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How referral marketing is the key to growing your business with Sara McCabe

Word of mouth marketing is the best way to get the word out about your business, but most of us don’t spend much time investing into that area of business. We rely on social media to get our name out there, and while that is important, nothing beats knowing that there are people out there who know and love your business and are willing to share your work with others. 

In this episode, we’re joined by Sara McCabe, a people and business development consultant. She shares how she was able to stop leaning on social media for leads and focus only on referral marketing. Her strategies of how she’s turning her clients into raving fans is pure gold! 

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The power behind word-of-mouth marketing

For the last 12 years, Sara has worked in people and business development. She started her own business four years ago, and for the last two years, she has leaned into word-of-mouth marketing over social media.

In 2021, Sara went all in with social media strategy, especially on TikTok. She put in tons of hours and posted multiple times a day. She was able to build an audience of 17,000, but it only generated about 10% of her business revenue. 

Sara realized that most of her revenue was coming through word-of-mouth referrals, which she wasn’t even intentionally focusing on. She decided to take a step back from social media and go all in on referrals instead. 

She experimented with this new strategy in 2022 and was able to generate $50,000 more in business revenue while saving herself a ton of time. Today, 100% of Sara’s business revenue comes through referrals. 

Building a powerful referral system

Data shows that 88% of people will mention a brand once a week to friends and family members if they have a good experience with it. To make referrals work for your business, you need to have a powerful system in place.

A holistic referral system includes client surveys. Every time a client completes a project or experience with you, send them a survey to get the following information:

  1. Why did they decide to work with you?
  2. Where were they before they started working with you?
  3. What did they enjoy about working with you?

If the survey is a great testimonial for your business, you can reach back out to the client and ask them if they have three friends who would also benefit from working with you. For the best results, send out client surveys immediately after they wrap a project with you. They will feel excited about the work you did together and eager to send you referrals. 

Getting a referral from past clients could be instant or take months. However, as soon as a new referral comes in, you should also send them a survey before you get on a call with them. A pre-discovery call survey will give you some context so that you can make the most of your call with them. 

This survey should include these questions:

  1. What are you experiencing in your business?
  2. What have you done to try to fix that?
  3. What outcome do you want to experience as a result of working with me?

Coming into a discovery call with context and plans for your potential clients begins to build trust and makes them more likely to work with you. 

After the discovery call, if the client is a good fit, send them a proposal package that includes case studies. 

The value of case studies

Case studies are an extremely valuable investment for your business. When a client really enjoys their experience with you, ask them to sit down for an interview about your time together that you can turn into a case study.

Sending out case studies to potential clients is a great way to let your past work do the selling for you. Seeing real-life positive outcomes of your work is more powerful than any promises you can make. 

Here’s what makes a powerful case study:

  1. You need to have a range of case studies that display different aspects of your work
  2. They need to spell out exactly how you helped that client in detailed steps
  3. The clients you choose for case studies should be excited to sing your praises

Build a strong referral system by serving your past clients

If you want to implement a brand new referral system, the first thing you need to do is look back at the past six months or one year of your business. List out all the clients you worked with and identify the projects you really enjoyed. Ask yourself these questions: 

  1. Why did you enjoy working with those clients?
  2. How did those projects align with your values?
  3. What kind of budget did those projects have?
  4. What kind of work did you do for those clients?

Next, reach back out to those clients and ask them how things have been going since you last worked with them. Ask if they have any questions for you or if they need any new resources from you. Offering them your help before you ask them for anything in return is a crucial part of building a strong referral system. 

If these clients are still singing your praises and excited about the work you did for them six months ago, ask them if they know two people who would also benefit from working with you. Alternatively, you can ask them if they know two people that they think you should meet.

It’s important to remember that getting new clients through referrals is a long game. It takes time to build relationships and lay the groundwork before the referrals start streaming in.

Move past the awkwardness of asking for a referral

When you want to grow your business through referrals, it’s crucial that you clearly ask your past clients for them in a direct and clear way. Don’t beat around the bush or make it awkward. In Sara’s experience, clients have never responded negatively to the question, so it’s important to get over any shyness around it.

