If you need a plumber, would you prefer to hire someone you found in the local phone book, or someone your neighbor used for a similar problem and recommends highly?
If you need surgery, would you prefer finding your surgeon through your research on surgeons.com or seeing a surgeon who performed successful surgery on a family member or is recognized as the top specialist in his field by your trusted internist.
I’d be surprised if your answer was not the second choice in both cases. People want to meet their professionals through introductions.
(Related: Connect… Build Rapport… Offer Your Help)
This means that even in this digital-social media world, one of the easiest and most effective ways to build your practice is through your existing clients and other people who already know you. Of course, they have to be willing to recommend you to others.
There are two things you can do immediately to facilitate this:
- Be referable; and
- Be on their minds.
“Being referable” is about developing relationships with your clients and others that go beyond the particular services you provide to them. It’s about knowing them as people and treating them in a way that gets them to want to tell stories — great stories — about you.
Providing great service isn’t enough. The largest of corporate clients hires you based on your relationship with individuals in the organization. Competence and great service are important, but what these individuals want is a sense that you really care about them. Find out your clients’ birthdays and anniversaries. Know what flavor ice cream their children like.
My friend, Stu, is a master at this. In the first few months of our business relationship, he called me to ask for important dates in my life. “I already know your birthday,” he said, “but when’s your anniversary? When is your wife’s birthday? What are your kids’ birthdays?”