Word of mouth marketing is vital to any business, regardless of industry. After all, 92% of consumers believe suggestions from colleagues, friends, and family more than advertising. That statistic underlines why recommendations, referrals and positive reviews are such an excellent method for building credibility and trust with customers who are yet to try your products or services.
However, the increasing trend of so-called “blind” referrals and recommendations are damaging. It’s something we continue to notice at McGinn and Dolphin, so let’s explain why they aren’t a good idea.
What Are “Blind” Referrals and Recommendations?
You’ve likely already witnessed this phenomenon, or even found yourself caught up in it on social media recently. A connection on LinkedIn may put out a call for help within a specific industry, and within seconds the post will be flooded with comments from contacts tagging fellow professionals with expertise in this area.
While, in some instances, this may be a great way to win business, it’s increasingly becoming a problem. The principal issue is that many of those referring to other individuals or companies is that they’ve never used the service themselves. They cannot vouch for any results, nor can they claim to have experienced the customer process.
In any walk of life, you wouldn’t trust the service referral of someone who had never used it themselves. Yet when it comes to the online world, and increasingly in-person networking events, this seems to be an accepted practice. By the same token, hopefully, you wouldn’t recommend or refer another business to your colleague or friends if you had never used it yourself. And yet the practice becomes increasingly common.
These so-called “blind” referrals or recommendations are causing all kinds of issues.
The Problem with “Blind” Referrals and Recommendations
There are so many potential problems with this practice that it’s difficult to know where to start. From the referred (or tagged) business’ point of view, there are concerns associated with the referring party overpromising on your services, particularly when they’ve never used them before.
In other instances, referees make passionate pitches to their friends for your business, when you don’t even provide that specific service. For example, if you offer social media management, but a friend says to their colleague, “I’m sure they’re just as excellent at email marketing.” That business is immediately on the back foot if they’ve yet to expand to offer that service.
The result in many instances of these “blind” referrals is that the recommended business provides a service that is very different from the expectations of the referred client. As a result, the client is unhappy, the referred company has their reputation tarnished, and the person who made the referral has egg on their face. So why does the practice continue?
Why “Blind” Referrals Continue and How to Avoid Them as a Business
This practice is a result of a favor-owing culture stemming from professional networking sites such as LinkedIn. The idea is that if someone consistently refers or recommends you, you’ll do the same for them, even if you’ve never used each other’s services.
This, “I’ll scratch your back, you scratch mine” culture causes an array of problems as outlined above. Thus, to avoid becoming continually recommended by individuals who haven’t used, or don’t understand, your business services, it’s best to politely inform those who continue to do it that you appreciate their efforts, before insisting you would rather that they didn’t.
You can then focus your referral and recommendation efforts on your genuine customers who can accurately communicate services, expectations, and results. You can even sweeten the deal with a referral fee structure. However, be careful. If you make those fees too lucrative, you’ll increase the overselling of your services once more.
What About Reviews?
In the online-first business world we now live in, no business can thrive without positive reviews. In fact, 84% of consumers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. But not all positive reviews are equal.
A five-star review with a comment along the lines of “excellent experience” means very little to anyone trying to evaluate your firm. That’s why you must educate your customers on a) the importance of leaving a review to your business and b) why they should include as much detail as possible.
Referring back to the email marketing example above, if a company is looking to use your services, they are going to be much more impressed with a review that states, “Our open rate went from 20% to 40% and our conversions increased from 1% to 5%, we’re thrilled!” There’s nothing more convincing than proving you’ve already delivered precisely what a potential customer is looking for.
How to Produce Verified and Valuable Recommendations
There are many ways to produce valuable reviews and referrals (such as educating your clients, as mentioned), but one way in which we do so as a business is with our local Business Network International (BNI) group, which meets every week. BNI has proven successful for our business performance, which is thanks in large part to its procedures producing meaningful referrals.
The three-step process involves arranging one-to-one meetings to discover what each business does in detail, before potentially trialing the service of both parties so that each business person can vouch for each of the respective companies when looking for positive referrals moving forward.
Because members fully understand each other’s’ products and services, their positive recommendations carry much more weight. If you would like to join a growing networking business of networking professionals in Petersfield, add your name to the comments.
There’s no question that referrals, recommendations, and reviews can help you to win new business. However, the quality of that business will depend heavily on the quality of the referral. That’s why it’s essential that you educate your current clientele on referral and review best practices while deterring those looking to currently favor by just recommending your services.
If you’re looking for help with your digital marketing strategy, don’t hesitate to browse our verified case studies to assess the strength of our work for yourself.