How referrals can attract the clients you want to work with

When you source referrals from past clients that you loved working with, you will attract more great clients from their communities. It can also help you attract clients in the budget tier that you want to work with more.

Additionally, referrals help provide insights for your business. When you send surveys and capture information from your clients, you see what they liked about working with you and how they would describe you. You can use their insights to adjust your proposals for new clients, in your social media strategies, and to inform the services you offer.

The biggest differentiator between businesses that succeed and the ones that fail

Sara believes that the biggest differentiator between the businesses that succeed and the ones that fail is the ones that succeed, ask for what they want and they make sure they are being of service. Their top priority is to be helpful to people. 

Important sections of the conversation:

  • [1:50] Sara’s business journey with word-of-mouth marketing
  • [9:20] Building a strong referral system 
  • [16:50] The value of case studies
  • [24:54] Sourcing referrals from past clients
  • [29:29] How referrals can attract the clients you want
  • [38:07] The biggest differentiator between the businesses that succeed and the ones that fail

Connect with the guest

Episode Transcript

Akua Konadu
The best type of marketing hands down is word of mouth and get we’ll spend a lot of time investing in that area of our business. Many of us rely on social media to get our name out there. And while that is important, nothing beats knowing that there are people out there who know and love your business and are willing to share your work with others. So how can we invest in our referral marketing strategy? Well, today on the podcast, we have Sarah McCabe, who is a people and business development consultant. And she sharing with us how she was able to stop leaning on social media for leads, and focused only on referral marketing. Her strategies of how she’s turning her clients into raving fans is pure gold. So if you want to learn how to do the same thing, this episode is for you. Hey, everyone, this is your host, Akua konadu. And you’re listening to the independent business podcast, more people than ever are working for themselves and building profitable businesses in the process. So on this show, I get to sit down with some of the most influential authors, entrepreneurs and creators to break down the science of self made success so that you can achieve it too.

Akua Konadu
Hello, Hello, Sarah. Welcome, welcome. How are we doing today?

Sara McCabe
Great. Thank you for having me.

Akua Konadu
Well, thank you for being here. We are just so excited because I feel like this is we hear this all the time as business owners that the best type of marketing is word of mouth marketing. Right? It is the best way hearing people talk about your products and services. And also people are also burnt out from social media. So I think also looking at your business and your marketing strategy holistically, this would be a good conversation to do that. So thank you so much for being here.

Sara McCabe
Thank you. I’m really excited. It’s one of my favorite topics. Yes,

Akua Konadu
well, great. Okay, so let’s hop on in. Well, first, I’ll let you start with your business journey, right, I really want to hear about your journey from kind of where you started to where you are now. And what kind of led you to focusing more on word of mouth marketing,

Sara McCabe
which I told you, this is my favorite question. I’m gonna do, I’m gonna do my best, we’ll keep this very short and sweet. I don’t want to give you a monologue. But for the last 12 years, I’ve worked in people in business development. So four years ago, before I started my own business, I was a business development manager for a retail company for North America. So essentially what that means, because what is what is that even what I did was I oversaw store openings for that business, as well as rolling out any operational initiatives, as well as people and development initiatives. So it’s kind of funny, because I think people when they hear operations, and people, they feel like two very different career paths. For me, they’re sort of inextricably linked. They, you need both, you need people and you need systems. And so for almost the entirety of my career, I’ve really focused on those two aspects within business. And I got burnt out. So you know, long story short, that that role required an insane amount of travel, you know, eight months at a time I was gone, and I would be home for a few days. So I had what I would call a table flip moment, where I decided I can’t do this anymore. I, this isn’t working for me. And I also really wanted to work with a company that I felt like align with my values. So after leaving that company, I interviewed at a few other places and sort of felt like I was gonna run into a lot of the same issues. And so I honestly felt like I was left with no choice. But to start my own business. I had intentions of doing that later on in my career. I didn’t think I would do it as soon as I did. But I really sort of felt like I was left with no choice. And so four years ago, I started my own business. And here we are.

