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Any of you who are on my LinkedIn network will have recently received an e-mail from me, inviting you to hook up via a referral site called "Referral Key". What prompted me to do it, other than the rather obvious new business motive? (Anyone out there not interested in new business?  No, thought not.)
Two things: first, and short term, I was invited to do so by someone else, and was then prompted to reciprocate using my own LinkedIn contacts, by someone with no doubt a vested interest in growing the overall site, by following three or four simple instructions that took no more than a couple of minutes to effect and which even I could understand.
Secondly though, and more strategically, I participated in a webinar a week or two back on the subject of referrals: their importance in the marketing mix; the simplicity of action in creating an effective sales tool; and the rarity with which such tools are routinely commissioned.
So partly I sent out all my invitations to participate because, like Pavlov's dogs, it was the simplest and most obvious reaction, and partly because I have already determined in my own mind that, "I really must do something about this."
But is this just a token gesture?  Am I kidding myself that five minutes of minimal effort is the way to approach the subject and represents any sort of regular due process - so now I can sit back and think, well that's that sorted? Referrals: easy peasy.
I know: I don't need to answer that for you (or me).  As with most things in life, the amount you get out is equal to the amount you put in.


Or indeed anything. The webinar I participated in threw up some genuinely interesting and useful pointers to the effective introduction of a system of referrals to your business.

I hope I don't have to explain why such a system would be beneficial.  Please tell me I don't.  Virtually every business owner I've ever met says word-of-mouth recommendation is the source of their best, most loyal and most profitable new business.

So why wouldn't you, as an integral and key part of your marketing plan (you do have such a thing; don't you?) instigate a regularly used methodology for actively eliciting such lucrative business referrals?

The answers, as provided by the 120+ participants in the webinar, were revealing.  Virtually everyone admitted they weren't doing enough, but I guess that attitude self-selected by dint of participating in the event in the first place.

The reasons stated for not doing more active trawling for business referrals through existing clients, in order of importance, were:

  • 31% were 'afraid of looking desperate'
  • 21% were afraid of annoying their clients
  • 20% feared rejection
  • 20% 'did not know how to broach the subject'
  • 8% hadn't got around to it (ie sloth)

Basically fear and ignorance.  Just like most businesses, I suppose. But no excuse for not doing something about it.

So what do you/should you do about it? Well, that's for me to know, and you to find out. Provision of a business education is what I do for a living, so I'm not giving all my trade secrets away here: just a little taster, so you'll want to find out more.

All I will say is that pressing a few buttons and setting up a web profile does not constitute a viable or comprehensive process.  It's little better than the "Gissa job" refrain of Yosser Hughes in "Boys from The Black Stuff", for those of you who can remember that far back.

David Croydon: 01844 238692 or e-mail

For more information, or to arrange a no-strings-attached initial meeting, contact:  

David Croydon

Hilltop Consultancy
Business Advice Oxford, Oxfordshire