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April 12, 2010

News & Opinion: The Referral Engine

By: Dylan Schleicher @ 2:08 PM – Filed under: Marketing & Sales



John Jantsch, author of Duct Tape Marketing and the blog of the same name, has a new book coming out shortly on Portfolio. Titled, The Referral Engine: Teaching Your Business to Market Itself, the book shows small businesses how to harness the power of customer referrals; how to do work that inspires them, how to ask for them, and how to create a whole community of marketers excited about telling others about your company.

In advance of the book's release, I asked John a few questions inspired by reading it. His answers give brief glimpses into the book's ideas. Be sure to check it out when it becomes available. Or, pre-order a copy here today.

Referrals are often thought of as hard to get/ask for, yet people have an inherent need to give them. How can a company tap into that?
The first step is to adopt an expectation mindset. If every person in the organization started thinking about creating an experience that would prompt every customer to refer and then the sales folks started talking about referrals during the conversion process and had a set process to go back and ask for referrals, they would simply happen more often.

How can a company truly know if their lack of referrals is based on a boring business, or a weak strategy to build referrals?
The best way to truly know anything about your business is to ask your customers. Ask them why they chose to do business with you, ask them why they stay, what you do that they value, if they refer you and why. The answers to these questions, particularly if you push for more than "you provide good service," may reveal that you either have a remarkable business that needs to communicate the little remarkable things that customers appreciate or you need to find a way to differentiate your business in a way that will get people talking.

How big of a role should technology play in referral generation?

Technology is a great leverage tool for referrals. In other words, it can help speed the level of engagement and deepen customer relationships, but it must be used in balance with face to face interaction in order to build the level of trust often required to stimulate referrals. Blending high tech with high touch tactics is a great way to create a competitive advantage while making use of every form of communication and follow-up available.

What are some tips for hiring and training "marketers" who aren't in marketing positions?
Everyone in the organization that comes into contact in any way with a customer or prospect is in a marketing position. The first step is to acknowledge that fact and start hiring people with customer experience in mind. Most humans an be taught the technical aspects of the job, but it's much harder to teach people to serve and be curious. Make marketing training a part of your standard routine for every employee - make sure they know how to talk about your organizations ideal customer, core difference and even this month's new product launch.

How can a company find the balance between aiming for results and simply doing good work - or, what's the difference?
You know, I'm not sure there's a huge difference. In my book The Referral Engine, I profile a number of companies that generate referrals spontaneously. The common thread that runs through all of these organizations is that they are simply more referable - they do little things that make people talk. Most of these companies didn't really focus on any single way to generate referrals. Having said that, I believe the real pay off is in blending being highly referable with a systematic way to remind, stimulate and activate referral networks.

About Dylan Schleicher


Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.