I know this may be a bit counterintuitive, but please hear me out. As common convention, or common sense, would have it; there is no better “pre-sold” new customer than one that is referred by a friend or family member, right?
I beg to differ.
Historically yes, the customer that is referred by a friend, co-worker or relative is better than any type of general marketing customer easily. But offer a free-this or free-that to just the average person you market to and you get a certain percentage of tire kickers. This remains true when you offer a Groupon, or do TV, radio, or any other common advertising medium. In every one of these instances, you need to weed through the customers who are just out for a cheap deal to try and reach those good long-term customers that appreciate what you offer and are willing to pay you for it.
So, you have a great customer, Mary and she is sending her brother Jim to see you. And since Jim’s sister has been extolling the virtues of your miraculous products or services for years, he comes in already prepared that he will be just as pleased with your products or services.
Or, does he?
The skeptical mind, like mine and probably many of yours, is often overly skeptical of the personal referral, especially in situations like this. Why? Because after years of playing this game one thing all too often becomes obvious, people refer you to people they “like” but not those that are necessarily the best. Also by referring brother Jim to “my blank who is the best” it psychologically gives Mary some sort of minor pat-on-the-back-cause-I-helped-someone-with-my-unique-knowledge kind of feeling. That’s great and all, but does it really suit Jim’s needs and best interest? Maybe, but maybe not. Therein lies the reason for skepticism, the partial degree of doubt that is inherently there.
I have a good friend who exemplifies this completely. Any chance he gets he is telling every acquaintance he can that they should go to so and so for this or that, covering the complete spectrum of businesses. It doesn’t take one long to realize there is no way this guy knows “the best” in every single trade or profession out there. When I hear these recommendations from him, I cringe. Not because he is trying to help, his heart is in the right place for the most part, but because he most often is not really helping.
What then do I think is the best source of truly good customers? In the last couple of years, I have become an absolute convert to getting customers who are referred by review sites and review ratings. Sites such as Yelp, Google My Business, Facebook reviews, HealthGrades, AngiesList, and So on.
“Well, okay,” you say, “I can see getting customers from review sites is great, but are they really the ‘best’ customers I can be getting?” My simple answer is yes, and I will tell you why. People trust unsolicited online recommendations, the statistics say up to 90%, because recommendations are basically an upgraded form of social proof. But, therein lies the secret, why is it “upgraded”? Think about it, put a testimonial up on your website or any sales website, and sure, it does have value. Now, have that same testimonial placed without any provocation by the business at all (so most people assume), on a third-party website like Yelp? Believe it or not (and I get it if you are not a Yelper or a review site person – I wasn’t either) but to a vast majority of prospective customers, these recommendations scream of non-bias! That is what every prospective customer is looking for!
When a prospect goes to your Yelp page and performs what I call a ‘conceptual consensus’, meaning they scan 10 or more reviews to get what their brain will perceive as a very straightforward and honest assessment of your business (one that your sister Mary could never provide in such an objective manner) then that prospect becomes truly pre-sold on you and your products or services!
What do you think?
In my profession, I receive 5-10 new patients every day just from the review sites and what I love most about it is that a good majority come in a saying something to the effect of “I don’t know if you realize, but you have amazing reviews!” – which is exactly why they those chose me over everyone else. (And of course, I know it; I designed it to be that way.) So, if that is not valuable information for the health of your new customer flow – I honestly don’t know what is. I guarantee you this though; it is certainly a better and much more frequent occurrence for me, rather than waiting and hoping that Mary will send her brother Jim in someday soon.