3 Steps to Pivot Your Marketing from Over-Relying on Referrals

82% of small business owners consider referrals to be their main source of new business. So what do you do when your referrals begin to dry up?
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Referrals are an understandably significant part of customer acquisition for many small businesses. Prioritizing customer satisfaction doesn’t just improve retention, but also increases the chance that they sing your praises to others. It’s why, according to surveys, the average small business receives 60% of its revenue from referral campaigns, and 82% of small business owners consider referrals to be their main source of new business.

New leads originating from referrals already have a positive opinion of your business, making them warmer than a cold lead and more likely to convert. Unfortunately, they’re also notoriously unreliable.

You simply cannot plan on a reliable stream of leads and customers from referrals. Your progress is at the will of your clients. Referrals are increasingly unpredictable in the midst of COVID-19, where many companies have tightened their belts to new expenses. Your favorite clients may be too busy trying to keep their own boat afloat to have the time to talk you up in their professional circles and hand you new business.

So what do you do when your referrals begin to dry up?

Fortunately, the answer is straightforward. You don’t necessarily need to de-emphasize referrals; they are a great source of leads. Instead, the key is diversification, creating lead generation strategies that can reliably bring in new clients regardless of whether your referrals are adding to your leads. To that end, consider these three lead generation strategies to expand your sources of new business.

1. Work with a Lead Generation Provider

Perhaps the most reliable way to drive leads into your pipeline is to work with an external professional or service who does just that. The right partner will de-hassle your sales team, send you a stream of qualified leads, and provide you with opportunities for ROI. The exact type of lead generation you pursue, of course, will depend on your specific needs. 

Regardless of the avenue you choose, the process will likely look something like this:

  • Find a lead generation service provider that aligns with your goals and budget.

  • Engage in initial fact finding and discovery designed to help the service provider optimize a strategy for your needs.

  • Create logistical pipelines to connect with leads generated by your new partner.

  • Watch the leads flow in, provide feedback to your new partner, and continue to iterate your strategy.

Many lead generation providers are paid by the lead, meaning your budget can manipulate your lead flow. Ideally, your new partner will either have a well-established system to generate warm leads, or be able to build the system to suit your needs, specifically.

If you have limited resources to build your own lead generation pipeline, partnering with a provider can help to fill the gaps and set your sales team up for success.

2. Engage in Digital Networking

Prior to COVID-19, in-person conferences were an important strategy for small businesses to build their network and create connections with potential buyers. While these events were put on hold due to the pandemic, plenty of virtual networking opportunities still exist.

There are a few ways in which you can engage with potential prospects to create a relatively steady flow of leads:

  • Industry-specific digital conferences and trade shows. Here, you can mingle in virtual chat rooms and video chats. Even better, secure a speaker role at an industry conference, showcasing your knowledge and expertise.

  • Webinars and podcasts. Find relevant industry webinars and podcasts that your audience might listen to. Then, contact the host and see if they’d be willing to have you as a guest to share your expertise. An approach that requires a bit more organization but can yield awesome results is to set up your own webinar or podcast.

  • Social media groups. Networking with your peers digitally can be as simple as joining a few like-minded people on social media. LinkedIn Groups are especially relevant, but Facebook Groups have recently opened up to business and professional discussions, as well.

Digital networking might be awkward and feel outside of your comfort zone. But it’s a great way to build your network of contacts who just might become future customers.

3. Offer Valuable Content

Finally, consider building your lead generation efforts through high-quality content. This step supports the prior two in that its execution can increase the success of both of the above.

Your website, blog, and social posts have the potential to offer insightful takes on industry trends, tangible steps to improve processes, or interviews with industry leaders. In other words, they can become a resource for potential customers to follow and consume, focusing on value over direct promotion.

In the process, and if done correctly, a content strategy begins to build trust and credibility. Your audience learns more about your expertise and when they’re ready for a product or service like yours, your brand will naturally be top of mind as a result. Value-first content is also a great conversation starter for digital networking or an incentive to connect.

Finally, small businesses can “gate” content behind a sign-up page, asking for their audience’s contact information in exchange for reading it. If the content is valuable enough, your audience will be glad to provide their information, entering into your database as leads. This tactic is but one piece of the process to generate steady leads, but it can play a fair role in diversifying your efforts beyond referrals.

Ready to Enhance Your Lead Generation Strategy?

Small businesses rely on lead generation to support their sales funnel and grow their revenue. When those leads come only from referrals, they tend to be too unreliable to predict future revenue or sustainable growth. Fortunately, implementing lead generation strategies like the above can diversify your lead in-flow to grow successfully.

Are you ready to enhance your lead generation strategy? If so, diversification is key. Request a demo to learn how Sapper Consulting can help you get on the right path.

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About The Author

About Sapper Consulting

Sapper's sales prospecting team becomes a natural extension of your existing sales efforts, helping you find new leads that are a great fit for your business.

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