Low-Pressure Ways to
Respectfully Ask Your Network for Referrals – Part 7
Deploying your referral campaign requires some proactive content development and strategizing. In the previous Briefs, you prepared to engage. The next few Briefs focus on how to optimize The Asks you plan to deploy. Get ready to punch up the content of your outreach.
Ask Option #1:
Ask for Feedback on Your Business Idea
You absolutely NEED feedback on your product and business processes in order to build value. Not everyone is a good informant, so you have to identify 1) people who have tried similar projects before and 2) people similar to your target client(s). Both groups provide critical perspectives on your business and products.
By requesting feedback, you are boosting awareness of your product while avoiding an awkward purchase request. Your audience is more likely to say, “Yes”, which is opting-in to learning about your product and providing potentially valuable insights. A consequence of learning about your product and providing help is that some people will voluntarily spread the word to others or you can ask them if they know anyone who might be interested in the product.
It is actually more likely that they know someone who would be your client, than that they will become a client themselves. It is still possible that they will consider and follow-through with a purchase, but that is the exception, not the rule.
1. Target the feedback request based on your network categories
Using the support network list you created in one of the earlier Briefs [Before the Ask: Identify Members of Network to Contact], identify the people who 1) have developed projects or businesses similar to yours and 2) are most similar to your target client(s).
- People who have developed projects or businesses similar to yours
- Ask people in this group to provide feedback on your business idea.
They can share what did or did not work for them. You learn vicariously from their experience and avoid some of their mistakes. Note: some ideas that did not work for them might still work for you! Similarly, some ideas that worked for them might not work for you. Consider their experiences as potential options, rather than direct advice. They had different resources, supports, markets, goals, timing, etc. As you hear the stories of people in this group, feel free to adopt processes that you believe fit your situation, and discard those that are not aligned.
An even better idea is to recruit a few of these people onto your Advisory Board. They should represent skillsets or experiences you don’t have, yet. Areas of expertise to focus on include client acquisition, financial management, copywriting, tax implications, legal contracts, marketing and growth, etc. Advisory Boards do not do the work for you; instead, they provide general guidance and relevant feedback.
Typically, Advisory Boards for profit-seeking companies are paid while nonprofit Advisory Boards are unpaid. Even if you don’t have much financing, it is respectful to offer at least a minimal honorarium (ie. $100 per month or $250 per quarter) to Advisory Board members. You are asking them to provide advice and guidance as you build and grow your business. Their expertise is valuable and should be treated as such. Remember: you are hoping that clients will respect the value of your knowledge and compensate you for your work. Establishing consistency in this way encourages people to continue to support you for the duration of your business venture.
- People who are similar to your target clients
- Ask people in this group to provide feedback on your product or service.
They can help you view your business through the eyes of a potential client, which is a critical perspective. Much like editing written content, it is difficult to see errors, gaps, or inconsistencies within something you have created. You already know what you’re trying to communicate, so your brain automatically fills in the gaps when a piece is missing. Others don’t know what you mean to say, so they will identify gaps that you need to correct.
The most informative viewpoint is from the audience that you’re targeting. If your consulting service is leadership coaching for mid-career executives, then your target audience is mid-career executives looking to improve their skills and obtain promotions. Getting feedback on this service from an early-career professional will not be as helpful. Aim to talk to people in your support network who are closest to your target audience or who have purchased leadership coaching from someone else in the past.
The feedback will satisfy some of your core business building needs while also providing your support network with the knowledge necessary to make strong referrals. As they work to understand your business model or product offering, they become familiar enough to share honestly with others.
2. Collect and analyze the feedback
No need for complex market research analyses at this stage. Even a simple set of questions and a quick review will yield valuable insights. When you have more resources or feedback collection skills, upgrade your process. Ideally, a marketing pro will be on your Advisory Board to provide some general guidance here.
Otherwise, a basic approach I recommend requires only four questions: 3 “Yes/No” questions about something you think is important to know and one open-ended question for people to share any other thoughts that come to mind. The first three questions should focus on critical results (ie. ‘Are the benefits of the product clear and compelling?’, ‘Do I appear to be a credible expert for delivering this product?’, ‘Is it clear what kind of person/company would benefit most from my product?’, or ‘Does the price seem appropriate for the benefits being delivered?’). You can ask about more nuanced components, but ultimately you want to make sure the big picture is covered before you dive into the details.
The four-question feedback is also helpful to make sure people actually get the feedback to you. Their thoughts are only worthwhile once they share them with you. Ask too many questions and people get overwhelmed, then abandon it or procrastinate. Ask complex questions and people get confused, then abandon it or procrastinate. Ask unimportant questions and people may answer, but the information does not help you.
3. Follow-up with eager helpers
After the feedback is provided, you can easily check-in to ask if they know of anyone who may be interested in your product. People who are most active in the feedback process are likely to respond positively if you ask for a referral. Some will spontaneously share that they know others who would be interested, even if you don’t ask.
Either way, you benefit from these people having deep knowledge of your business, which allows them to make more qualified referrals. Now that they have evaluated your product or business, they have the information to refer genuinely, not just as a favor to you.
Using feedback is just one suggestion for opening the conversation to referral requests. Read on for another way to talking to your support network about referrals to your business…
Back to the overview 5 Low Pressure Ways to Respectfully Ask Your Network for Referrals