Copywriters and Designers, Is your Referral Engine Vapor-Locked?

The Referral Image“Vapor Lock occurs when the fuel changes state from liquid to gas while still in the fuel delivery system. This disrupts the operation of the fuel pump, resulting in transient loss of power or complete stalling.”

Recently I received an advance copy of The Referral Engine: Teaching Your Business to Market Itself, by John Jantsch.

If you don’t know John, I strongly urge you to head over to his brilliantly conceived site for small businesses, (After you finish reading this, of course!)

What’s cool about The Referral Engine is that it goes way beyond offering a few tips and techniques for generating more word of mouth business.

Instead, John’s acting as an evangelist for an entire business model.

Because when you put referrals at the center of all your business activities, you’re forced to look at those activities in a whole new way.

An Engine is Really Nothing More Than a Collection of Systems

And John does a great job of breaking those systems down to their component parts and showing you how each part functions to keep your referral engine purring along.

Every touchpoint with your market, your prospects, and your customers becomes a potential source of new business.

Now that thought may not strike you as earth-shattering, but keeping it in view as you go about your day to day activities will make you a better service provider, and ultimately a happier and more successful one as well.

Let’s be frank here, anyone who provides a service for a living has had some problematic client relationships. And if we’re honest, we have to admit that at least some of those problems were our own fault.

Maybe we didn’t do a good job of managing expectations.

Or we took on one too many projects.

Or promised to deliver something we weren’t 100% sure we could, in the hope that we’d “get it figured out.”

Or maybe we just have an unreasonable client. It happens. But no matter what the reason, at bottom every unhappy client feels their trust was violated.

Trust is the Fuel That Powers Your Referral Engine

When trust is vaporized your engine loses power or stalls completely.

Now most times you can get that engine running again. As John points out, “One of the hallmarks of a highly-referred business is that they work as hard on fixing mistakes as on any other aspects of their business.”

And I know firsthand that some of our best referrals have come from clients whose projects didn’t go perfectly at first. But we worked hard to get it right, and we never blamed the client.

But I also know the engine runs better if it’s got the right fuel in the first place. That means establishing upfront what you’ll do and won’t do for a client. It means knowing when to say “No,” even when someone offers you a sizable paycheck.

And it means knowing what you can and can’t do.

Now that’s not to say you should always stay inside your comfort zone.

Adding new skills and services to your repertoire keeps your business from getting stale, and it’s a necessity for your long-term success.

But it does mean you better be prepared to be uncomfortable for awhile, if you’re venturing into uncharted waters.

For instance, if you decide you want to write video sales copy, you might want to contact a client you’ve successfully written for and ask if they’d like to test a video version – for free if necessary. And treat it just like a paying gig.

Let your customer know, that you’ll do whatever it takes to make sure the video converts – then do it.

Do you think that customer might be likely to refer you even more strongly the next time they hear someone complaining about their last copywriter?

Trust me, they will.

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