There is a central truth to business: you are only as strong as your network. For many of us, the past two years has been spent working on adapting our businesses to the ever-changing needs of the pandemic. During these transitions, maybe your business has put off creating new and maintaining old referral relationships. Maybe you have pivoted. One thing is certain, there is no better time than now to focus on your network. Referral marketing is a crucial long-term strategy, but it can take time to develop a relationship with a referral partner. In order for a professional referral relationship to become fruitful, both parties have to trust in each other’s abilities to serve the client well. To help you start this process, I have compiled a list of best practices to keep up with referral sources.
- Keep an updated contact list. Make a contact card and note details about every contact you have and add them to your email/mailing list. Adding this valuable information to a CRM is important, but if you are just starting out and you can always use Excel sheet and move the list later. Think of the time spent maintaining your contact list as an investment in continued and future business. The money is always “in the list” – why would you buy cold mailing lists when you aren’t using your existing contacts?
- Make an effort to consistently follow up with your contacts. At my office we send a letter with newsletters. This works out well since it something we are already doing. It provides our contacts with useful information without adding additional work.
- Design an easy referral system. Provide materials to referral sources that will attract potential clients. At my office, our newsletters include our contact information as well as engagement opportunities such as free seminars. Educational documents are a wonderful resource for referral sources.
- Remember to send a thank you for each referral. Each time we get a referred client, a staff person sends a thank you card to that referral source. We track referrals and if one person sends 3 referrals, we send them a token of thanks like a fruit basket.
- You must share your knowledge, especially about changes in the law or your area of expertise. For instance, for law changes we always jump out in front of the proposed change and provide articles in our newsletter and timely educational webinars. We also keep them up-to-date with interesting changes. For instance, the fact that the average monthly nursing home care cost went from just over $11,000 to $14,500. That is an interesting fact to many of our referral sources. (That is a 25% increase in one year!)
Those are five simple ways to cultivate referral sources and maintain relationships. As we move into the transitioning of COVID-19 from a pandemic to an endemic, we must resume building our referral network. For some, this will look different. Civic organizations, non-profit boards and professional groups now meet online rather than in person. This allows participation in groups without having to accommodate travel time. For our office, we were able to collaborate more with referral partners through webinars which was highly successful for both our office and their business. I urge all businesses to take time to evaluate their referral network and make a conscious effort to add new referral sources and to interact with those already in their network. This may look different since COVID but there is no need to wait – pivot now for a more profitable practice!