Your network of contacts and clients will gladly refer you if someone asks them for a referral to someone who does what you do. Of course, they want to be helpful to others in need, and if it helps you too, then all the better. The problem is that they’re not asked for someone like you often enough. When they are asked, it usually means that you’re coming into the opportunity later than you want, and the prospect is already shopping and preparing for a competitive bake-off.
You can multiply your referrals if you can get your contacts and clients to feel comfortable introducing you without waiting for someone to ask. One of the big challenges for them is that they don’t want to appear to be pushing your products and services for you, and this is especially true for your existing clients. Your contacts don’t want to appear having any self-interested, ulterior motives in helping others. (Learn more in the article, Why you Don’t Get the Customer Referrals you Should.) One of the best ways to get your network comfortable making proactive referrals on your behalf is to create marketing Trojan Horses.
We all know the Trojan war story where the Greeks get inside the walls of Troy by having the Trojans willingly open their gates to bring in the large wooden horse sculpture they thought was left behind by the Greeks who pretended to leave. Similarly, you need to create offerings that prospective clients will value and motivate them to invite you into their lives. Here are a few guidelines in creating an effective marketing trojan horse:
* A trojan horse is a simple offering that must be seen as relevant and valuable by your target prospect but has a low-risk, low decision-making threshold.
* It’s value must be directly linked to a need for your primary offerings and expertise. In other words, if someone sees value in your trojan horse, it means they also probably have a need for your primary offerings.
* Lastly, it must be directly related to circumstances that your prospect is experiencing earlier and further upstream than your usual sales and decision cycle.
To create effective trojan horses, you have to stop focusing on your own offerings, and become expert about your prospect’s world and all the circumstances that lead up to, and trigger, their need for your trojan horse offering, which in turn leads to your core offerings. Effectively, these are the key symptoms that mean they need your help.
Although your referral partners rarely get asked for a referral to someone like you, they often see and hear about the symptoms that signal a need for your solution.
Remember, they are happy to help others, but they don’t want to be seen as pushing your products and services. Once you create a trojan horse, you have to link it to the triggers, or symptoms, by telling your referral sources, “When you see or hear _(symptoms)_ , then ask them if someone could offer _(trojan horse)_ for them, would that be helpful? If so, there is someone I trust who will…” Now, you‘ve taken the task of selling for you and converted it to an offer your network can make to help others when they see the need even when they aren’t ask.
It’s a subtle change, but it has a profound psychological effect on your referral sources and opens the doors to more referrals. A deeper dive regarding triggering symptoms is found in this article, Help your Network See more Opportunities to Refer You.
Also, trojan horses rarely take much additional resource to create, because they’re usually just a re-packaging of expertise you already have and things you already do. They’re also usually things you’d be happy to perform if it would get you access to a new prospect. This means you usually have the option to offer it for little or no fee through your network.
To help illustrate the principles, here are some simple examples:
* A residential realtor knows that job transfers, promotions, and retirements are very common triggers that lead directly to buying and selling a home. As a result, it makes sense to create a marketing trojan horse called our “Large Employer Program” and offer it to the HR and other executives of large local employers as an additional benefit to their employees. The trojan horse would formalize creative offerings to address the personal needs of management transfers in and out of town and help the company celebrate and support significant company promotions and retirements.
* To get in the door ahead of the typical bidding competition, a general contractor might create a trojan horse that helps to evaluate a prospect’s future project plans to help identify unseen risks of schedule and cost over-runs and offer mitigation options. They could offer this to all of their referral sources to offer to potential prospects on their behalf.
* A private university wants to increase funding contributions by enlisting local corporations as potential donors. Although their development staff and board members routinely bump into local corporate executives at various events, they don’t know what to say to start a provocative conversation, so they could create a trojan horse to help.
Corporate executives rarely feel they and their staffs are spending enough time on strategic planning, and the university has all the components necessary to create a great program for “Corporate Strategic Planning Retreats.” They already have lecture halls, meeting rooms, business professors, food service, dormitory rooms, and more that can be re-packaged to host and facilitate corporate strategic planning retreats, even over multiple days. Now, to start a productive conversation the university board members and their referral sources can simply ask local corporate execs what they do for their strategic planning retreats.
Get creative and out of the box. You can even choose to add an offering of another company if it acts as a trojan horse for your company, making them a formal co-marketing referral partner.
What are good marketing trojan horses that you can create to support business development for your company?
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