Traditionally, the custom in marketing a professional practice was to focus on credentials and experience along with areas of specialty and expertise to grow your business. Referrals and word-of-mouth were heavily counted on and advertising, other than a yellow-pages ad and maybe a business card in the local papers was simply not a focus for marketing. Getting referrals from other professionals was the goal.
Fast forward to today and getting a referral may not mean you actually get a new client.
A big part of the reason referrals are not as effective is because the consumer of today is so different from the consumer of yesterday. For one thing, referrals are now considered by some people to merely be a suggestion. Others may consider the referral to be a “recommendation”, which is a little bit stronger, but what’s more important is that people today expect to supplement a recommendation with their own research.
I was talking the other day with a friend who had been advised by her child’s school to seek a particular service for her teen and given a referral to that service provider. She was headed home to get online to do a little research. She wanted to confirm for herself that they actually needed the recommended service and she wanted to check out the options for where to go to get it.
I can remember when, if you got such a referral, you went home and called the recommended service provider to make an appointment, no questions asked…and that’s assuming the first office hadn’t taken care of scheduling that appointment for you before you left.
Today’s consumer researches two things:
- Do they really need what’s being recommended?
- Who is the best provider from which to get what’s being recommended?
In other words, even if another professional recommends your services and recommends you as the best person from whom to seek those services, there is no guarantee that the person will follow-up and make an appointment with you.
So, what’s to be done?
If you are building your business based on referrals, you have to make sure that when the consumer does research, they find the reassuring information they are seeking and they find it in association with you.
It’s likely that one of the first pieces of research the consumer is going to do is to check out your website. This means your website has a big job to do:
- Educate the consumer
- Establish you as the best choice to provide the services that you offer
- Present your information in a way that makes the consumer feel welcome, at ease, informed and confident (create a feeling of “know, like and trust”)
If you can wrap this in a marketing message that resonates with the consumer, they will call you. Handle that conversation in a way that answers their questions, calms their fears and reassures them of their decision, and you will have a new client.
I created “The New Client Conversion Path” that describes the “path” this person travels when they research your website as a first step to becoming your new client. You can download a free copy below: