Some of the best customers come by way of referral from other customers. Make sure you’re doing everything possible to optimize this lucrative sales channel.

January 16, 2018

5 Min Read
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It’s become a truism over the years to say that MSPs struggle with marketing. The fact is most MSP business owners have engineering or technology backgrounds, not marketing or sales. Solving a computer problem requires a much different strategy than solving a branding problem. However, even the most marketing-averse MSPs are drawn instinctively toward one kind of marketing — word-of-mouth or referral-based marketing. In fact, some take pride in stating that referrals are their only source of marketing.

Although it’s not advised to make referrals your only source of revenue, any MSP who’s ever received one — especially a customer referral — knows how valuable they can be. And, with some strategy, an MSP can turn the occasional warm lead into a steady stream of new business opportunities.

To help ensure you’re not leaving this important sales channel to chance, be sure to heed the following tips:

1. Validate Your Current Customers’ Happiness

Obviously, customers only recommend products and services they’ve already found value (and happiness) in. The problem is just about every MSP believes its customers are happy, but they usually don’t have good evidence for this belief. Instead of relying on anecdotal feedback and a “no news is good news” philosophy, it’s better to implement evidence-based customer-satisfaction measures.

For example, are you running so lean that your response time has suffered and clients are noticing? Do you have a helpdesk employee who isn’t so helpful?

To ensure client satisfaction in these key areas, consider using benchmark surveys, which may already be built into your PSA tool. These short surveys can be generated automatically after every ticket is closed to give you a more accurate picture of your performance. Be sure to put in a few guidelines, too, so that the same person doesn’t receive more than one survey within a 30-day window, for example. In addition to asking four or five questions that can be answered with a simple grading system (for example, a scale of 1 to 10), include a free-form question at the end of the survey that allows a customer to share any additional feedback. Any number below nine or any comment that indicates a client wasn’t completely satisfied with the service, the experience or its results should be followed up on immediately to resolve the issue.

2. Ask for Referrals (and Offer Incentives)

Even if you’re able to raise your customer satisfaction levels across the board, it won’t automatically lead to more referrals without a little push on your end. First, let your customers know how much you’d appreciate their referrals. The best time to have this conversation is after you and your staff have helped them solve a business challenge. Not every referral request has to be an in-person request, though. You can be subtle about it. For example, including a note on your website, in your office, in your newsletter or at the bottom of your client satisfaction surveys are great ways to plant the seeds that you value any referrals they might have.

Keep in mind that your customers are as busy as you are, and offering a special incentive or seasonal promotion with a deadline attached to it is a great way to get them to take that extra step. As with any marketing program, it’s important to track it so that you can see which activities produce the best results. Make it as simple as possible for customers to participate in your referral program, whether they contact you by phone, email, your website or through your social media channels.

3. Treat Referrals with Care

It’s important to thank the source of the referral, and be sure to keep them in the loop along the way. This lets the referrer know you take their referral seriously, and it will make them feel more comfortable submitting more in the future. 

Often, a referrer will offer to send an email introduction to a prospect on your behalf. You may want to send a template to your client so you can best articulate a few key value points rather than relying on a potentially vague introduction. This gives customers a guideline of what you want to convey.

If you don’t hear back from a referral lead, don’t assume a worst-case scenario. They may just be busy, and switching their IT service may not be a top priority right now. Keep in touch with them on a regular basis (but not too regular) to see when they’re interested and ready to move forward.

No matter how marketing-savvy your MSP is, formalizing your referral program and asking customers for referrals is a smart move that can pay dividends. Anytime you receive a referral, however, always remember to follow up and show appreciation to the referrer. It’s those little extra steps that can make the difference between receiving a referral once in a great while and getting them on a regular basis.

Lindsay Faria is a seasoned marketing professional with more than 13 years of experience managing marketing programs for growing, cutting-edge technology companies. She currently leads the Partner Marketing efforts at Barracuda MSP, where her team is dedicated to providing tools, resources and content that enables Barracuda MSP customers to be more successful, and ultimately grow their businesses. Additionally, she is responsible for promoting adoption of the company’s growing solution portfolio among Partners, empowering them to streamline their operations and provide more comprehensive security and data protection to their customers.

This guest blog is part of a Channel Futures sponsorship. 



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