Last month we discussed testimonials and are pleased that a number of our clients are now incorporating testimonials in various formats on their websites, so this month we emphasize even further the importance of customer referrals.
Would you like to tap into the most effective source for leads? In your rush to get your message out to the masses you may be missing out on potential business that is staring you in the face. Slow down, contemplate and then utilise the most valuable source for leads you have.
A results of a recent American survey of executives, distributors, resellers, and other representatives may not surprise you, but the contrasts of the responses provide a appalling insight into the sheer volume of missed opportunities. This is good news for your business because missed opportunities by others can create new opportunities for you. While you may agree with the initial results of the survey, consider how you can adapt your approach to the market to grasp the full benefit of opportunities.
According to the survey results by the most valued source of leads is from customer referrals.
54% Customer referrals
14% Email or direct marketing
7% Leads from vendors
3% Third party lead generation organisations
Clearly the best leads come from the referrals of satisfied customers. In fact customer referrals ranked four times more significant and effective than email or direct marketing campaigns. Customer referrals were ranked nearly seven times more likely to result in sales and new business than leads derived the Internet.
Customer referrals are a means of providing immediate credibility. It is easy for consumers to share personal expression on the Internet, through blogs, email or word of mouth. All these means of communication have greatly enhanced the voice of the customer. In business-to-business transactions, a customer referral is more likely to lead to an appropriate contact with a relevant message, which is far more powerful and likely to result in success than a cold call from a third party lead generation. Events and trade shows can be a powerful platform to market a brand, but fall short in delivering valuable leads.
With all of this insight, how did the same surveyed executives, distributors, resellers and representatives respond to the survey in relation to tactics for generating new leads in the future?
14% Plan to use direct marketing and email campaigns
13% Plan to use sales brochures and collateral
10% Plan to focus on tradeshows for lead generation
8% Will use seminars to generate leads
7% Will rely on print advertising
7% Plan to use public relations and article placement
7% Plan to use the Internet and online advertising
6% Will revert to telemarketing
6% Plan to invest in Internet search engine marketing
5% Plan to engage customers in user group gatherings
4% Plan to rely on Yellow Page advertising
4% Will experiment on the Internet with blogs and social networking
3% Will use online directories
3% Will create Webcasts
1% Plan to use content syndication
2% Will try something completely different
The results of the survey regarding lead generation tactics for new business acquisition are hardly surprising. Very little has changed in the planning and tactics as conveyed by the survey response, and yet, the contrast in comparison to the most effective and valued leads is astonishing. Even though 54% of respondents acknowledged that the most valued leads are based on customer referrals, the first mention of leveraging this potential goldmine occurs in only 4% of respondents that plan to engage customers in user group gatherings.
Fortunately, it would appear comparatively that 14% of respondents believe the most valuable lead generation comes from direct marketing or email and 14% plan to use this tactic for lead generation in the future. However, even though only 7% believe that the best leads come from trade shows, there are 10% planning to use this tactic and another 8% who will supplement this activity with seminars.
Although only 8% believe that the highest chance for success comes from leads acquired by the Internet, there is a staggering number of diverse plans to utilise this channel of communication. The tactics include 7% Internet and online advertising, 6% investing in search engine marketing, 4% using blogs and social networking, 3% using online directories and another 3% experimenting with webcasts. The Internet provides an exciting vehicle to be creative, showcase the brand and communicate to a very large audience, however, is it targeting the most valuable audience by engaging the most effective leads that come from customer referrals?
As you can see, the tactics are not groundbreaking or unusual. Quite the reverse, the approach to market is contrived on establishing a brand, shouting a message to the masses and hoping that the merit is recognised by the appropriate lead. The Internet, trade shows, brochures and advertising provide effective, if not innovative vehicles for spreading the slogan and while it is important to invest in these channels of communication to maintain competitive placement, there remains untapped opportunity for higher rates of success when tactics engage customer referrals.
Imagine how referrals from satisfied customers could generate valuable leads and expand your business. It does not matter what kind of business you are in or what responsibilities you have in the organization, every member of an organisation contributes directly, or indirectly, to customer satisfaction. Your actions may result in testimonials, endorsements or positive word of mouth. If you could utilise the power of customer referrals, your sales force would flourish with representation from independent trusted advocates.
To encourage and empower customers to utilise this incredible resource of valued referrals, you simply ask them. However, before you make such a bold request, your customers must know that you are fully engaged and obligated to a high standard of customer service. When customers are assured that you are a trusted advocate and committed to customer satisfaction, they will have the confidence to share referrals and recommendations.
Once customer confidence is established and the relationship is mutually rewarding, then it is just a matter of creating the appropriate opportunity for referrals to occur. This can be as simple as asking for referrals, or as formal as creating gatherings for existing clients and potential prospects to meet and exchange experiences. Introducing existing clients to potential prospects demonstrates immense confidence in your own relationship with your customers, because you are not fearful of losing the mutually rewarding relationship. Group gatherings and communications creates a unique opportunity to endorse your customers, grow their circle of influence, and for them to provide a third party endorsement of your efforts.
There are many ways to empower customer referrals by engaging individuals in group gathering or discussions, leveraging the Internet, advertising or by collecting a powerful collage of testimonials. The tactics for getting the most out of this potential goldmine are as diverse as the markets and customers in them. It all begins with recognising the most effective source for leads, acknowledging the value of these resources and creating specific action items in a plan to unleash these untapped opportunities. Actively and effectively utilising the most effective source for leads, customer referrals, will give you an advantage over 95% of your competition.