal) Wed Aug 15, 2012 via blog

    Steve it sounds simple and I think that is where many times people miss a great opportunity to uplevel their results. They think they have "done the work" already. I had done some of the work, and at least knew in my heart of heart and my gut there was more work to be done to gain an additional layer of clarity for my own brand.

    I knew that I had grown and morphed and evolved into something very different then when I started seeing the different people show up for Breakthrough Business Strategies radio.

  • by Steve Woodruff Wed Aug 15, 2012 via blog

    Jennifer, after many years in business, and endless examples of seeing (what I figured had to be) a clear and oft-repeated message totally unabsorbed, I no longer dare to hope that general or foggy marketing messages get into people's heads!

  • by Steve Woodruff Wed Aug 15, 2012 via blog

    Actually, you bring up an excellent point, Michele. For many consultants and businesses, there is a steady morphing that goes on - we evolve AND our marketplace evolves rapidly. I asked some questions (because I don't have all the answers, for sure!) in this post:

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