Small Business Marketing Tips

Why Relying on Referrals is Risky Business

By Rod McGregor 
President, Crowl Marketing|Creative 

I get asked the following question all the time, so I decided to write an article.

“Why should I advertise when I get all of my business from referrals and word-of-mouth?”

Word-of-mouth referrals are great, because your prospective customer already has some level of trust in you, since someone they know and trust has referred them to you.

That is fine while it lasts, but it is not sustainable as the only means of new business. What happens when your contact leaves the company, retires or the relationship sours through no fault of yours? If your business relies exclusively on referrals, you’re missing out.

Typically, you don’t worry about new business until your sales slow down, then you go into panic mode and start a marketing program to generate new business. Then you get busines again and turn off your marketing again, and the cycle goes on and on. If you don’t treat marketing as a 24/7/365 proposition, new business dries up and leads to a slow death.

One problem with referrals is they may not be ready for your products or services immediately. You have no idea if you will get a referral when you need it. So why sit around waiting? Prospective customers are looking for you right now online. What are you doing to get discovered by them? You can bet your competitors are being proactive and trying to get discovered.

The idea that business should come to YOU is antiquated in today’s changing business landscape. Proactivity is rewarded and new business is earned. The more chances you have to grow your business, the more likely you are to grow.

In a world reliant on technology to bring information, Covid 19 taught us that a strong online presence is mandatory in today’s business environment. Having an online advertising, marketing and public relations strategy is No. 1, but traditional media are still viable options and should be considered as well. Putting all your eggs in one basket isn’t smart either; savvy business owners know they need multiple channels to attract sales leads.

Don’t get me wrong; a referrals-based marketing and sales strategy is not a bad thing. But it’s just one piece of the overall marketing strategy. You need to balance that with a consistent inbound strategy and some good old-fashioned prospecting to see your company flourish. A good balance will assure a steady pipeline that won’t dry up, even if your referrals do.

Referral marketing is a fine way to build your business reputation but for long-term growth, you need to have a balanced strategy including online marketing to reach potential customers who need your products or services.