Akua Konadu
Well, first of all, that’s amazing, because I can definitely relate to that because I absolutely. Similarly, I had a big flip the table moment and kind of just said screw it and started my business. I had no money in the bank, I literally just I was living paycheck to paycheck. And not fun. It’s hard. And but I literally was like what I’m experiencing currently whatever, like, whatever, whatever’s on the other side has to be better than what I’m currently experiencing it. So which I know not everybody starts their business that way, but I can which I don’t recommend.

Sara McCabe
The other day. Another consultant reached out, they’re like, can we talk about you starting your own business? And I said, I wouldn’t recommend doing what I did. I went it was stressful in a lot of ways that it didn’t need to be stressful, but I felt like I didn’t really have an option. So I did what I did. So

Akua Konadu
you did what you did. Yeah, there’s no shame in that. Of course, everybody’s journey looks different. But yes, to your point would not recommend and so one thing that I I love that we can relate on that. So one thing that I’m really curious about is to know what exactly made you kind of lean into more with word of mouth marketing.

Sara McCabe
Mm hmm. Yeah, so this was way back in 2022. So ever A year. I mean, I can’t wait,

Akua Konadu
I love how you said Wait.

Sara McCabe
Is it just two years ago not feel like an entire lifetime ago. The business landscape that we’ve navigated in the last two years feels like a god. I mean, every year feels like a gauntlet running your own business. But at the start of 2022, I was doing what I always do, which is I look at my data, I look at the numbers, and I see what they’re telling me. And at that point I had, so for the entirety of 2021, I really sort of gone all in on social media marketing, primarily focusing on Tic Toc, and I posted every single day, multiple times a day. And I mean, if anyone’s done that they know the time investment that it takes to show up. And to do that, and I I had been relatively successful. And I’ve been able to build an audience of about 17,000. But when I looked at what that was able to generate for my business, for my revenue, it really wasn’t that much it generated about 10% of my total revenue for the business. But from a time investment perspective, it was astronomical. But when I looked at other areas, and where the majority of my revenue was coming from, it really was already at that point, coming from word of mouth. And, and it was kind of funny, because it wasn’t even something that I had intentionally been focusing on. I was fortunate enough that I had clients that wanted to sort of share their experience, you know, with others in their community or other businesses that were similar to theirs. But that was where I had that that turning point where he sort of asked myself that question, what if I went all in on referrals, and I took a massive step back from social media. And so that’s what I really experimented with for 2022. And when I looked at the data again, you know, I was able to generate another $50,000, saving myself a ton of time. And so I felt like, okay, we’re just going to continue to double down on that. And at this point, referrals generate 100% of my revenue, I don’t get any business through social media, not to say that it doesn’t play a part. But all of my business is generated through referrals. through referrals, oh,

Akua Konadu
that is fantastic. And amazing, because I think, again, it’s looking at your whole marketing plan holistically. I think so many of us be have tunnel vision in regards to social media, and feel like if that is the end all be all only way for us to make money in our business where we can neglect other areas that truly are bringing in the revenue that are bringing in the money. And so one thing that I’m really curious about, I had a couple of questions, but the first one that I want to ask you is outside of like revenue, what other analytics were you looking at, to really make this to come to this conclusion.

Sara McCabe
I mean, I’ve obviously I was looking at my social media analytics, I was looking at what people were saying when they were reaching out to me, who was referring them. So the types of clients that I was getting referrals from, and also the quality of the referrals that I was getting, because I think that’s the other piece that we sort of, not forget to talk about, but not all referrals are created equal. And you want to make sure that if you’re going to build your business primarily on referrals, you want to make sure that you’re getting really high quality referrals. So I looked at all of those, I looked at what was generating revenue, who was sending referrals, the quality of those referrals, the size of those projects that were coming my way because of those referrals. So I looked at the whole landscape really, to to be able to assess, okay, what types of clients do I really want to connect with that are going to send the best quality referrals my way?

