Are You Sabotaging Your Referrals?

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All too often, professional services providers, accounting firms included, unintentionally shoot themselves in the foot when it comes to referral marketing. Why is that, you ask?

Most of us in the professional services business have had this happen to us at some point: someone tells you that they referred your firm to a potential new client. But then you never hear from the prospect they referred.

Perhaps you place a call to the prospect that is never returned. Before you have a chance to make your case -- “poof” -- they just disappear. What happened?

There’s a good chance that it wasn’t them – it was you. Many firms do not realize that buyers actively pre-screen firms to save time and effort. They are trying to rule out as many poor options as possible so they can concentrate on a few firms who fit well with their needs.

Our research has revealed that less than 20 percent of referrals actually come from someone who has had direct experience with the firm being recommended. So that means a whopping 81.5 percent of referrals come from sources that don’t have first-hand knowledge of the firm they’re recommending.

Instead, those referrals are made based on reputation or perceived expertise. Yet, our research shows that almost 52 percent of companies referred to service providers ruled out those referrals before even speaking to them.

What’s Going on Here?

The short answer is that the recommended firms were simply not prepared to present a positive face to the referred buyers. We surveyed over 500 buyers of professional services to shed some light on the reasons why referrals are ruled out. Some of the top reasons are

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About Lee Frederiksen

Lee Frederiksen

Lee W. Frederiksen, PhD, is managing partner at Hinge, a marketing firm that specializes in branding and marketing for professional services. Hinge conducts groundbreaking research into high-growth firms and offers a complete suite of services for firms that want to become more visible and grow.


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