Referrals are the lifeblood of professional services firms. And why wouldn’t they be?! As professionals, we tend to deal with similar clients, just at different times and in different points of their lives. Living in a place like the Gold Coast where everyone knows everyone, it is absolutely critical to build strong relationships in order to grow a professional business.
The team at MCG Legal have been fixtures on the Gold Coast for the best part of the last two decades (and for Matt far longer than that!), so for us, it has been natural to develop ties within our network. For us, growing these relationships and forging new ones is critical to our growth plans and to our goal of being able to provide our clients with a holistic service. It’s also just part and parcel of being part of a community, and wanting to help out where we can.
How many times a week do you get asked to refer something? If you’re anything like us, we get asked all the time. But what does it take to build a strong referral network, and how can you start doing it as a professional on the Gold Coast?
Identify shared value
Referrals start with trust, and you can’t build trust with anyone unless there is shared value in the relationship. Think about the relationships you want to build with local business people and how you can help the other side deliver a better service for their client. For instance, we know we can help accountants, real estate agents and financial planners who have clients that need legal services by delivering a high-level service that will reflect well on you.
If you run a service business and want to enter into relationships of mutual value think about what you can add to the other side. It might be a new potential client pool, a different level of credibility, or the chance to tap into a service offering they can’t offer. Think about what you value in a service provider. What ancillary help could you give to your current clients? Then go out and make connections with the people you feel will best deliver for your clients.
Make it a conscious effort
This one seems obvious but actually, it can be the hardest part. For a lot of small business owners, making a conscious effort to build our networks is low down on the priority list, but it shouldn’t be. If you approached it in a systematic way as you do for other parts of your business it is going to be far more effective. Building networks does not have to be a big deal either. Maybe you schedule just one extra lunch meeting or catch up per month, but being accountable to that plan and taking a systematic approach to growing your relationships is crucial.
Consider doing the following:
- Set a monthly networking target to add someone to your network;
- Give yourself the goal to go to one “meet-up” each month to make connections; and/or
- Have a set monthly relationship building lunch with your best referees and bring everyone together.
There are lots of ways to go about building profitable referral networks, but being conscious and planning for it is a great place to start.
Make sure you reciprocate
To build long-term referral relationships, you have to show that it works both ways. That doesn’t necessarily mean that every time someone refers you work, you refer them something back. It could simply mean making an introduction valuable to them, inviting them to an event, or anything else that says “I value our relationship”. It’s actually far more likely to be a long-term relationship if you can stop keeping score. Obviously you want some form of quid pro quo, but keeping score generally means you aren’t comfortable that it will work both ways and something needs to change.
If you can start the referral relationship as one of mutual benefit (and that does not have to be financial), then both parties are far more likely to want it to succeed and invest in it. Usually, it starts with one party sticking their neck out, there is no two ways about that, however, smart operators know the value of relationships and work hard over time to nurture them.
Go out of your way to communicate effectively
When someone sends you work or a lead, you have to make sure you communicate well with them during the process. Unreplied emails, not keeping them up to date (where appropriate), and failing to keep them in the loop will do nothing to grow the trust. Simply being available and ready to take the referral and act on it is a key way to show you value it.
Deliver a great service
This one is a no-brainer but sometimes the simplest things are overlooked. No matter your profession, if you get a piece of work from a referral source you need to go out of your way to provide the highest level of service for that person. The Gold Coast is a small place, and people’s memories are long, so you will only be doing yourself harm if you don’t roll out the red carpet. When it is a new relationship it is even more important as it is your way of showing the other side that you really value the referral and respect their business.
Growing great relationships with the local Gold Coast community is critical for all service businesses. If you’d like to chat about how we can help any of your clients, or simply meet up for a coffee, drop us a line on (07) 5591 2222 or contact us here.