Akua Konadu
That is so so key that is so important, such a good question to ask. I love that. And so let’s backtrack a little bit. So what is your system look like? Like? How are you building this relationships? Right? Because I think that’s so important for referral marketing, right? Like really building those relationships and nurturing providing the best client experience possible, so that they’re talking about you outside of the room. I mean, data has literally shown that 88% of people will talk to the mentioned a brand at least once a week, to friends or family and family when they have such a wonderful experience with that brand. So how are you nurturing these relationships? What what systems do you have in place to do that?

Sara McCabe
It’s sort of this holistic, so I guess I could even start with the way that I wrap every project is without fail, I’m going to ask you to take a survey. And in that survey, I’m really asking a lot of questions to try to understand what your decision making process was, where you were at before you decided to reach out to me what it was that you enjoyed so much about us working together. And I mean, I asked those questions in a lot of different ways. Subtle changes in those questions, really yield so much information to help me understand. Where does this client have don’t land on my doorstep, where are they at when they’re coming? To me that I think is such crucial information to have, you know, I also have a background in learning and development. So I sort of liken it to that, where you really want to understand how Is someone coming to me when they knock on my door? What state are they in? What are the feelings that they’re having? What information do they need to make a decision? What information do they need to feel supported? What do these people love? What are they excited about? What do they want more of, you know, in our time together, so that really starts to shape the entire client process. But I gather that at the end of every single client project through that survey, once I get that survey back from clients, I’ll review it. And then more often than not, if it’s a great testimonial, which I feel like knock on wood, I’m very lucky that, you know, 100% of my surveys end up with really great testimonials. I’ll reach out to them after and I’ll ask, are there three people? Or is there anyone that you know, that you think could benefit from working with me, and they will either directly linked me with someone there or they’re often say, I’ll keep you in mind. And a few months down the line, typically, an email will pop up into my inbox, and it’ll be a referral from from that past client. So from the start of my client process, not to ramble on for too long. So please let me know if this is too long of an answer. But I will any inquiry that I get, I send them a survey that they have to fill out before I hop on the phone. And the reason being is I want to make the most of our initial conversation together. So I have to have some context, some understanding of where that client is at where their businesses out what problems are experiencing, in order for me to be able to come to the table with a ballpark of what would need to happen project wise, but also budget wise. And so I asked very simple questions, you know, even three questions can help everyone prepare for a sales call or a you know, a discovery calls where it’s basically I’m asking, What are you experiencing in your business? What have you done to try to fix that? And what’s the, what outcome Do you want? From our time together? Those three questions tell me right away, what does this person value? What are they experiencing emotions wise, you know, tangibly in the business. And that helps me start to flesh out an idea, I really use that discovery call to dig deeper, to try to understand what are the main issues because people tend to come to you and I don’t maybe you also experienced this, people come to me a lot with what I would call are secondary issues, they’re not actually the main problem. They’re sort of symptoms of what the main issue is. And so I use that call to start outlining that what you’re experiencing are symptoms. This is actually what the main issue is. And that alone tends to build the type of trust that you need to get people excited and willing to invest, you know, in a six month long project, or even a four month long project. So I get that survey, we hop on a call, if I feel like I’m the right person to help them. From there, I will send a proposal out and I detail, everything. So every single phase of the project, what the deliverables are the work that we’re going to be doing together, the investment, the breakdown, I, of course, include case studies that are similar to the work that we would be doing other testimonials that I feel like support that process. As a side note, invest in case studies, people, case studies are it, they are it, if you don’t want to sell your work, a case study will sell your work, it does such a fantastic job of really spelling out, this is what I do. This is what I’m capable of. And these are the results that it generates. And I have found since I’ve been, you know, really started investing in case studies, I, you know, my conversion rate has increased, you know, when I’m sending out a proposal, I see an uptick in my conversion rate does a lot of the heavy lifting for you, you’re not having to sell so much it does the job for you. And from there, you know, we kick off the project, I can go into more detail about what that looks like. But as a whole, that’s sort of how I gather the information to build a system that’s suited to the type of clients that I want to work with, and what the start of that process looks like. Yeah,

