Ready to grow your business? Learn what to do — and what not to do — to generate more client referrals with word-of-mouth marketing.
When you provide a professional service, as Supporting Strategies does with outsourced bookkeeping and controller services, word-of-mouth can be your greatest marketing asset. Over-deliver for one client and they refer you to another client. Do well for that client and they tell another one. Gradually, your growth becomes exponential. That's how I was able to expand Supporting Strategies | Los Angeles to nearly 250 clients in less than seven years, as I outlined on a recent episode of The Staying Power Podcast.
But a powerful word-of-mouth referral network doesn't just happen on its own. Here's how to create one the right way.
First, Make Sure Your Service Is Worthy of Referral
This ought to go without saying — but I'll say it anyway: As a provider of services that your clients count on to keep their businesses running smoothly, your team must consistently deliver high-quality service that truly adds value. Word-of-mouth works both ways — if you develop a reputation for over-promising and then under-delivering, that word will get around, too.
Fortunately, coming through with referral-worthy service isn't complicated. Regardless of the field you're in, it's all about some basic do's and don'ts …
- Be consistent. Have you ever gone to a restaurant that gave great service one week and terrible service the next? Which experience left the stronger impression? It's not enough to meet (or exceed) client expectations some of the time. You have to do it all of the time. One poor client experience can put the entire relationship in an unfavorable light.
- Follow established processes and best practices. The surest way to build trust throughout your client base is to institute procedures that adhere to your industry's standards and all applicable laws. Industry-leading software tools and methods are considered "best practices" because they offer the best results and value. Cutting corners might seem like a frugal move, but it often ultimately comes at the client's expense.
- Cultivate a strong company culture. This is somewhat intuitive, but that's fine — developing keen intuition when building your team is a big part of managing a successful business. If an employee (or prospective employee) makes you at all uncertain or uncomfortable, you can be sure they'll have the same effect on your clients. Your team is only as strong as its weakest link, so follow your gut and require excellence from each contributor.
- Don't be a burden. I can't stress this enough. Limited availability, poor communication, slow responsiveness, lack of follow-through — these are all sure-fire ways to sour a client relationship. Don't make working with you feel like work to your clients. Instead, make it effortless. Before long, your client will consider you indispensable. At Supporting Strategies, we tailor our approach to align with each client's preferences and workflows to minimize friction. Our clients genuinely feel like we've got them covered and that we don't make them jump through extra hoops.
- Don't focus on the wrong priorities. I get it. It's easy to get caught up in chasing new business opportunities in pursuit of growth, but investing your time in support of your current clients' success can deliver outsized returns to your business. It's a powerful gesture when one business owner reaches out to another business owner with a genuine interest in helping their business succeed. In a focused (and NOT billable) 1-on-1 conversation with your valued clients, you can share new insights on their business from your objective perspective, help them solve a problem, connect them with new resources or sometimes even create new sales opportunities for their company. When your clients recognize that you care enough to give them 110%, they'll reciprocate by referring you to their colleagues.
- Share your trusted network. Your clients recognize you as an expert in your field and have confidence in your recommendations on what's best for their business. Connecting your clients with other service providers from within your trusted network is a great way to create value for all parties involved. Bringing the right players to the table to address your client's specific needs is a big win on its own. Additionally, those complementary business advisors will see first-hand the value your firm delivers to the clients they now share with you, which leads to even more referrals from within their own client base.
A Gesture They'll Remember
It might take a little time to get comfortable with the approach I've described. That's understandable. But keep in mind: Stepping outside your typical role to help a client is a gesture people are bound to appreciate and remember. The key is to ensure the first part of the exchange — going above and beyond the expected scope of your professional services — is genuine. You have to mean it.
We do that a lot at Supporting Strategies | Los Angeles, like when we referred an overseas client to a lawyer who helped them set up a U.S. subsidiary. (We never get paid for our referrals. Instead, we make them in our clients' best interests because what comes around, goes around.)
Going the extra mile for clients is one of the core values that our team members live by every day. Our best clients appreciate that and reciprocate by referring us to their colleagues. There's simply no better compliment for us than that!
At Supporting Strategies, our experienced, U.S.-based professionals use secure, best-of-breed technology and a proven process to provide a full suite of bookkeeping and controller services. Are you ready to learn how you can move your business forward? Contact Supporting Strategies today.