Managing Partner Hinge Marketing
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7 Steps to Keeping Every Hard-Won Referral

Jun 15th 2016
Managing Partner Hinge Marketing
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Accounting firms live – and die – by the referral. So, hanging onto those hard-won referrals is critical. To do so, firms must take advantage of key opportunities that will lead to a referral. But here is a scary statistic: More than 50 percent of the referrals you earn are actually lost before the prospect reaches out to the referred firm.

Below are seven steps to ensuring you maximize your potential for business-boosting referrals and not waste the referrals you get.

1. Promote your expertise. According to a series of studies on referral marketing by my firm, Referral Marketing Study and Referral Marketing for Professional Services, the best way to boost the number of referrals you receive is to make sure your expertise is visible. How? Speak at industry events, publish blog posts and other content that demonstrates your thought leadership, be active on social media, even write a book.

You can also boost prominence and credibility by having an impressive website, featuring high in the search engine rankings and amassing positive online reviews.

2. Be clear about what you do – and for whom. Nearly 44 percent of referrals rule out a firm because they cannot decipher exactly what the firm does. Perhaps the website uses jargon that is not easily understood. Or maybe the firm has no content online that effectively explains the company’s expertise. Ensure better follow-through by clearly addressing your service offerings on your website and any other point of engagement with prospective clients. Explain what you do and who you do it for.

This extends to your current and past clients. If you do a good job for a client, you can reasonably expect a referral. But here’s the rub: They only know the work you did for them. So, educate your clients the same way you do prospects. Once they know all you offer, they’ll be able to refer you appropriately. They may even self-refer for additional services.

3. Be sociable. Referring an accounting firm can be risky for referrers, who may feel their reputation is on the line. They want to be confident that the firm they refer will do a good job. Don’t lose a referral opportunity. Foster your social relationships, use social media effectively, and build a budget (both time and money) for key networking and social engagements.

4. Emphasize education over selling. Buyers do not want to be sold to. They want guidance in solving their problems. Hinge’s research shows that 32.9 percent of prospects do not follow through on a referral because a vendor’s marketing materials focus on selling rather than educating. It is a real turn off. Capture the attention of those referred to your firm by sharing your insights in blog posts, guides, webinars, and more. Share what you know.

5. Invest in your website. Your website is often a buyer’s first impression of your firm. If it’s unimpressive, it may be their last. When faced with a mediocre website, 29.6 percent of buyers have dismissed referrals. Your website is the center of your online marketing universe. Make sure it shines bright.

Some buyers (22.2 percent) may simply assume your firm is not in their league. It’s likely these are buyers from larger organizations who base their appraisal on your website and overall online presence. If your website is impressive and jam-packed with helpful content, you can look every bit as impressive as the big boys.

6. Invest in your content. In a similar vane, almost a quarter of buyers (23.5 percent) will walk away from a referred firm if they see poor quality or weak content. It could be a whitepaper that reads like a brochure or a blog post that’s shallow and uninformative. Weak content will keep referrals at bay. Unique, informative marketing content will further engage those referred to your firm and make them eager to learn more.

You should use your content to promote your industry expertise. One in five buyers (21.4 percent) might not consider your accounting firm because they think you lack industry knowledge. If you do not make it obvious that you understand the buyer’s industry, they are likely to walk away. It is better to demonstrate your knowledge through the content you publish, as well as your client list, case studies, and testimonials.

7. Be visible. Even if they have received a great referral, and made the short list of accounting firms, you’re still not done. Buyers want validation from a variety of sources. If they haven’t heard of you before a colleague offers a referral, you may be dead in the water. That is because 12.4 percent of prospective buyers will drop you from consideration because they have never heard of your firm before. Stay visible online and off so you can reap the rewards of referrals when they come in.

Referrals are hard to come by. Make sure you are doing everything you can to garner – and then keep – the referrals you deserve. If you do good work, you should get your fair share of referrals. Take advantage of every opportunity to gain a referral – then keep it.

Related articles:

How to Make Your Website Come Alive During ‘Dead Season’
6 Ways to Boost Referrals for Your Practice
How to Increase Referrals for Your Tax Practice
How to Handle a Referral That Goes Bad

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