Akua Konadu
I mean, there’s so many things that you shared that I think are so key number one with the survey is huge, right? I think, especially asking and sending a survey at the end of your experience with a client is such a great way to have that necessary feedback. So you can go and put tweaks in your systems just get a better understanding of how to show up as a business owner, but I loved what was key. Was that how you were saying like, hey, are there three people that you think could benefit from my service? And so you have already provided such an amazing client experience that these people are like, Oh my gosh, yes, like already think of three people, let me connect you with them and so are ready, you don’t have to do any of that heavy lifting. Either they’re doing the work for you. They are and they’re excited to and they’re excited to do it, you’ve

Sara McCabe
got to do it. And this is something that I feel like I sort of often say again, and again and again, stop waiting, the minute that I wrap with a client, I am immediately sending out that survey. And that’s because they’re sort of in this shiny moment where we’ve solved a lot of problems. They’re so excited, they feel like a weight has been lifted off. They’ve had a great time with you. And that’s the moment to say you’re excited. Who else can we get excited about that? And they like you just said, Right? They’re very excited and willing to share those names with you. Absolutely.

Akua Konadu
I love that too. Also, don’t wait on it. Sometimes. I’ve seen some entrepreneurs where they’ll do Oh, yeah, like maybe in like 48 hours or even a week, they’ll send a survey. And it’s like, no, it sounds like it’s really critical to send it ASAP. Because again, you’re kind of on this high, where you’re so excited, and you feel good about everything that’s happening, you’ve seen the progress that you’ve wanted to make working with this individual, like this individual working with you. And so it’s like, boom, just hurry up and send it quickly as possible. And so I think that’s, that’s awesome, awesome feedback. And to also do even with your discovery call, though, I love that the three simple sales questions that you’re asking, but it’s very clear that you based on that information of you’re able to really tailor the whole experience based just off of that one call. And I think we sometimes slip up or don’t as realize the weight of sales calls and how they can you just so incremental in your business, I really taking those sales calls and really asking the right questions so that you can tailor your holy client experience from the project from beginning to end, I think is so valuable. And then the case studies, which I think is so crucial, which that’s what leads to my next question. Number one, the fact that you’re putting case studies into the proposal, I also think is brilliant, because it really solidifies of like that the person is making the right decision, because we do sometimes forget, like, what we’re asked their app or ask them to invest in us. That’s a big ask. Right? So it’s like really making sure of like, at times, where people might be like, Am I making the right decision, you already have those cases, studies in there to remind them that they’re making the right decision. So like, please sign the dotted line, immediately, immediately, this,

Sara McCabe
this makes business sense to do this. Right. I think people forget, you know, regardless of however much money I’m asking for someone, and it’s all sort of relative, right? You know, you have contracts that are $30,000 contracts, or $40,000 contracts, and then you have contracts under $3,000 contracts. It’s all relative. For some people, the $3,000 is a massive ask, and I want to respect that. And I still want to make people feel comfortable in knowing that any amount of money that you invest with me is a smart savvy business decision, it’s strategic for you to do this, right? It’s going to pay in dividends, right. And I think a fantastic way to do that is case studies, primarily because it sort of lends itself to the fact that this is another way of thinking about it in terms of word of mouth, right? It’s not me saying that it was a fantastic experience. It’s the data saying that this is a worthwhile investment. And it’s also the fact that clients enjoy the experience so much, it was so helpful to their business, that they’ve chosen to invest their time in, sitting down, right, so they have to sit down for an hour long interview with I have someone who writes the case studies for me, we sort of collaborate on the questions that we’re going to ask the clients together, but these clients volunteer an hour of their time to sit down and be interviewed about, you know, very minut details of the process and what it felt like, you know, for them, you know, on the other end is a client to have me take them through this whole process, what it did for their business, what it did for them what it did for their team. And that is so powerful, because it’s not me saying that I’m great, and I can help you. It’s companies saying that I’m great. And yes, Sara can help you. And you’d be foolish not to hire her. That is far more powerful than then be saying that.

