2.4 billion brand-related conversations take place in the United States every day, and at a certain stage even if you have outbound, content, social, and other channels dialed, you’ll likely get around half of your referrals via word of mouth.
Now is a great time to rekindle connections and build new relationships with referral and channel partners. In this article, we’ll give you pointers on how to systematically ensure that you’re front of mind for high functioning executives who are in the know and talking to a lot of prospects that could be great customers for you.
What is a Referral Partner?
Referral partners are evangelists and advocates for your business who make referrals when they spot ways to help your business grow. They are often personal friends. Since operators beget operators, they often have their proverbial ear on the ground when talking to people who are considering new software or services. There are multiple types of referral partners, from lead to candidate, press, and investor referral partners. This article will focus on the former.
How to Find New Referral Partners
Finding new referral partners is a different process than traditional inbound and outbound lead generation. Channels like email, phone calls, content, ads, and PR don’t work the same way with referral partners, so other methods must be considered.
Use: LinkedIn, email, phone calls, content, ads, PR
Want referral/channel partners?
Use: Introductions, Twitter, communities
Often, new referral partners will come from introductions from mutual contacts or business associates.
Informal social channels like Twitter are also a great platform for discovering potential new partners because they allow you to develop a better understanding of the person you’re hoping to connect with.
The following situations are some of the best traditional ways to develop referral partners:
- Leveraging introductions – ask contacts to introduce you to potential referral partners.
- Industry trade/professional associations – regularly add value, then leverage that momentum to develop your reputation and build trust.
- Conferences and trade shows – events are ideal for connecting with key players in your industry. Obviously, this isn’t as practical in 2020.
- Founder and investor newsletters – newsletters can be a great source for new referral partners.
- Online tools – websites like Referral Rock are a great way to build your network of referral partners.
How to Track and Leverage Referral Partners
There are more variables associated with word of mouth than there are with traditional techniques, and it can be trickier to control. However, there are some steps that you can take to leverage new and existing referral partners.
It’s important to track your referrals, and you can do this in a CRM or even a Google Sheet. Failing to do this leaves you open to forgetting about referral partners, and by doing so you’re leaving money on the table.
The idea is that whenever you have a new conversation with someone in the know who is likely to be speaking with a lot of high value or sales-ready leads, you want to add them to your sheet.
Your sheet might look something like this:
What Data Should I Track for Referral Partners and Why?
- Basic information – record their name and the company they work for.
- Contact information – this includes their phone number, email, LinkedIn, and any other social media handles.
- Source – make a note of where the referral partner is coming from. E.g. business school, a conference, a professional associate, or even another referral partner.
- Date of last touchpoint – this is the most important field, so we’ll cover this in further detail later in its own section.
- Status – gauge whether you are either:
- Value Deficit – you have asked for too many introductions or the referral partner went above and beyond without you returning the favor.
- Value Neutral – the relationship is equally beneficial. This is where you should aim to get back to (at least) if you’re in a value deficit.
- Value Surplus – you are in a great position to ask for referrals without feeling too transactional about it. This is where you should aim to be.
- New business network strength – track whether they’re highly networked and talking to a lot of sales-ready leads. Gauge this on a rough scale of one to ten.
- Optional: Candidate network strength – if you’re actively hiring it might be worth creating a system for referral partners for hires, too. This can sit on a different CRM or tab.
- Personal information – note down things that are top of mind for each referral partner and any problems they’re facing. Also track their birthday, hobbies you share, and other connections and relationships. Mention these items only when they can naturally be brought up. If you force these conversation topics, it will be obvious. For instance, avoid emailing someone with a message like “Hey Jason, how are your kids age 5 and 8 and how are things going with your favorite hobby Playing tenor saxophone?”
Why is the ‘Date of Last Touchpoint’ Field Important?
This field essentially tells you if you’ve fallen out of contact and therefore are at risk of being forgotten about.
These referral partners are out there engaging with high-functioning operators who carry budget, so you must ensure that you stay front of mind for them. Doing this means that they can willingly and excitedly make introductions if they happen to be speaking to someone looking for a product or service that you offer.
Generally, the more time that’s elapsed since you’ve interacted with them, the more likely they are to forget about you when they’re talking with sales-ready leads. The key here is to ensure that a month doesn’t go by without any contact, so check your sheet at least weekly and track when you last reached out and received a response.
In the G Sheet above, I added simple conditional formatting to highlight someone red if more than a month has gone by since we’ve corresponded. This is a simple, clear way of flagging any lulls in communication so you can follow up.
How Should I Maintain Contact with a Referral Partner?
The best way to keep in touch and stay front of mind is to develop a relationship and a rapport with the referral partner.
Whenever you check in with your referral partner, be authentic, sincere, and add value. This can be done by offering an introduction to a relevant associate of yours, or by supplying valuable content that will help them save time, get more work done, and/or make more money.
Put simply, be human and try to help them lift them up professionally or personally.
More than ever, people are happy to chat right now after months of isolation, so it can also be especially effective to reach out right now.
Word of mouth is a powerful tool for founders, and your bottom line could see a healthy boost if you perfect the art of developing and leveraging referral partners.
Staying front of mind is key to being recommended by partners in a natural and authentic way that will appeal to potential leads.
Interested in exploring more ways to generate high-value leads for your company? Chat with one of our executives to audit your inbound and outbound channels.