Conventional ~ especially extroverted ~ marketing advice for solopreneurs like counselors and coaches almost always focuses on how to get others to refer clients to you. This is a type of networking, and succeeds on 4 factors of being able to:
clearly describe the problem you solve for what type of ideal client
assertively request a “meet-n-greet” with multiple referral sources
create a lasting favorable impression of yourself as a specialist
persistently ask for what you want ~ referrals!
Most introverts find that pretty intimidating, uncomfortable, and a huge energy drain.
Getting referrals is such an ingrained mindset for some that you even talk about whether locator directories (where potential clients self-select for your services) are producing “referrals”.
In the interest of useful marketing vocabulary, when a potential client finds your profile or website and calls for an appointment, this is called a successful conversion rather than a referral. A referral is a 3rd party suggestion that may not be heeded, might not represent you in the most compelling way, and won’t always be followed through on.
Worse, referrers often feel obligated to suggest several providers, rather than just you, which further dilutes the possibility that the potential client will actually make contact.
So my two reasons for not prioritizing the pursuit of referral sources are that:
1. Done right, it’s a very labor and psychic energy intensive marketing strategy.
Referral building requires you to put your efforts into becoming favorably memorable to someone who still might not act in your best interest by sending possible clients your way at every opportunity. These efforts normally require:
letters of introduction
personal visits or phone calls, or both
follow up emails
follow up visits, calls, reminders, nudges, goodies, etc
Essentially it’s an equation of expending 200% effort for less than 50% return. From a time and energy standpoint, that’s just not efficient.
2. Referral building doesn’t directly reach the actual client at the point when they are primed to decide to work with you.
Relying on referrals to build your business is like relying on a game of telephone for your marketing message to reach your ideal client. Who knows that the referral source actually says, what the prospective client asks them about you, and how confidently enthusiastic that referral actually is?
Personally, I think it’s a big risk to put the success of your business in the hands of others who are naturally more invested in making their own business succeed than in remembering to help you.
When time and energy are at a premium, as they are for most busy, introverted solopreneurs, it’s a smarter choice to use strategies that connect directly with your ideal client and maximize the chance to give them an unfiltered experience of you.
There’s a place for referral building and networking, even in the introvert’s marketing plan (watch for an upcoming blog about that). I just recommend that it not be your first and only marketing approach.
So what is influencing you to believe that you need referral partners? How are you selecting them? Are you diligently following up? How often?
Those are the questions that will reveal to you the degree of importance your networking and referral building efforts have, or should have, in your overall marketing plan.
Referral building and business networking are not my areas of expertise. In fact, they aren't even in my top 5 interests most of the time. But if your personality and energy lean this direction, I'll refer you to one of my marketing coaches, Ronnie Noize for great coaching on making this part of your marketing plan. Be sure to tell her I sent you.