Akua Konadu
Absolutely. So in terms of case studies of how you’re conducting it, what essentially just makes a great case study. I think a lot of us, you know, especially those we hear about that right? Case studies always show your social proof, like show the proof. But I do think like case studies, you have to be very strategic in how you’re putting them together. And so what does that look like for you what makes a good case study?

Sara McCabe
A couple of different things. I think, first and foremost, it’s good to have a range of case studies, depending on what your focuses are. So use my my business as an example. Because I do operational development. And I also do people development, it’s helpful for me to have two different distinct examples of what a project would look like. So for example, if I’m consulting for a franchise, and we’re looking at all of their training and development programs, right, I’m going to have a case study that outlines that entire part process? How did I approach that? What did the development look like? And what were the results of that, right? So really spelling out to someone, what it looks like for you to work with me in terms of learning and development programs, onboarding programs, things of that nature. The other side of that is operations. So when I’m saying, I’m going to go into your agency, and I’m going to clean up all of your operations, I really need to be able to spell it out. And I think it’s so important for work like mine, where a business like mine, where everything you do is completely custom. That can feel fairly ambiguous to a lot of people, even the word consultant is like, what is that? What do you really do? I sort of joke all the time that people are like, people in my life that are close to me, you’re like, Sarah is a consultant. She works in business. What does that really mean? And so I have to know that people who are landing on my doorstep probably have a similar thought process, they don’t really know what it means for me to come in and, and make your operations more efficient, or streamline your operations. So I really have to walk them through that entire process. So they are more reassured in that, okay, first, we start with an internal analysis. From there, then we start to develop sales, then we go to project management, then we go to HR, so they get to see, okay, in its entirety, this is what it looks like for Sarah, to work with us in this way. So I think that is really helpful, right to have case studies that reflect sort of your areas of focus. But the second piece, I think, is to have case studies that the clients are the types of clients that want to sort of sing your praises. And what I mean by that, and I’ll give you an example, I, at one point in my business, I knew that I sort of wanted to take that next step up. And I really wanted to get closer to working with the types of companies that I was working for, when I was working in corporate, I wanted to work with bigger teams, I wanted to solve bigger problems. And at that point, I really wasn’t on any of those companies radar, I was working with a lot of smaller teams solopreneurs at that point. And so I made a very conscious effort to start building a relationship with a woman that I’d known who she had grown her marketing agency exponentially in the last couple of years. And I sort of felt if I could work with her agency, she is the type of person to get on social media and to very excitedly, share what that process has been like, as she did throughout the entirety of us working together, even before I was asking for a testimonial. You know, after a meeting, we would have, she would get on the phone and talk about how helpful even just that meeting was. And so I sort of banked on that. And that alone has helped me because she was very vocal about working with me. And that’s connected me with a lot of other people that I wanted to be connected to, or at least sort of be in their frame of reference in that world of Oh, Sara is the consultant to go to, once my business reaches this stage. So I think finding clients that are in the communities, that you want referrals from clients that are happy to be very vocal about what that process was like, and are generous with their words. So I think those are the two things that you would want to focus on. When you’re starting to choose who to use for case study and what type of content to cover in your case studies.

Akua Konadu
I love that I think it was very, very strategic, a lot of really great tangible tips that we can take with that I think it’s so important. Number one, seeing somebody who is very, very vocal in that community. So again, what kind of communities are you willing to invest in? Right? Like what network like how are you willing to network and just connect with people, I think that’s such a key part in referral marketing is the type of communities that you want investment, invest in, and really find communities that truly align with your values. And it seems like you are a very, as a business owner, your values are some that are very important to you, and you keep at the forefront in your business, which I think is also contributed to your success, which is amazing. And again, I think it just goes to show again, of really take the time to figure out what communities you want to invest in, really take the time and so we can get a better understanding look your target audience of the people who that you know, would sing your praises, and also to creating a case study that can just really get people excited to want to work with you where again, it’s doing the heavy lifting for you. So I have you just shared so many great tips, which is wonderful. And so another question that I have for you is for business owners where we are now okay, somebody like I really want to start now investing more into referral marketing and getting people excited and talking about my business. What should they be looking at? What are some key things that we can do? That’s

