Monday, May 18, 2009

Making more Dough through referrals

During my talk to the Academy for Chief Executives Conference last week I talked about the importance of substantially exceeding clients' expectations if you want them to refer you.

Here's the problem. Most businesses recognise that referrals or recommendations represent their best source of new business. However, few do anything proactive about it. We employ cold calling teams, spend fortunes on pay per click and search engine optimisation, develop marketing strategies and invest in advertising campaigns. Yet we just expect referrals from our clients automatically.

There's nothing wrong with the marketing techniques above, they are all part of the marketing mix. Surely though, there's something wrong when the least resource goes into the most effective marketing channel.

This becomes a major issue when you realise that your customers don't refer you automatically, just because you give them good service. People don't work like that.

Look at the front page of the newspapers on most days and what you'll see is bad news. Bad news travels much more quickly than good, mainly because it gives us a story. Have a good meal in a restaurant and you might compliment the chef, have a lousy one and you'll tell all of your friends.

People will only relate good news if it's exceptional. In other words, if you give them a story.

The Conference last week was held at Warren House in Surrey. On the evening before the Conference Academy CEO Mike Burnage arrived with a guest. They sat in the lounge and asked the waiter for some Scones.

The waiter started to tell Mike that there were no scones available that day but stopped himself. "One moment please sir", he said and disappeared into the kitchen. A few minutes later he came out and said "Chef is making some fresh scones for you now". Twenty minutes later he re-emerged with piping hot freshly made scones.

How do I know this? Because Mike told me.....he had a story where Warren House substantially exceeded his expectations. How often would you expect a hotel that has no scones to make some for you there and then?

Not only did Mike tell me, I then relayed the same story to fellow diners that night, and again I told the audience from the stage the next day.

Give your customers a positive story to tell their friends, colleagues and family if you want referrals. Under promise and over deliver.

Above all, if you want to be referred, substantially exceed their expectations.

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