Referrals hold particular value for venues. A large number of clients will make up their minds based on what they hear from other people that they trust. In these conditions, an authentic recommendation is key to success.
Today’s referral process is much more than just saying, “And tell your friends!” as a client is leaving. Venues are creating powerful referral programs that systematically guide others toward making specific recommendations, using the latest online and offline tactics. To compete, you need to do the same.
If you haven’t been getting referrals enough attention lately, we can help! Here’s what the experts recommend for giving your referral program the boost it needs.
Start with Goals
Every good plan, every expert consultation, begins with this step: What are your specific goals for referrals? What do you want from your plan? Do you want 5 new referrals per month? Do you want 100 new referrals by the end of this year? Do you want to double the amount of referrals you are currently getting?
Be specific with both the amount and the time-frame when creating this goal. Everything else you do will be easier to plan for if you keep this endgame in mind. If you aren’t sure where to start with goals, then an actual consultation may be a great way to find your first steps.
Know Your Networking Partners
There are several networking opportunities that all venues to know and spend time building – natural partnerships that tend to yield the most frequent results. If you don’t already have a plan for these networking opportunities, it’s time to give them some priority. Good examples include:
- Event Planners: This is the most obvious option, especially for larger event planners that can bring in plenty of business.
- Hotels: Hotels funnel a lot of business toward venues thanks to meetings with out-of-town participants. If you don’t already know, find out what hotels are popular among your clients.
- Caterers: You’re likely to see a lot of caterers. Identify those that frequently work with professional clients, and form partnerships with them to get more referrals.
- Financial Institutions: Local financial institutions may also frequently use venues, it often pays to watch their activity and form relationships with those that require regular venue use.
Host Nonprofit, Business, and Invitation-Only Events
One of the best ways to get more organic referrals is to host your own events (maybe with the help of one of your partner event planners we talked about). But what events work best for getting this kind of attention? We’ll focus on three of the most effective event options.
- Nonprofit: Nonprofit events are all about building goodwill in your community and increasing awareness of your venue. Invite local volunteer groups and nonprofit organizations to your venue if you need some free space. If you have the budget, consider sponsoring local nonprofit activities as well. There’s a lot of synergy with nonprofit activities if you can get involved with this part of the community.
- Business Events: Try to host as many local business events as you can. There are usually plenty of opportunities with groups of business leaders, economic forecasts, and similar events looking for good nearby venues. Hosting just one of these events will put you into contact with multiple brands, which is an excellent way to get more referrals!
- Invitation-Only: Once a year or so, you can host an invitation-only event at your venue for the prospects that you feel could generate great referrals, but haven’t been very active yet. Make this a classy affair that increases you value and makes a valuable impression. Sometimes the greatest way to get organic referrals is to say “thank you” with style.
Create an Impressive Brochure Specifically for Referrals
You can do a lot better than business cards. To really impress clients, provide an information brochure focused on your space, specifically designed to share with their associates (and with information on your referral program, of course). A brochure allows you to go into more depth about your venue space, as well any rewards for providing referrals. It also provides room for vivid images of your venue, so if the brochure is handed off to a new contact, they’ll be able to immediately see what you offer. These extra benefits are worth the extra cost of upgrading from business cards.
Adopt an Information-Sharing App
Information-sharing apps are a high-tech way to manage your referrals. These options may not be the right choice for everyone, but some venues may find it’s exactly what they need to establish a winning referral program. These apps simply make it easy to instantly share information with someone else, allowing you to send or share information to prospects very easily…an ideal option for those who don’t trade in business cards any more, and prefer digital content. In fact, you may already be using an information-sharing app that you can start using for referrals as well: Here are a few popular options to consider.
You may also want to create your own referral app. Most of these apps combine referrals with other features like payment options, booking, etc. Here’s a collection of brand apps that also encourage referrals. If you find this approach particularly inspiring, then Blue Atlas Marketing can help you develop your own app with built-in referral options!
Craft a Winning Thank You Message
This is an old piece of advice, but your thank you messages following a venue event are a great opportunity to ask for referrals. Create personalized thank you emails that really let your clients know that you appreciated their business. Always include a line about making referrals and a link to your referral program or a referral page on your website. Make it as easy as possible for clients to send you a referral in a single-step process. We’re fans of this Cvent Referral Page, which lays out rewards and provides the web form clients need to fill out all in one neat package. Do you have something like this?
Join Event Industry Social Media Groups
Social media is full of professional business groups. Join some! These are excellent places to share valuable tips, learn new information – and get more organic referrals. LinkedIn alone has hundreds of event planning groups of all kinds: You should be able to find a few groups to participate in, or at least get inspiration from. Facebook can also be a strong source of business groups. The key is consistency. If you join a group, it’s important to maintain your presence there and develop your brand as an authority. This is a time investment, but one that pays off.
Local groups, of course, can be especially productive, since these give you an opportunity to directly offer your venue when someone is looking for a specific space. However, joining larger groups also has its benefits when it comes to encouraging referrals.
When In Doubt, Ask for Introductions
Sometimes the best referral process is just standing in front of a client and asking them face to face for an introduction to a prospect. If you really want to push up your referral numbers, start asking for these basic introductions consistently. You can even set a goal of getting a certain amount of introductions to new leads each month to help motivate your brand!