Dear Gritty VA:
I am new at publishing e-newletters and blogs, however, I know these are great tools to get the word out about my company and to attract new clients. I plan to create a monthly e-newsletter and I want to be able to add great news about my referral partners. However, I want to know what is the best way to get the word out that I am looking for referral partners. Should I add it to my website or make a note in my e-newsletters. I have already signed up to become an affiliate with VACOC and will be adding the link to my website and newsletter etc. Thanks for your advice. –GD
I think that’s a terrific idea–to spotlight your referral partners in your blog and ezine! Because if you’re going to be referral partners with someone, it’s the “partner-y” thing to do to actively promote them in the same way you hope they are doing for you.
So often we see folks becoming referral “partners” and it becomes a one-way street with one person doing all the referring and the other person not making an equal effort. That’s not cool, and if that’s the case, they don’t deserve to be referral partners with you. What they fail to understand is that one of the best ways to get referrals is to give them.
For those who don’t know what we’re talking about, a referral partner is someone in the same or similar business or complementary field that you refer business to. There a lot of reasons you would refer business to someone else. It could be because your practice is full. It could be because the client just isn’t your cup of tea, but might be perfect for that other person. It might be because the client is seeking a service that you don’t offer. Or it might be because you like to be a resource to your current clients whenever they seek services that aren’t related to what you are in business to do.
Printshops offer a good example of the complementary referral relationship. They always know of several designers and photographers they can refer their customers to. They are all in different kinds of businesses, but the work is related and they all serve the same sort of market. So they complement each other in that way. It makes perfect sense to refer to each other, and being a resource who can refer others and make qualified recommendations is HUGE help to clients and customers.
Referral partnering is an informal, but intentional, relationship where one business owner approaches another and says, “Hey, I think you’re awesome and you do great work. If you feel the same about me, let’s refer clients to each other when those opportunities arise. Maybe we can even meet once a month or so to brainstorm ideas on how we can promote and refer business to each other.”
Now while I think it’s absolutely wonderful to promote your referral partners whenever you have the chance, I do have a few thoughts about the rest of your question. First, I don’t know that I would necessarily advertise for referral partners. That is, if I advertised for referral partners, do I really want to receive what might be tons of emails to wade through and create for myself the extra work and burden of basically interviewing people?
And second, how substantive and authentic would it be for me to refer to folks I really don’t know much about or have actual experience with? I would prefer to find and nurture those relationships more organically, and selectively choose or approach potential referral partners based on the fact that I’ve developed a relationship and gotten to know them to some good extent over a period of time. I don’t want to just have people I can refer to. I want to refer to people whose talents, work and reputation I have absolute confidence in and will be a good reflection on the recommendations I give. I want my word to mean something. A disingenuous, unsubstantive referral is not helpful.
One last thought, while you are helping give back to your referral buddies, think about also devoting a separate space or blurb about what makes an ideal client referral for you. Those who are reading your blog and ezine might not be ready to work with you, but they might know of someone who is. So make it really clear about who you are specifically looking to work with (your target market and ideal client) and you’ll get many more referrals because you’d made it easy for them to do so.