Our Top Seven Ideas for Accounting and Financial Services
The author discusses findings from a Hinge Research Institute (HRI) conducted with 523 professional services firms regarding why firms do not get more referrals. One interesting finding was why firms do not get more referrals. HRI found that in 72% of cases, the answer is simple: no one asked them. HRI also learned that 81.5% of service providers have received referrals from individuals and companies who they have never worked with. Below, the author explains the top seven referral marketing approaches HRI learned about. But first, the author takes a minute to describe the two distinct types of referrals, each of which requires its own strategy.
Historically, generating referrals has been a top marketing initiative for many firms, enabling them to operate and grow on referrals aloneâ€”at least up until now.
Our research arm, the Hinge Research Institute (HRI), conducted a study of 523 professional services firms to get the full story on referrals.Â One interesting finding was why firms do not get more referrals.Â HRI found that in 72% of cases, the answer is simple: no one asked them.Â HRI also learned that 81.5% of service providers have received referrals from individuals and companies who they have never worked with.
Below, I will explain the top seven referral marketing approaches HRI has learned about.Â But first, let me take a minute to describe the two distinct types of referrals, each of which requires its own strategy.
- Experience-based Referrals arise from direct experience working with your firm, such as clients or other professionals you worked with on a project. This is how most people define referrals.
- Reputation-based Referrals, on the other hand, come from people who have not worked with you directly, yet are still familiar with your firm and its reputation or expertise. As shown in Figure 1, their awareness about your firm or its reputation may come from a variety of sources.
An effective referral marketing strategy should be designed to foster both types of referrals.Â Here are our favorite ways to do so.
Figure 1: Sources of Expertise Based Referrals
Referral Marketing: Our Favorite Ideas
1.Â Find and nurture the best referral sources.Â
This tactic seems obvious, but you might be surprised at how many firms overlook it.Â Individual partners usually have their own reliable referral sources, but we have found that firms rarely take steps to nurture them on a consistent, firm-wide basis.Â Lunch dates or golf events are great, but do not forget the simple act of keeping your sources up-to-date on what is going on at your firm.Â Treat them like the VIPs they truly are.
The more up-to-date your case studies and the more widely you circulate them, the more likely a prospect will know an employee at a highlighted client and ask about you.Â For even greater impact, create video case stories, which our research has shown to be more believable and convincing as a rule.
3.Â Feature your best clients in articles, presentations, etc.
It pays to help your clients be more visible. Â After attending a presentation or reading an article where you reference a key client, some audience members will contact those clients and ask about your firm, giving you the benefit of an â€śunsolicited endorsement.â€ť
4.Â Publicize your client list.
I know most firms are leery of doing this, fearing that competitors will â€śstealâ€ť their clients.Â However, if you make sure to list only satisfied clients and get their permission before publishing them, it is much more likely that they will make a referral than jump to a competitor.Â Publishing a client list also helps your prospects understand the types of clients you typically serve.
5.Â Interview experts in your clientsâ€™ industry.
By profiling high visibility experts in your clientsâ€™ industries, you can benefit in several ways.Â During the interview, the expert will learn about your firm and what you do.Â This prepares them to make not only specialization–based referrals to you but, as they learn more about you, to also consider making a reputation–based referral.
6.Â Be loud and clear about your specialty.Â
Many firms downplay their specialized knowledge so as not to alienate potential clients who might not find it relevant.Â However, the more folks know about your specialty, the more likely they are to give referrals.
In the HRI, the research shows that referrals often happen after individuals or organizations see a firmâ€™s representatives speak, read their content, or interact with them on social media.Â High visibility across these channels helps generate more non-client referrals.
7.Â Uncover your Visible ExpertsÂ®.Â
Most firms have experts in their fields who, in most cases, are not well-known outside of the firm and its clients.Â A key referral strategy is to make these experts more visible.Â A Visible Expert is one who is well-known to a target audience.Â Our research shows that these professionals provide major benefits to their firms, including:
- Increased leads and opportunities for reputation-based referrals
- Ability to charge premium rates
- Easier sales closing
The referral marketing ideas listed above are even more effective when they work together, such as within a broader content marketing strategy. Â Best of all, they can help generate referrals at the same time you are building your brandâ€”and that is the definition of a winning combination.
This article was previously published in Hinge Marketing, April 16, 2018, and is republished here with permission.
Lee W. Frederiksen, PhD, is Managing Partner at Hinge, the leading branding and marketing firm for the professional services. Hinge conducts groundbreaking research into high-growth firms and offers a complete suite of services for firms that want to become more visible and grow.
Dr. Frederiksen can be contacted at either (703) 391-8870 or by e-mail to LFrederiksen@hingemarketing.com.