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Marketing lessons I learned from one referral

Referrals start with relationships

Relationship marketing seeks to create a partnership that results in word-of-mouth referrals.

In the pursuit of sales and market reach, it is easy to overlook the human factor. This is especially true in digital marketing. This story is a reminder to me of the power of building relationships that create value, loyalty and a lifetime of referrals.

Mom was in trouble. Through a series of events beyond her control, she lost her house, her job and most of her life savings. Six years prior, she had begun a harrowing and heroic battle with cancer. Now, at the time of life when she should be looking forward to retirement, she was faced with starting life over from scratch.

The first step to rebuilding her life was to find a place to live. Given her financial situation, this was a source of great anxiety. I referred her to Jeff Anderson, a realtor who had done a great job helping me get into my first home. I figured if anyone could solve this puzzle, he could. I guessed right.

In short order, Jeff found an affordable townhouse in a safe community where the value of the property was sure to increase. He helped her get financing that qualified her to buy it. On moving day we were thrilled and relieved to close that chapter.

If the story ended there, it would be a great testimony. But there is more.

At the closing, Jeff told mom that in a year she would be eligible to refinance her mortgage to get a lower monthly payment. Good news.

Fast forward 12 months. One day mom got an unexpected phone call. It was a friendly reminder from Jeff that she could now refinance. He offered her advice on how to initiate the process with the lender. The result was a streamlined refinance that gave needed relief to her monthly budget.

That happened more than 15 years ago. Jeff has become a family friend and trusted advisor on any type of real estate question or transaction we might have. He succeeded in creating a true business relationship where each side works to serve the other. Guess who I would recommend if a friend asks me for a good realtor to work with?

The power of relationship marketing

This is a great illustration of the power of building relationships that result in mutual benefit. The principles apply to several areas of business, such as referral sales, social media and influence marketing. I have thought about this story many times in my years as a marketer. Here are some of the lessons I learned from this referral experience with Jeff.

1. Clients are happy when you meet their expectations. They become loyal when you exceed expectations. They turn into word-of-mouth advocates when you create memorable experiences.

2. You build strong relationships with clients by taking a genuine interest in them. Gain an understanding of their frame of reference. Mom’s frame of reference was more than the immediate need to buy a house; it was to manage a limited budget.

3. Listening is the most important relationship skill you can practice. Listen for the reason your client is seeing and feeling the way they do.

4. Give and you will get. Our society operates on the law of fair exchange. When you give extra, you activate the law of reciprocity.

5. Look beyond the initial transaction to the lifetime value of a customer.

6. The close of the sale is not the end. Relationship marketing seeks to confirm the sale, confirm the beginning of a relationship and confirm the beginning of a partnership.

7. Turn your relationship-building mindset into action. Follow up with added value, even if it’s a year later and the sale is closed.

8. Turn the relationship into something more than what brought the two parties together in the first place.

9. Referrals are the most powerful, cost-effective form of lead generation. They give you third party credibility and open the door for a receptive conversation with a warm lead.

10. Each time someone gives you a referral, you have an opportunity to make them look like a hero.

The human factor

The reason this story has stuck with me these years is because it was personal and it was tied to strong emotions. Whether in face-to-face interactions, social networking or content creation, it is important to remember that we are dealing with real people and real emotions.

In The Psychology of Relationship Selling, Orv Owens said the primary reason for sales resistance is fear. People are either afraid of making the wrong decision about you or your product or their fears are stronger than the reasons you have given to act. Your job is to help them conquer that apprehension.

Relationship marketing is not a persuasion technique so much as a mindset. It takes the human factor into account when doing business. David Ogilvy is famous for saying “The consumer is not a moron, she is your wife.” Humans are hard wired to respond with the emotional brain, even in business situations. That is where we connect to create word-of-mouth loyalty.

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