Who doesn’t like getting referrals? Knowing that a client wants to give you their stamp of approval feels good. But when it comes to securing new customers, are you relying on others to sing your praises?
No agency should be in the passenger seat of its growth for too long. Next to referrals, becoming your own advocate through outreach is the way to go for scalable and sustainable success.
Why? Let’s get into it.
Striking the balance between referrals and outreach
Before we dive in, let’s take a moment to consider referrals vs. outreach.
You might think of referrals as the final step in the customer journey: awareness, consideration, decision, referral. If you provide a top-notch product or service to a client, the hope is that they’ll recommend you to someone else who could do with your expertise.
We all endorse businesses from time to time – sometimes because we’ve been offered an incentive, other times because we’re genuinely impressed. But that’s not to say that relying on referrals should become your agency’s long-term approach to finding accounts.
Outreach offers a more hands-on way to go about it. It gives you a chance to hop in the driver’s seat and connect with your ideal audience through a business or individual they already trust. This might be by tapping into influencer marketing or writing content for a relevant brand’s website, for example.
Referrals and outreach each have their place in the customer journey. They can also complement each other nicely, as we sum up in ‘Past success. The key to increased revenue’:
“The best agencies in the market today are the ones that win business off the back of their previous work and the glowing testimonials that followed. They used their success to win their next bit of business and dovetailed that approach with constant networking.”
But why exactly is consistent outreach marketing such a useful tool for agencies? Why shouldn’t you just bask in the *hopefully* steady stream of referrals coming your way?
Without outreach, your referrals might just dry up
It can be tempting to see referrals as a self-sustaining engine, especially if you’ve had luck with them in the past. But, you need to keep laying the groundwork for great referrals if you want to keep them coming your way.
There are three potential issues with relying on referrals.
- You’re dependent on your agency’s existing client base to connect you to new leads.
- A great referral doesn’t necessarily equate to a quality lead.
- Referrals are unpredictable, meaning you could end up in a feast or famine dilemma.
While being reliant on referrals may reap juicy benefits sporadically, layering an outreach strategy on top could be what you need to ensure consistency. After all, once you have an outreach strategy with all the moving parts working in harmony – whether it’s through cold emails or blogger outreach – you can keep stoking the fire.
By building strong relationships with people and businesses in your industry, you can tap into an audience base that is, theoretically, more receptive to your message. Outreach can help you leapfrog the ‘awareness’ stage and land in front of the people who are already on their way to wanting your services.
Plus, by becoming a thought leader in your sector, you may also increase your chances of getting strong referrals. It’s a double whammy.
So, how can you scale your outreach strategies?
We’ve talked a lot about why you should mix referrals with outreach to connect with potential new clients, but how about scaling your outreach strategy?
Firstly, you want your outreach efforts to give rather than sell, all to encourage leads to become endgame. As such, don’t underestimate the power of networking. Whether it’s over a beer or on LinkedIn, building relationships is key to a long-term sales pipeline.
(Want to learn more? We talk about this in more depth in our blog, ‘Don’t sell. Build relationships.’)
When you network, you find connections, build trust and credibility, and discover opportunities to promote your message further. You could:
- Create helpful articles for an online community
- Share your thoughts about a relevant topic on a podcast
- Publish articles on other brands’ websites, always linking back to your own
If you’re looking to connect with your target audience on an even bigger scale, you might consider automating your strategies. For instance, you could direct potential clients towards what we call a ‘super gateway’ product (a free eBook, for example) through paid ads or email flows.
Remember though that you’re trying to offer value to build long-lasting connections. You’re not trying to spam customers into a short-term sales pipeline.
Fine. But what if you want to nurture relationships without spending too much time on outreach? Well, there’s a lot of value in streamlining your sales process with productised offerings that can be tailored to an account’s needs.
Once you’ve buzzed the doorbell with a super gateway product, you’re inside the house. Now you can keep leaving breadcrumbs for leads to follow – maybe an SEO audit here, a content strategy workshop there – until they commit to a full service or retainer.
Let’s wrap this up
Referrals are great, especially if you’ve got a network of happy clients who want to big you up. Outreach marketing is also great, especially when you build and nurture relationships with the right people. However, unlike with referrals, you can scale your outreach and shift gears if you want to connect with a new audience.
Creating a balance is the key, and at the root of this is your ability to build strong relationships. Focus less on selling and more on providing value so that at every stage of the sales ladder, you come out on top.
If you want to jump straight into driving your business growth, you might find our Sales strategy and process design package interesting. Or feel free to drop us a line – we’ll happily talk through our solutions and point you in the right direction.