Secret Hacks to Drive High-Quality Referrals

Let’s talk about the power of niching down and how that drives referrals.

Dennis Yu and Gavin Lira

Niching down helps in referrals.

When you choose a niche and you’re known for something, let’s say one of my friends is a world-class PR, and I’m pretty good at VAs and locals. So, any lead you get will always be worthwhile because if he receives a lead for hiring VAs, he’ll send it to me. And if I get a lead in PR, I will send it to him.

So it is worth talking to any person who is a customer, even if you can’t service them directly, because either they are your client or they become a referral you can give to somebody else.

You may try to do everything for everybody and keep happy big-ticket clients, but it will not work as there are many moving parts if you do everything.

I would loop in an expert with his skills, as that might complement my skills and would benefit a client in a package. That way, you can confidently take on any particular client because anything you can’t do, you can form a partnership with others, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with partnering. 

If you are a potential client, it’s better to go through a referral than to go through direct, as you will have someone else’s relationship and trust in that.

Getting referred by others

So, not to say the other vendor or the agency will not take good care of you, but for example, if it’s coming through my friend, then I know that whoever he is referring to me is going to take care of me. Because his reputation is on the line, so they must do good. 

It is nice to work with people you trust and know are good at what they do. You don’t have to micromanage them as they are great at what they do. There will be a sense of ownership as their establishments are hard, and they can step in.

Think about what you want to be known for

So, consider your niche and what you want to be known for.

And when you’re known for that, you will be a source of referrals for all other people. Your business will grow without lots of salespeople and cold calling.

It’s a lot easier to close a referral, especially when it’s a higher ticket package and doing a lot of work for the client to get excellent results, than trying to get all these little deals to add it all.

Have the right client

Having the right client is more important if you’re a service business.

But many agencies or service providers waste a lot of time talking to people who are nightmare clients.

When it’s a referral, it’s more likely to be a high-quality client.

For example, if we do PR for a small e-commerce site, they will not get nearly the same ROI as a big eCommerce client.

If you get a 5% increase on a company doing $10,000 a month versus doing $10 million a month, you’re still doing 5%, but your value is way higher, and you get a longer runway.

When you provide more value, you can also charge more for that. So it’s a win-win all around.

It would be best if you had the higher authority to increase your brand and to be better known in a particular niche instead of you talking about yourself. You will reciprocate when you honour other people, and more will speak well of you.

So if you want better word of mouth and more referrals, start by talking well about other people you respect. And that is a huge personal brand authority hack. Almost nobody does it.

You should ensure you’re edifying good people at work because otherwise, it can have adverse effects.

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My #1 tip for instantly filtering out the good leads versus the time suckers

Especially if you’re a consultant or small agency, you have a lot of people wanting to sit down with you for a free consultation.
You probably even have a form where they can book a free initial consultation with you.

But most of these appointments end up from folks who don’t want to pay, aren’t qualified, are difficult to work with or need something other than is your core skill.

You waste a lot of time doing these, but don’t see another way.

After all, isn’t it reasonable to give them a chance to tell you what they’re looking for and then for you to explain what you do?
And certainly, you’d expect to answer their various questions to demonstrate your competency, show you care, and determine if there’s a fit.

So most agencies are resigned to this charade, accepting that if they do enough free consults, they’ll generate enough clients.
But the reality is they are wasting most of their time on freetards instead of taking care of their best customers.

And here’s the solution to avoid all this pain…

Have a low-priced tripwire to qualify them.

We charge $1000 for a mini-consultation and are not ashamed of the price.

To have me and another team member run them through the Strategy Assessment, get access to their accounts, perform quick analysis, get on the phone with them for an hour, and summarize the key points in notes we send later is super high value if they:

  • Are spending enough money that a few quick fixes and tips would be worth many times this fee– anyone spending more than $10K a month, it’s a no-brainer.
  • Value their own time and that of others– they could read free blog posts and buy courses here and there, trying to figure things out themselves.
  • Have true urgency– sales professionals talk about BANT (budget, authority, need, timeframe) to qualify leads, while we use the “emergency room” analogy.

You already know all the reasons why a potential lead may balk at the tripwire. They:

  • Expect you to volunteer your time, just like other vendors they call up, to meet– after all, they are dangling money in front of you.
  • Believe their needs are unique-– so they believe they need a unique solution and that “custom” somehow means better.
  • Don’t have the money-– or related, they expect that you’re only $20/hour (I get that a lot still).
  • Never intended to pay— in my youthful days, I’ve had many gleefully abscond with free consulting, like you’d make off with free samples from the little old ladies at Costco.

But you’re a pro.

