Referrer management - don't be pigeon-holed

I recently presented the MBL course “Winning more work from referrers and intermediaries” in Birmingham. Below are the top tips on referrer management discussed by the delegates. Details of future courses are here:

1.The importance of the broader marketing context

At the session we considered research that demonstrated how important your general promotional activity was in terms of supporting referrer management strategies. In particular, it was noted that your web site and social media presence were important check points for those who are intending to refer clients and work to you. So there needs to be an integrated campaign that aligns general promotion – whether through media relations, digital marketing or events – with the aims and messages conveyed in referrer management activities.

2. Link thought leadership to insight selling

We all want joined-up and integrated action. Look at the major promotional campaigns being organised by your marketing and communications team – and ensure that you use the main themes, messages and content as part of your referrer management programme. This enables you to be really effective in linking ideas generated by your thought leadership with the effective methods of insight selling.

3. Provide commercial insight training to your staff

In addition to providing the relevant selling and relationship management skills to your staff, consider how you can help them develop their commercial skills. This can either focus on explaining the sorts of broad commercial themes affecting your referrers or in-depth coaching into the nature and mind-set of different types of referrers. Segment and target your referrer markets first though.

4. Take the time to walk around

Obviously, a cornerstone of referrer management is face-to-face contact for relationship building. Sometimes this is on neutral territory such as in coffee shops, restaurants or other entertainment environments. But when these informal or formal meetings take place at the referrers’ offices it is important to request a chance to walk around. Not only does this provide an additional insight into the culture of the referrer organisation and increase the time available for the sort of casual conversation that cements relationships but it provides opportunities for you to meet and chat to a wider range of contacts at that referrer organisation.

5. Ask about their likelihood of referring (and for what)

NPS (Net Promoter Score) is an established way of assessing client satisfaction. But it determines, in a simple measure, the propensity of someone to refer work to you. It’s a good way to open the conversation about whether and if a referrer would refer work to you. It may also lead to discussions about how they perceive you and whether you have been pigeon-holed into a particular area of expertise or experience.

6. Offer CPD opportunities

All professionals belonging to a regulatory body will need to acquire the required number of CPD points each year. Offer them opportunities to earn CPD by spending time with you – whether that is accompanying you to third party events or by attending or receiving seminars and events that you have created either for them exclusively or for groups of like-minded people. But if you are short of time or there are logistical issues in getting together, you can also provide high quality video and videoconference material or even tailored e-learning solutions to them.

7. Provide free trials and exclusive software

Make it easy for them to get you in front of their clients. Offer some sort of free trial or subsidised service for the first one or two referrals. Create a model, spreadsheet or system that they can provide to their clients (with password protection) so that they are keen to pass it on to their clients. The value delivered to their clients will also make them look good.

8. Provide work experience placements

If you have a well-developed learning and development or training function, consider offering short term work placements to members of their family and friends. Most clients will have children, nieces and nephews and family friends who will need work experience opportunities.

9. Produce a content management plan

Where you have a number of different messages to convey to one or a number of referrers, spend some time mapping out a content management plan so that you devote a couple of months to talking about one topic before moving onto the next. As well as providing a range of topics to talk about (thus supporting your follow up) this can guard against situations where you might be pigeon-holed into a particular area.

10. Adopt a structured approach

Despite good intentions, unless there is a structured approach and plan of action for referrer management it is likely to be forgotten or taken out in a piecemeal approach. Even if you are doubtful about the value of a plan, the planning process itself will be invaluable in helping you to analyse the situation, set goals, agree strategies and allocate responsibilities for action.