I like to think of things in threes. It seems that my brain more readily learns and retains three things at a time. Three is a mystical number that shows up in the Bible and fairy tales too, so there must be something to it! The following three-step referral process will help you grow a simply amazing business and help other businesses do the same. Note that each step has just three words. I’ll bet you’ll be able to remember them too!
- Discover your Difference
- Give to Get
- Refer and Reward
Discover your Difference
Take some time to discover what truly sets your business apart and identify three things that make your business amazing. Here’s a hint: those things are not your product, service or price. Truly amazing businesses don’t compete on price or their product or service. Customers buy from truly amazing companies because they offer something else. For example, an outrageous guarantee, a unique experience (think Southwest Airlines), an outstanding process, or incredibly friendly people – you get the idea. Are you stumped at how to find that difference? Here are three steps you can take:
- Ask three employees (it can be more, but start with three) what they think sets you apart or what they see in your industry that could help set you apart. Start with your sales team.
- Ask three of your ideal customers what they think about doing business with you. Invite them to participate in short survey. Ask them why they hired or bought from you in the first place. Ask them why they refer business to you. Ask them what you could do better.
- Evaluate three competitors and look for gaps that you can fill. They’re probably competing on price or product in their marketing messages. Look for ways to beat them at their own game. You’ll see some themes emerge from this process. Write them down, and build them into your business or marketing plan. Can’t find three differences? Did you find some gaps or problems? Well, that’s good. You now have some work to do to become an amazing business.
Give to Get
Now that you have three amazing differences in mind, find three other businesses that could be or are amazing. They can be businesses that have the same customer base as you. The idea is to get connected to business that you can refer and they in turn will refer you. Find amazing businesses that your customers or prospects would like, and your customers will in turn think more highly of you for the information. The key here is not to ask them to refer you, but to invite them to educate you on how can to send them referrals . Give to get. Three more steps:
- Contact three business owners and tell them you’d like to know three amazing things about their business. Explain that you believe you have similar customers or clients that could benefit from knowing about their business.
- Give them your three amazing differences as an example and explain how you came up with those differences.
- Invite them to send their three amazing differences back to you so you can begin referring business to them, and encourage them to do the same for you.
Refer and Reward
Follow-up is essential in this process. Now that you know three amazing differences about other businesses, actively refer them. Your final three steps:
- Think of three current customers or prospects that might be a good match for your three referral partners and actively refer them. Important: this isn’t something you should do passively. Don’t simply write a company’s name down on a scrap of paper and tell your customer or prospect to call them. Introduce them – via email, at lunch, or at an event where everyone is in attendance. Make it personal and communicate your referral partner’s amazing differences.
- Set up some kind of reward system when your referral partners send business your way. You can offer a cash incentive, a gift certificate, or maybe free services or products from your business. However a reward doesn’t have to be money or free services. An acknowledgement via a hand-written note can go a long way to help your referring partner feel appreciated when they send you a prospect who becomes a customer.
- Repeat the process. This isn’t something you do once and forget. Always be on the lookout for more referral partners. Ask your new customers what businesses they think are amazing and approach those businesses to be your referral partners. Create a plan. You don’t have to refer everyone all the time (after all, you have to grow and run your business, right?). Do it over three months, and find three ways to introduce them. Feature a “referral partner” once a month on your website, put information about them in a newsletter, or keep their business card handy to share with others you meet in a networking session, and tell them you’ll follow up with a personal introduction.
So put the power of three to work to make your business amazing. I’d love to hear your comments and suggestions – I’ll take at least three!
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This post is part of the HP SugarTone contest: “Making your business amazing”, sponsored by Hewlett Packard