In our last blog, we outlined the power of referrals and gave you 4 steps to start setting up an effective referral system.
We hope that gave you some good pointers, and here is a short story about referrals and how they helped my wife and me build a business many years ago.
We were newly married and had bought a large pub and B&B on the edge of Dartmoor, that was on its knees and very much in need of some tlc. We had built up the food and drink side of the business quite quickly through focusing on real ale and homemade pies with locally sourced ingredients, but we still had 8 ensuite rooms to let … in the age before the Internet, where it took about 2 years to get into the right brochures and get noticed by potential guests.
So we were forced to focus on the only source of business that we could influence quickly: the Tourist Board’s bureau on the M5 motorway.
We arranged to meet with them and spent time with them: listening to what they were trying to achieve, finding out what would give them confidence in sending a potential guest to any B&B, and asking them how we could help them in turn.
In a nutshell, they were looking for businesses that were proactive, careful, consistent and willing to give constant feedback.
So that’s what we did: mixed in with homemade cake and flapjack ‘thankyous’ as we were passing – which was often, as they were just off the main route to the local cash and carry!
I go into this in some detail in my latest podcast. But, to cut a long (and enjoyable) story short, this arrangement worked really well for both parties, for all the right, and above-board reasons, and we enjoyed a fruitful and profitable relationship with them for many years.
So much so that we were then able to pick and choose what magazines we advertised in, as we already had a good level of consistent, and repeat, trade. So this relationship not only bought us a lot of trade and goodwill, but also saved us significant amounts in adverts and other costs!
At the time we didn’t see this as any sort of ‘system’, but of course it was … and here are the key steps that, looking back, I think we can learn from this:
- Start with a business that’s remarkable enough to deserve being referred (this is always the start point!)
- Find out what any potential referrer really wants first
- Assure them of your ability to be consistent through systems
- Follow up and thank them carefully and in an ‘extra inch’ way
- Keep it up: consistency is everything!
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