The Value of a Referral

By  Drue Lawlor, FASID
Director of Coaching, Gail Doby Coaching & Consulting & Design Success University

I’m sure you are already aware of the value of the referral in building retention, loyalty and value to your “brand” — your design firm.

But some of you may forget to include this process in your weekly calendaring.  Don’t wait until business slows down and then start marketing in desperation mode!  By steadily and regularly building and connecting with your referral base, you can eliminate cold calls — such as using those lists of homeowners you pay for!

Cold calls result in a 3% or less appointment success rate, whereas having a referral increases your success to 40% or more — a much better return on your investment of time and money!

In an article by Duct Tape Marketing, they share a 2014 Small Business Trends survey which showed that 85% of small businesses say their customers learned about them through someone they know.  And in a report by InfusionSoft about 62% of small businesses consider word of mouth the most effective marketing strategy.

We often look at word-of-mouth marketing as old fashioned since it’s been around so long but what if I were to tell you that 90% of all word of mouth marketing still happens offline – in face-to-face scenarios?  And that the conversations your clients and prospective clients may have about your company can be a significant influence as to whether or not they decide to hire and/or refer your firm.  Might you then care more about word-of-mouth marketing?

So how can you acquire those referrals?  Word-of-mouth referrals are very valuable, but understand that they take time and commitment.  That’s where adding marketing automation can help build the interest and help with the old fashioned word-of-mouth referrals.

Marketing automation is software that enhances your marketing plan by making it more effective and focused using various tools, including email.  As Duct Tape Marketing shares, it gives you the ability to generate leads by identifying data about your prospective clients’ activities and interests, helping you to direct the right content into the right channels.

An email “CRM” (Customer Relationship Management) software system is extremely valuable to keep in touch regularly. If you are not currently using CRM software, I would definitely recommend adding one of the programs available to your marketing plan.  AWeber, Constant Contact, or Ontraport, are good programs for smaller companies. If you have larger long-term plans for marketing, then look into InfusionSoft.

Marketing automation offers the ability to capture prospective clients’ email address and can allow you to pre-write email “sequences” that can be automatically sent out based on a client’s behavior.

But some software systems will also vary the emails, videos, direct mail or even the tasks (such as calling them) based on their behavior, creating a feeling of a more personalized connection.

In an age of automation, we should never forget that we are a service oriented business, and being able to combine the old-fashioned word-of-mouth referrals with marketing automation allows us to expand and increase the effectiveness of those referrals.

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Gail Doby

Gail, with her team at Pearl Collective, has helped more than 10,000 designers in 76 countries. Many of them have achieved amazing results... doubling, tripling (and more) their revenue and profit... with clarity and confidence. Gail and her team build one-of-a-kind experiences, walking beside Interior Designers to help them create and implement their plans.


  1. […] What is the value of a referral?? […]

  2. […] How often do you show gratitude to your clients? You may send them a card for the holidays or give them a gift at the end of a project. But do you stay connected throughout the year? Ways to stay connected with past (and present) clients should be part of your marketing plan and budget. They are your best source for referrals! […]

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