The Key to Strong Referral Business is Loyalty

Drumming up referrals for your company — whether for business development or talent recruitment — is a coveted practice. It tops the wish list of just about any executive or team manager because the difference between clients and talent who come to your company based on someone else’s positive experience and those who don’t is significant. Retention is better, the up-front selling on your services is done, and it attracts like-minded people to your organization.

Attempts to crack the code for increasing referrals exists across all professional services industries and it’s the topic of countless seminars, articles and studies. Ernst & Young’s 2014 Wealth Management Survey found that 86 percent of boomers and 89 percent of next generation clients are “most likely to learn about a financial advisor” from personal referrals. Incredible numbers. Not surprisingly, Charles Schwab noted in its 2014 RIA Benchmarking Study: “Successfully adding new client relationships through effective execution of a referral marketing strategy remains the top way firms outperform in each peer group.”

Referrals are just as important to the staffing industry. According to CareerBuilder and Inavero’s recent “Opportunities in Staffing” report, three out of four clients and candidates choose their staffing firm based primarily on referrals from a friend or colleague. The report also says clients and candidates will go out of their way to either encourage or deter others where nine out of 10 candidates and clients who had a positive experience with their staffing firm will actively encourage others to use the firm. Conversely, 72 percent of candidates and 79 percent of clients will discourage someone from using their firm if they had a bad experience.

The basis of a strong referral program, however, starts with company culture that is created and supported by excellent service and results. One that promotes building loyalty among all stakeholders. Asking for referrals then becomes a much more natural and painless way to grow business and build teams, but if the way you operate doesn’t leave both clients and candidates very happy, there’s no point in asking in the first place. They won’t be coming.

A great deal of time and resources are spent on business development and referral marketing programs, and sometimes we aren’t considering the foundation to build those programs. By focusing efforts on fostering loyalty among talent and clients, you are building that foundation that will derive so many other positive results. Remember, referrals are earned, not just procured.

Here are some ways to tie loyalty and referrals to your business:

Performance sells.Great service and solid results are the foundation of the referral process. For talent, that means finding someone a quality job that leads to full time employment. And nothing drives referrals more from clients than consistently placing quality individuals with their organizations who increase performance.

Attention to detail.Loyalty speaks volumes, and to earn it, the devil is in the details. Find small but effective ways to let talent, clients and employees know you are paying attention: Remember birthdays, drop by with coffee, offer company tickets to events, or just ask how they are doing without it being tied to another reason to see them. It doesn’t have to be much, but these things so often get overlooked even though the effect is significant.

Incentivize. While we’d like to think asking for referrals is just a part of working for a great company, we sometimes need to offer reminders that convey the organization’s commitment to referral business. Encourage internal advocates to participate in a referral program by giving monetary rewards and companywide recognition for business and talent they bring in. By recognizing their efforts to help grow the business, there is a better chance they will want make a habit of it.

Respond quickly. Referrals should get preferential treatment in terms of speed of response. It is respectful to your contact as well as the person he or she is referring. Also, keep your contact informed of where things stand. This keeps them invested in the process and more apt to want to refer in the future.

Track results.Set goals for the number of referrals that come into the business and run a monthly report to track progress. Share the results with the team continuously and celebrate those who brought in referrals and those who came to the company as one — no better source for future referrals. Tailor applicant and client forms and questionnaires to ask where they heard about the company.

While gaining referrals may be a mystifying practice, it really boils down to valuing the people who allow your company to shine. Not to mention, all this work to build loyalty will result in a positive work atmosphere and all-star talent pool that circles back to the client. So don’t forget to step back and look at the big picture when it comes to finding the best practices for increasing referrals.