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Jacky Sherman

The Consultant's Consultant

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Which Is Best? Referrals Or Direct Marketing?

Neither! You need both ...


Posted by Jacky Sherman on 19/08/2022 @ 8:00AM

They are symbiotic. In other words, they feed off each other. Where you put your emphasis depends on who you are and what you are offering. So this week, I thought I'd examine that symbiotic relationship and give you some tips on how to make it work for you ...

It can be confusing when looking at different marketing methods. One thing is clear though; Referrals and direct marketing are symbiotic!

It can be confusing when looking at different marketing methods. One thing is clear though; Referrals and direct marketing are symbiotic!


Direct marketing is all those activities where you communicate in person, in print or online directly to your prospects. It may be direct approaches such as telemarketing, cold calling, email marketing, exhibitions, business shows, free seminars, tenders or speed networking. It could be more 'indirect' approaches such as advertising online and offline, SEO, websites, blogging, social media, public relations, speaking engagements.

"This suits people who like to be direct!"

They have no hang-ups about approaching strangers and don't mind fairly low conversion rates. Some people like the concept of the hunt and the challenge of doing it alone.

Direct marketing works well for transactional sales, particularly for business-to-consumer products and services. It works well for high-volume, low-cost products. It can be the only way to reach markets where referrals are not accepted, such as large contracts where formal tenders are needed.

Alternatively it suits people who don't like to approach people in person at all. They rely on some form of online or offline advertising or automated email marketing or even pay someone else to find the leads for them. They like the client to make the first enquiry.

This works when your product or service is easily explained and the client can easily identify you as the best solution to their need.

"So how can referral marketing help?"

Well, a properly briefed network can help by spreading the word about you. It is estimated that it needs 7 touches (on average) before someone is open to buying from you. It might even be higher now thanks to the information overload we get from the Internet.

The more someone has heard good things about you before you approach them, the more likely they are to be open to listening to you. If what you say then resonates with what they've already heard, the more this becomes more likely. Why not encourage your network to share your blog posts, comment on you on social media or like your pages?

Your network can also bring opportunities to your notice and give you information about your competitors and what is happening in your prospects' industry. They can also give you feedback on how your message and service is being received.

"You may also get direct referrals and you're not going
to dismiss them, are you?"

Referral marketing is where you get introduced to your prospect by a third party who knows and endorses you. It is a business strategy to attract new customers through the process of developing relationships that result in a consistent - and persistent - flow of personally recommended business.

It is based on reciprocal activities that you agree to do for each other. These include networking, promoting each others services in person and through social media channels, introducing you to potential prospects, formally and informally, and recommending you for speaking engagements.

It suits people who are relationship-minded and like to work in collaboration with others then get personal satisfaction from seeing others succeed. Patience is needed because relationships must be built before referrals are forthcoming. It is particularly suitable for business-to-business services and other personal services where high trust is needed in order to secure the work.

So how can the approaches of direct marketing help with referrals? To give your referral partners the resources they need to enthuse others to want to work with you!

Think of them as your sales force. They need all the collateral information, both online and offline, to support their recommendation. Your business image needs to give the same message and portray the same image as your referrer expresses to their contacts.

The same rule of 7 touches applies. Your referral partner will have more confidence and more success in introducing you if the prospect has already heard of you through other marketing channels. Your messages need to be clear, compelling and consistent as they will be passed on by others to your prospects.

You may also get to sell direct to the people in your network and you're not going to dismiss that either are you?

My tip for the week is this: whatever your preferred route to market, have a strategic marketing plan that incorporates a range of direct and referral approaches:

  • If your main route to market is referrals, make it easy for your referral sources to influence their contacts to work with you by providing a wide variety of materials and content.

  • If your main route to market is direct sales or the Internet then make it easy for your network to broadcast for you so that your prospects have heard great things about you before you contact them.

Either way, keep your network well briefed on who you want to meet and what you have to offer. Make sure they have great content both online and offline that they can share with others.

Look after them so that they are motivated to talk about you at every opportunity.

Until next time ...



Would you like to know more?

If anything I've written in this blog post resonates with you and you'd like to discover more about where to put your emphasis, it may be a great idea to give me a call on 07970 638857 and let's see how I can help.

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