In the B2B IT Services world, word of mouth and referenceability are incredibly important. Your clients are very educated, sophisticated and most of all… sceptical. They have a lot to protect, and they don’t want to take chances by being the first person to test your service.
Your credibility in this market is largely dependent on who you know, and many could care less about your marketing materials. There’s simply no way around it. In order to get more business, you’ll need to generate referrals.
In this article, I’ve outlined some tactics that Web Designers, VARs, and other Technology Providers can use to generate more low-cost referral business for their companies.
1. Ask For It
This one is the hardest, and often most socially awkward. It can feel strange sometimes to ask your customers to brag about you to their friends and colleagues. But if you’re confident that you’ve been doing a good job, be courageous and ask. The more you do this, the less awkward it feels.
And really, its the simplest and most honest way to generate consistent referrals. So why not do it?
2. Reward Them
If a customer voluntarily sends business your way for the first time, send them an inexpensive thank-you gift… maybe $10 or so in value. If it happens again, send them a more expensive gift… maybe $20 in value. The third time is $50, and so on until you feel that the amount becomes unreasonable.
This is very effective because most companies will do the opposite. They’ll thank the customer the first time, and then take the referrals for granted from that point on. This escalating reward scale really lets them know that you appreciate their relationship and that you’d like to nurture it for the long term.
Please note that a reward is different than a bribe.
First of all, bribes don’t work because you’re asking someone to put their reputation on the line in order to promote something they may not necessarily want to be associated with. Usually, the possible social stigma of a failed referral can be much worse than whatever trinket you’re offering in exchange. Bribes also hurt your credibility. It basically says that you’re willing to use dishonest tactics in order to appear credible.
3. Be Unique
Imagine a computer security company that shows up at the client locations in a camouflage jeep, wearing military uniforms. It may not be the most conservative way to conduct business, but it will certainly get people talking about you. Think about what makes your company unique in that market, and come up with a dramatic way to demonstrate it.
4. Be The Best
Under-promising and over-delivering is a tested and proven technique for generating high-quality referrals. Its especially effective because so few other companies are willing to do the same.
Here’s a challenge for you: How can you add another 25% to the perceived value of your IT services without increasing your prices?
5. Make Your Customers Famous
When my wife and I were still dating, we used to go to a restaurant that took pictures of all their customers and put them on the wall. Whenever we would eat there, the employees would call us by name and seat us next to our picture. We used to invite friends to eat with us, just so they could see the VIP treatment we got.
How can you help your customers get a bit more positive exposure? Can you get them in the media? Can you make a commercial featuring them? Can you refer them to your own customer and get them some extra business?
People crave approval and recognition. If you give it to them, they will spread the word for you.
6. Talk About Other Customers Who’ve Been Referred To You
This one has to be used very lightly so as not to come off as too tacky or desperate. While talking to prospects, simply mention in passing that a lot of your business comes from word-of-mouth. This has a subconscious effect of training the prospect that it’s okay for them to refer business to you. Once again, use this one sparingly and don’t overdo it.
Also, make sure you’re telling the truth. If you don’t get a lot of business through word-of-mouth, don’t make that claim. People will eventually figure out that you.re lying. I know times are tough right now for technology vendors. Hopefully, these tips and tricks will provide a nice steady stream of new business without having to shell out a lot of money on advertising and marketing.
Guest article by Steven Rodin from Storagepipe, which offers online backup, email archiving, and other enterprise solutions that simplify the business continuity and compliance process for many companies. You can also share your tips and write a guest article on QOT. Photo by Alx (shared under CC license)