Referral Strategies From Today’s Hot Startups and What Advisors Can Do

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Ah, referrals.

Marketing gold for companies of all shapes and sizes.

When a client makes a referral, the profitability of the relationship increases, and so does the clients LTV (lifetime value).

But referrals are tricky. In a perfect world, clients who love you and trust you would feel implicitly compelled to praise your services at every cocktail party they attend. And sometimes that does happen (another reason why nurturing relationships year round is key). More often, however, you’ll need to be a bit more direct with referral requests.

plated-cofoundersStartups get this. Beyond asking for referrals, startups INSPIRE their audience to refer. They’ve found referral strategies that work, without adding unnecessary time to your schedule. (If anyone understands the value of time-saving strategies, it’s small startups!)

How do they do it, and 
how can you follow their lead?

How Today’s Best Startups Inspire Referrals

The Win-Win

The Win-Win is a hugely effective referral tactic.

Consider Plated, a startup that delivers chef-inspired recipes and locally-sourced ingredients to customers who want to cook gourmet meals (cofounders pictured above). Once customers join, they get a special referral link that Plated asks them to share with friends. It’s a double incentive” the friend who signs up gets the first two meals free and the existing customer gets a bonus of two meals credited to their account.

You can adopt a similar strategy. It could be straightforward – perhaps you give the referring client a small discount on services and offer the potential client a free initial report. Or get creative! When a new client signs on, the referring client gets to join them for some awesome experience, like a cooking class or wine tasting event (with you footing the bill, of course).

Choose Your Moment

Successful startup marketers know how to choose the right moments for referrals. The best time to ask customers to sing your praises is when they’re closest to the brand. For an online retailer like Rue La La, that means giving customers the chance to tell their friends about a sale the moment after their own purchase is complete.

For financial advisors, that means being strategic about when you ask your clients for referrals. Maybe you just helped a client grasp a new concept, or made an awesome move that your client is fawning over, or showed them the super awesome features in Blueleaf’s client portal. Don’t wait; that’s your time to swoop in and make the ask.

Make it Easy

Asking for a referral is great, but giving clients a clear next step for taking action is even better. Just ask The Startup Institute, a career accelerator that prepares their “students” of all ages to work and thrive at startups. In order to get qualified students to apply to the program each season, The Startup Institute reaches out to its network of alumni and provides them with pre-written tweets, emails, and Facebook posts that they can use to spread the word. They’ve made it incredibly easy for happy customers to send referrals.

Don’t leave clients wondering how to refer you. Give them clear next steps. Maybe you host a panel event, and ask clients to bring a +1 who might be interested in learning more about your services. You can also create an email template that they can easily adapt to send to their contacts. Better yet, give them a list of the type of other professional service providers you’d love to meet, and ask them to make an introduction.

— Brief excerpt from: How To Grow Like Today’s Hot Startups. Download a full copy here.

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Carolyn is Blueleaf’s in-house marketing guru. She writes on The Blueleaf Blog to make advisors’ lives easier, offering practice management and client engagement tips where and when they’re useful. Outside of the Blueleaf offices, she can be found running a 10k or cooking her famous chili. Chat LIVE with Carolyn on Twitter @BlueleafAdvisor!
  • Marty Morua July 18, 2014, 12:35 pm

    My Honda and Costco story…..

    Referrals are great! Asking a client to bring a friend to an event your financial advisor is hosting is smart and done by many I know. But those referrals that come without asking for one are golden. A financial advisor, that is so entrenched in their clients lives that when they think of anything related to their finances their advisor is the first person they call, is powerful. That can even including making a major purchase like a car, summer home, remodeling a home, selecting a college for their GenY kids, nursing home costs, etc. The list can be quite extensive and doesn’t have to just be about retirement planning, stocks or mutual funds.

    Honda Accord and Costco are 2 examples in my personal life. I’ve owned 3 Honda Accords. I adore them. I tell everyone who is looking to buy a car to consider a Honda. I’ve been a Costco shopper since they first came into existence. Yes, I am a deeply loyal fan and customer. Over the years have driven friends (yup, in my Honda) friends there to get membership.

    Costco doesn’t ask me for referrals. Honda doesn’t call me to bring a friend to their dealership. Getting to a level where clients instinctively refer their financial advisors to friends or family is the ultimate form of referral.

    Good work sharing your thoughts in this Blog Carolyn!

    Cheers to you, John Prendergast and the entire Blueleaf team!

    Marty Morua