When it comes to professional services marketing techniques, the referral is as tried and true as it gets. Decade after decade, firms have sought to generate referrals from clients and turn successful relationships into new business. And they’ve continued to follow this strategy because in principle, it works.

But the problem with any longstanding, workhorse technique is that it can grow rote. Stuck in a rut rather than adapting and innovating. And unfortunately, for many firms, this is exactly what has happened with their referral marketing strategies. While the marketplace – and the most effective referral strategies – have evolved, many firms have carried on with the same old habits. And in the process, they’re leaving a startling amount of business on the table.

At Hinge, we wanted to get to the bottom of the story on professional services referrals. We decided to do some digging – and find out how referrals really work today. Then we analyzed the results to show decision-makers the most effective ways to approach referrals today.

The result? Our new Executive Guide, Rethinking Referral Marketing.

Researching Referrals

First, we gathered data from 523 professional services firms spread across the technology, accounting and finance, management consulting, AEC, and legal industries. We asked them a range of questions about how they received referrals and how they responded to referrals from others. Our respondents’ answers revealed that the world of referrals looks very different than many people realize.

SEE ALSO: Top 7 Referral Marketing Ideas for Professional Services Firms

Most importantly, a significant body of referrals come from sources that sellers haven’t worked with directly. In fact, 81.5% of buyers have received a referral from someone who wasn’t a client. These non-experience based referrals break down into two major categories:

  • Reputation-based referrals: referrals based on an individual’s general awareness of your firm.
  • Expertise-based referrals: referrals based on the referrer’s understanding of your specialized expertise.

A small percentage of these non-client referrals (5.5%) are networking-based referrals. These come from those you’ve met in the past, like at networking events.

Put simply, these non-client referrals are driven by your firm’s brand, the combination of your reputation and visibility.

The research uncovered another key fact, as well – 51.9% of buyers have ruled out a referral before even speaking with the firm in question. There are a number of reasons for this, including sellers having unclear services, expertise without obvious relevance to their needs, and unimpressive websites.

It’s clear that traditional referral strategies – doing good work for clients and following up to pursue referrals – are not sufficient to leverage the full range of referral opportunities. So how can professional services executives adopt a broader, more proactive approach to referrals, while avoiding being ruled out? That’s where our new guide comes in.

A Different Approach

To understand where you need to go, you first need to find where you stand now. In Rethinking Referral Marketing, we provide a step-by-step guide to assessing your referral strategy and modernizing it to leverage your full range of referral opportunities.

The steps to stronger referrals include:

  • Analyzing where you are now
  • Understanding your target audience
  • Developing a comprehensive Referral Strategy
  • Demonstrating your expertise
  • Building your professional network
  • Building out your firm’s visibility

In the Executive Guide, we cover each of these topics in depth, exploring how techniques from website modernization to educational content creation to strategic networking can help decision-makers drive a wider and more robust variety of targeted referrals.

The referral has changed – likely for good. A comprehensive referral marketing strategy requires dedication and a willingness to share your unique expertise with the marketplace. But the benefits are great, and the firms that revitalize their referral strategies stand to move ahead of the competition.  

Ready to learn more? Download Rethinking Referral Marketing at no cost to get started generating more – and more effective – referrals today. 

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