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Business Development Referrals Marketing

Why Agencies Need Relationship Intelligence to Increase Referrals

By Anne Gherini

Mark Zuckerberg once remarked, “Nothing influences people more than a recommendation from a trusted friend. A trusted referral influences people more than the best broadcast message. A trusted referral is the Holy Grail of advertising.”

83% of people say they trust the recommendations of friends. No matter what the size or shape of your business, referrals are the fastest and most cost-effective way to grow your business. PR and marketing agencies are no exception. The majority (64%) of marketing service firms cite referrals as one of their three primary sources of new business.

Top-performing agencies know there’s an art to gaining referrals.

Timing is everything

Many agencies fall into the trap of asking for referrals immediately after a sale.  If your first interaction with a customer after a sale is a plea for a referral, the request will be perceived as self-serving and inauthentic. Strong relationships are built on mutual respect and trust, which can take months to develop. Dave Currie, CEO at List Partners, explains “Conventional agency business development wisdom suggests the best time to ask for the referral is immediately after the close. This tactic is far too aggressive.”

The best time to ask for a referral is after you’ve had a chance to build a strong relationship with a customer and have established a strong reputation by demonstrating the value of your product or service. “Give your clients time to experience your expertise, build a relationship and see real credibility before asking for a referral”, advises Currie. Relationship intelligence can fortify your efforts in building strong relationships with customers. Affinity automatically prompts you when it’s time to follow up with specific high-value relationships. By automatically capturing all contact and interaction history, it also arm you with fingertip access to all past information about customers and provides you with complete context in terms of past communication history.

Better together  

Many marketing agencies are owned by conglomerates such as Omnicom Group and WPP. Very few child marketing agencies are “full service”. More often than not, they specialize in one or more specific niche areas such as SEO, paid media, public relations, and content marketing. Even if child agencies are full-service, they tend to specialize in different industries or markets. Consider joining forces with a sister company using Affinity’s Alliances. By banding together with sister companies that offer complementary services or serve different markets, you’ll be expand your network reach. In doing so, you’ll gain access to new lucrative referrals.

Clarity is a virtue

Many agencies approach referrals haphazardly. They often fail to explicit ask for referrals. When they do ask for referrals, their requests tend to be vague. There’s a certain etiquette associated with asking for referrals. Joe Kindness, CEO of AgencyAnalytics, explains that many customers find it “too risky to blindly vouch for your agency.” He advises, “Eliminate this risk by being specific on what you’re looking for in a customer.”   

Arm your referrers for success by specifying the type of client you’re looking for. Provide them with a compelling rationale as to why your agency is a good match for them. Heed Kindness’ advice and “Strive to make it clear and simple for a client to recommend your agency to a friend”.

Referrals are the lifeblood of any successful agency.  Affinity allows you to create a powerful referral engine by leveraging your network and asking for warm introductions and referrals to potential customers. You can use Affinity's intelligent search features to find potential partners that serve similar client bases. Affinity empowers you turbocharge your new business pipeline and create a thriving agency.

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Business Development Referrals Marketing