Re­fer­rals for the Win

Animation Magazine - - Opportunities - By Martin Gre­bing

MEx­po­nen­tially in­crease your client list by im­ple­ment­ing a for­mal re­fer­ral sys­tem.

ar­ket­ing and ad­ver­tis­ing is the most ex­pen­sive item for most busi­nesses to­day. Get­ting that new client in the door the first time can re­quire a mon­u­men­tal amount of time, en­ergy and money. Once landed, the big­gest mis­take most ser­vice providers make is not max­i­miz­ing the ben­e­fits of said client. Their most valu­able com­mod­ity, con­trary to pop­u­lar be­lief, is not the fee they will pay you for the ser­vice you are pro­vid­ing on the short term. They possess some­thing far more valu­able: col­leagues.

But how do you get to them? Here’s a lit­tle se­cret: if you im­ple­ment a for­mal re­fer­ral sys­tem, you don’t have to — they will come to you. If done prop­erly, this could be the sin­gle most trans­for­ma­tive ex­pe­ri­ence of your busi­ness ca­reer. The Re­fer­ral

ABCs Why are re­fer­rals so pow­er­ful in the first place? There are two key things at work here. First, since you’ve al­ready pro­vided ex­cel­lent ser­vice to your ex­ist­ing client, you now have street cred. No amount of mar­ket­ing can get you this. Your client can now, in good con­science, tell his or her col­leagues all about you and how great it is to work with you. That’s of­ten enough to il­licit an in­quiry if not go right to pro­posal phase for the new, re­ferred client. Se­condly, your ex­ist­ing client is now func­tion­ing as an in­flu­encer. Hav­ing a cham­pion of your cause on your side car­ries in­fin­itely more im­pact than try­ing to cold call or pitch a new po­ten­tial client out of the blue with­out any­one to vouch for you.

To get started build­ing your sys­tem, it must first have a name. This name will be seen by each and ev­ery one of your clients in email and/or printed lit­er­a­ture. Se­condly, it must spell out the terms clearly, sim­ply, and prefera- bly in bul­let point form. No long para­graphs, fine print or con­fus­ing con­di­tions. Make it as sim­ple as pos­si­ble, au­to­matic and free.

To really make it stick, you need to in­cen­tivize your sys­tem. The terms need to high­light that if a client refers you to one of their col­leagues, you will give their col­league a 20% first-project dis­count as a way of say­ing thank you. You should also give a com­mis­sion as a re­ward to your client for making the re­fer­ral in the first place. Use your own judg­ment, but 5% is a good place to start. Keep in mind, this re­ward is not just a one-time thing, but rather a per­pet­ual sys­tem that re­wards your client for each and ev­ery new project gen­er­ated by all of their re­ferred col­leagues. This re­ward can be redeemed in the form of a check paid di­rectly to them or their busi­ness, or the cur­rent run­ning to­tal could be used as credit which can be ap­plied to any in­voice(s) of their choice.

… And the Num­bers The key to making this work is to fo­cus on the word “sys­tem.” Your re­wards pro­gram must be pre­sented to ev­ery one of your clients on a reg­u­lar ba­sis. Ask them to par­tic­i­pate. Tell them they are al­ready en­rolled and that they don’t have to do any­thing ex­cept re­fer you to some of their trusted col­leagues and they will re­ceive re­wards au­to­mat­i­cally which they can re­deem at their leisure. Ask­ing them to par­tic­i­pate will gen­er­ate far more re­fer­rals than sim­ply pre­sent­ing the in­for­ma­tion to them and hop­ing they will oblige.

And here’s where it really gets in­ter­est­ing. If one client gen­er­ates three new clients for you, since you are now im­ple­ment­ing this sys­tem to each and ev­ery client au­to­mat­i­cally, those three new clients can eas­ily gen­er­ate three each, thereby amass­ing nine new clients with no new mar­ket­ing and ad­ver­tis­ing costs. And then those nine new clients can gen­er­ate three new re­fer­rals each, boost­ing the run­ning to­tal to 27. Those 27, if they pro­duce three re­fer­rals each, now to­tal 81 new clients, so on and so forth. You are es­sen­tially get­ting all the lever­age and power of net­work mar­ket­ing with­out be­ing in­volved in a net­work mar­ket­ing busi­ness.

De­sign, de­velop and im­ple­ment your for­mal re­fer­ral sys­tem now and in less than a year you could com­pletely trans­form your busi­ness from a strug­gling mom and pop shop to an un­stop­pable force with dozens, hun­dreds or even thou­sands of clients — all with­out spend­ing the mas­sive amount of time and money it would take to ac­quire th­ese new clients from mar­ket­ing and ad­ver­tis­ing alone. Martin Gre­bing is an award-win­ning an­i­ma­tion di­rec­tor, pro­ducer, small busi­ness con­sul­tant and trainer. He is Pres­i­dent of Fun­ny­bone An­i­ma­tion and can be reached via fun­ny­bonean­i­ma­

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