You have:

  • Demonstrated your expertise in certain areas— published prominently, not because you merely say you’re a pro.
  • Built a series of checklists that you follow, which you carefully select from, depending upon the situation.
  • Have a team of people who are certified in specific areas— being clear about what they can do and what they can’t.

Like an emergency room doctor:

  • Your skills and expertise are what matter— not the brand of scalpel you use.
  • You don’t go canvassing door to door, peddling heart operations at 50% off if they buy today.
  • Have procedures and processes up-front, since the patient isn’t going to dictate what surgery to perform, how to perform it, how long it will take, or the price.

Treat yourself like a doctor and command the respect that you’ve earned.

Kyler Patterson of HostGator learned first-hand why you should have these points in place:

Don’t give away too much without getting money first. One of my first potential clients asked me for a proposal of what I’d do to turn around his ads. I poured over data that night and wrote out a bunch of things I would implement.
He replied saying he was going to go the agency route instead of a consultant. I checked his account two days later, he had implemented a bunch of my suggestions.
Now I don’t give specifics unless I’m paid. If I need to give more details, I’ll go high level, and require a formal call if they want the juicy information.
Probably seems obvious, but as a new freelancer at the time, I thought I needed to do everything I could to win the contract. Instead, I gave away all the magic for free.

But if you don’t have proof, a clear process, and a skill that’s demonstrated for all to see, then it’s okay to take on these free meetings.
Do them to help you build up your reputation such that all your business is inbound– people coming to you because you have authority in a particular area.

Gavin Bell of Blue Cliff Media discovered this for himself once he started charging for his time:

People really aren’t bothered about paying to talk to me. $150 for an hour with me seemed ridiculous to myself a few months ago. Now I’m starting to think that even this is too cheap! Yes, there are some people that can’t afford it, that’s okay. I shouldn’t be focusing on the people that can’t afford it, and instead, I should focus on the people that CAN.

Some of the people I’ve spoken to are using the hour to see how we can work together going forward… WHAT! People PAYING me, to see if they can work with me?! Charging for my time is actually giving me authority.

Have you set up a “tripwire” to filter your potential leads from the time-wasters?

Do you want to be “acquired”?

I’m not talking about your company being acquired. I’m talking about looking at the language you use in your marketing campaigns. You have customer “acquisition” campaigns, email “blasts”, and other military conquest terminology. But put the shoe on the other foot and see how this looks from the customer’s perspective.

Pretend you’re the customer to see how silly this is.

I was “acquired” through a social media “campaign”. After getting hit by your email “blast”, I was converted.

If you believe in relationship marketing, inbound marketing, content marketing, social media marketing, public relations, or word of mouth, you know that you’re dealing with humans on the other side of your marketing cannon.

Imagine if you were actively dating and told an attractive prospect that you’d like to “convert” her on your first visit. You’re practicing your “call to action” on various women, but find that they get turned off by that. So you resort to increasing the frequency of your pickup lines.

And you heard that 127 characters are the ideal length for your copy at you should say it at precisely 10:35 am on Tuesdays. Then any random female you meet will convert then for sure. It’s just not working and you’re having trouble.

There are so many bars out there and it seems like a new bar opens every minute– Snapcrap, Faceboogers, Instahookup. You buy these special tools (an overpriced copy machine) to print out your flyers since they promise immediate conversion. But that works about as well as that exercise equipment you bought on late-night TV– you still don’t have six-pack abs, and can’t even climb a small hill.

So you hire a dating coach (digital marketing consultant or agency) who has been to these places to “blast” them on your behalf. Now your messages are all over every random telephone phone and on the backs of those free magazines you pick up on the sidewalk, and it becomes nothing but the noise that passers-by barely even glance at (spam).

Further, you’re an expert in X, which is what your company produces. But the agency (an expert in social media and advertising) doesn’t know about X, so they just apply the same broad matchmaking strategy because they don’t have anyone who meets your criteria (goals). They’re hoping that by wading through every match and wasting your time and money on dating (campaigns), you’ll somehow land on the perfect one (targeted audience), and you’ll be perfect together.

Long story short: you won’t. You fear you’ll be forever alone, so in your desperation, you turn to Facebook and look for people who are single, and call them out of the blue to ask for a date (Cold calling). The majority laugh and hang up, though maybe out of the thousands, you’ll find that one person who will say yes.

Analogy aside: It’s all about nurturing your relationships, and never trying to sell. The antithesis to this is cold calling, which you should avoid at all costs. Without clearly defined goals and criteria, you’re wasting time and budget on serving a message to irrelevant people who won’t care and won’t convert. 

Always keep the GCT triangle in mind from our 9 triangles framework when working on these campaigns, and when you find your “WHY” and have a strong personal brand, there’s no need to ruthlessly sell.

So, would you want to be “acquired”?

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