There is an old saying that goes: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”  Over the years, this quote from John Wanamaker has been adjusted to “half my marketing is wasted.” and I have met technology consulting company owners who wish they had that problem.

To these marketing-challenged owners, it appears that not even half of their marketing is getting results. They have updated the saying to be “All my marketing money is wasted.”

It is undoubtedly true that many technology consulting companies are frustrated with their lead generation results.  They either don’t get enough leads or, they get leads that aren’t aligned with their business.

Honestly, I don’t know which one is worse: Not getting many leads from your marketing efforts or getting leads that pull you in all directions, compromising your ability to deliver exceptional results.

In both cases, the result is the opposite of what most technology consulting companies want from their marketing investment.

Most technology consulting companies get the majority of their leads from referrals. Those that have built referrals marketing programs within their marketing systems indicate that referrals are marketing gold.

Why are ideal customer referrals so valuable?

As if you haven’t heard this already…ideal customer referrals:

  1. Come prepared to buy,
  2. Understand your value proposition,
  3. Are easier to convert,
  4. Have a higher lifetime value.

If you are getting ideal customer referrals, you probably have done your part to build a referral system and executed on your plan.

If you haven’t built your referral system, you are missing out on one of the best investments in marketing.

Referral marketing can be broken down to two simple steps: Earn Them and Ask for Them.

One way of earning a referral is based on the demonstration of your expertise. That is accomplished by delivering on the value promise of your business. You earn the customers trust by doing what you do best.   This is where many technology consulting firms concentrate their efforts.

Another way to earn a referral is by your reputation. This method of earning referrals is less used by technology consulting firms. It presumes your reputation is such a high level that prospects will want to work with you based on your status as an industry expert, thought leader, or because of prestige associated with your firm’s name recognition. Reputation building requires deliberate tactics, time, and investment.

Why would your firm want to invest in building a reputation that is referral worthy?

Your sources for referrals are in two categories: customers and non-customer. Let me state something that should be fairly obvious: most firms will have a smaller number of customers than non-customer referral sources.   Non-customer referrals sources are going to have to refer your firm based on reputation since they haven’t received projects where they witness and benefit from the work your technology consulting company delivers.

If you are delivering results and delighting the customer to earn referrals, you can move to the all important next step: asking for referrals.

But before we get to the “The Ask” step your should have a referral marketing system in place.

What should your referral marketing system include?

At the very least your referral marketing system should include

  1. The definition of whom you want to be referred to your business. This is your ideal customer persona.
  2. Referral source education material.
  3. A process for giving, receiving and working with referrals. The process is important because it outlines to your sources how you want to be given referral and what will happen when they do.
  4. The supporting marketing assets that are used to help convert the prospect into a customer. This includes case studies, content, and offers.

Each of those referral system elements must be carefully crafted and developed if you want to make referring ideal customers to your business as frictionless as possible.

When should you ask for a referral?

A lot of technology consulting companies stumble when it comes to “The Ask”. They are never quite sure when the appropriate time to mention referrals and often never get around to it. If you have developed a referral system asking for a referral becomes easier. You can be confident of what will happen and should be able to walk your sources through your ideal customer description and your process.

The ideal time to ask for referrals varies based on the unique characteristics of your company and your target audience. In general, technology consulting firms do better with referral request immediately after stage or project completion.  I believe this occurs because of 3 reasons.

  1. Project completion represents the inception of value achievement.  The customer recognizes the value they will achieve based on the implementation of the technology or process your team has just delivered.
  2. Information capture will be at its peak and diminish as time goes by.   Record everything.  The ability to leverage project success diminishes as time goes.
  3. Project completion is also the best time for your team to capture content for referrals sources.   If your wait, even for a small amount of time, you may miss the opportunity to capitalize on the success of your project and the referral.

As stated before, demonstrating expertise, like successful project completion, is one of the two ways you can earn referrals. Project completion is the perfect time to leverage this show of expertise and ask for referrals.

How should you ask for referrals?

The ideal time to ask for referrals varies based on the unique characteristics of your company and your target audience. In general, technology consulting firms do better with referral request immediately after stage or project completion.  I believe this occurs because of 3 reasons.

It’s important that the request be specific and easy for the client to execute. A tactic some find successful is to discuss referrals and your ideal customer. If they customer is receptive to providing referrals you can follow by sending material from your referral system that will help your customer execute.   That could include message reminders (“David and Valens Point help technology consulting firms attract ideal customers”) and potentially, introduction emails you have prepared for them to send (“We just finished the outsourcing of our marketing system to Valens Point. …I know you mentioned marketing to me last month and I’d like to introduce you to David Smith, one of the partners.”).

You should also ask how your customer would like to be informed of outcomes. Assuming you have outlined your referral marketing system process (contact person to set a meeting, clarify the problem that needs to be solved, determine fit, etc.) they should be aware of what you will do once a referral is sent your way. Ask them if the are comfortable with receiving an update on the referral after you have met the referred person and determined what, if any, next steps are appropriate. This communication allows you to demonstrate that you are doing what you said and hopefully have a plan to take care of the prospect they sent your way.   If that isn’t the case, you can further educate your customer on why the prospect wasn’t a good fit and how to better recognize those that are.

Referral marketing is an excellent lead generation process for technology consulting companies. Unfortunately, many firms don’t have referral systems in place. This hinders their ability and confidence to ASK for referrals even when they have EARNED them.

If you are struggling to consistently gain new customers let’s talk about how a referral marketing system might help.   Schedule a call with me today by clicking here.