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Ramp Up a Systematic Referral Machine in SCORE

March 21, 2011

By Lou Davenport-SCORE Certified Mentor, Lancaster Chapter

with liberal excerpts from Duct Tape Marketing by John Jantsch

When I read chapter 11 in Duct Tape Marketing, I thought John Jantsch was talking directly to us. So let me share with you what he said, as it applies to SCORE.

Referral marketing is a specific set of strategies and systems designed to bring you new qualified leads and clients…..without advertising.

Many businesses have built thriving companies entirely upon referrals. But many organizations never realize they could generate much more business if they actively participated in causing the generation of referrals.

Our system for making that happen in SCORE is our key alliances program and account managers (ambassadors) working to earn alliance referrals to SCORE, for our workshops and mentoring services. But let’s consider how you can go beyond that to generate even more word of mouth referrals.

Some businesses, like lawyers, accountants, doctors and consultants, including SCORE, are ideally suited to referral marketing. When looking for a professional of this nature, most people ask someone they trust for a referral.

We are providing a service that helps aspiring and existing entrepreneurs and we are doing a disservice to our communities if we don’t actively seek referrals.

Reasons why referral marketing should be number one in your marketing strategies:

  1. People love to give referrals—they like to feel that maybe they helped another person start or grow his business.
  2. Referral marketing can be implemented at very little cost—the very best bang for the “buck” (meaning time and effort, as well as money).
  3. Acquire more qualified clients—provided you successfully communicate your ideal target market client to your referrals sources.
  4. Capitalize on borrowed credibility and trust—when someone they already trust says good things about you, you in effect borrow that trust and establish instant credibility.
  5. It makes you better—your primary objective will become making every client so happy with your services that they will tell everybody else, thus helping you move from good to great.

What makes someone refer to you? Because you have done something to help them, thus making them want to help you. But equally, they want to look and feel good—smart, helpful, savvy. So we have to earn that level of trust. They won’t refer to someone they don’t trust and who might make them look bad.

We must develop and manage a target list of referrals sources who have already earned the trust of people in our target market. We must develop referral tactics and processes that allow us to generate referral leads from both our existing clients, as well as our targeted network of alliance partners.

So how do we do that in the context of SCORE?

One of the best ways to leverage the power of referral marketing is to make the providing of referrals an expectation in every client relationship and every strategic alliance relationship. We must make it an overtly stated, up front expectation. We call this “the deal”.

We need to provide our sources one sheet of paper with this information:

  • What we want—the type of clients we are looking for
  • Our core message—we help people start, grow and prosper in their business, for the life of their business, through our workshops, seminars, facilitated roundtable forums and free, personalized mentoring.
  • Our referral marketing process—we will contact anyone you refer to us, within 48 hours, to assign a personal counselor to them
  • Our call to action—“Please tell these prospects that SCORE is your number one choice for small business education and mentoring expertise and give them our website address, email address and phone number to contact us.”

We also need to provide our referral sources with business cards and a SCORE services brochure for their distribution to client prospects.

At all times, we should follow up and thank our referral sources in genuine and meaningful ways—a phone call, a thank you note or email message, recognition at an appreciation luncheon or in a newsletter.

The easiest and best way to generate referrals is to make it part of “the deal”.

For SCORE mentors, explain to clients in the first meeting that we provide these great services, at low cost or for free and we want each of our clients to understand that part of the deal is to refer three new prospective clients to us over the next three months. There is something very powerful and effective about setting expectations for referrals, up front and very early in your counseling process.

For your network of alliance referral sources, the perfect process is to offer them branded tailored seminars and roundtable forums for their constituents, who then become our mentoring clients. Offer our services to them in exchange for an endorsement, a testimonial, a speaker place in their business association meetings.

Establish a “will work for referrals” chapter culture and relationship with both clients and network alliances and we will achieve our goal of helping to grow one million small businesses.

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