Sara McCabe
another big question, but I think the first thing is to even if you can do a retro Effective of the last. I mean, I would love a year because the more data, the better. But even the last six months of all of the clients that you’ve, you know, worked with in your business in the last six months, and really highlighting the clients that you enjoyed working with, get really clear on why it is you enjoyed working with them. So one, you know, values for me that that, as you said, that’s a huge piece, I really want to make sure that it’s people that I enjoyed the process. So one values to where they the types of projects that you ultimately want more of right? So what is the work that you want more of budget wise, the actual work that it is that you’re doing? Once you find those clients? And if they also, you know, were generous with their words and saying they loved it, or it was incredibly helpful for their business, reach back out to them? And just ask, How is everything going so I do something very similar to this. Six months after I wrapped with a client, I’m writing back and I’m not asking anything other than, hey, how have things been going in the last six months? It’s an opportunity for me to see if they need, you know, a quick question answered, if there’s something else I can offer them a resource or something like that. So my first goal is to be helpful, always, because I think we forget about that when we’re talking about referrals, we tend to just want referrals. My goal always is to be generous and be helpful first, before I’m ever asking for anything from anyone. So six months, go back, ask, How is everything going? How has it been going? Since we work together? What are any updates, if you can be of service and share any resources or, you know, guide them in some direction that’s going to help them with a small problem they’re having? That’s fantastic. If they’re still singing your praises and talking about how much they really enjoyed working with you, they’re still feeling the effects of of whatever services it was that you provided to them. At that point, then I would ask, is there two people that you could send my way? Or is there two people that you could think of, that I could just be introduced to even if you’re not going to get money from that right away? I think the really important thing to remember about referrals is that you’re playing a long game, it is a long game. I know I was able to generate, you know, another $50,000 in my business in a year. But unintentionally through relationship building, I was sort of planting a lot of those seeds far before the start of 2022. And so I think it’s really important for people to remember that this is a long game. But practically speaking, I think go back in the last six months, look at clients that were aligned, budget wise, Project wise, more work that you want to attract the type of clients again, they’re going to likely have people in their community that are similar to them. And values wise, reach back out, ask if you can be of service. And then if they’re equally still excited, ask for some names and start making those connections. I think the other thing that you always have to be very cognizant of is you have to make a very clear ask. And that’s it. I know that that is sometimes the most uncomfortable piece of all of this for everyone is to make a very clear ask. But nobody a nobody I’ve ever asked has felt awkward about that. They’re excited. They’re like, yes, actually, I know someone or you know, no, I don’t know anyone right now. But I’ll keep you in mind. And that’s business. And that’s just part of building relationships. So making a very clear ask.

Akua Konadu
I love that. Yes, I think again, being direct being clear with what it is that you want. And nobody, nobody ever takes offense to it, like it is more than okay to just make the ask. And if anything, right, just make the ask. And so I think that’s so important because we can feel so awkward and just uncomfortable and feel like you know what, we’re a bother and it’s like, no, you are a business owner. So at the end of the day, each decision that you make in your business needs to like being aligned with that right, whatever your goals are, so don’t be afraid to just do whatever it is that you have to do to accomplish your goals. So just be directed make the ask because what’s the worst they can say no, and you just move on. Like that’s a Okay, so I love that and so many key things, other things that you shared as well. And again, going back and looking at your past clients that you’ve worked with and really highlight the ones that like just remember remembering what it felt like to work with them of how much joy it was working with them in that project and like how can I attract more people like that, I think is so so important. And again, it just makes it more fun in a way right when you’re thinking about that and and also to the potential clients that you can attract. I feel like that just gets me excited. It gets me excited, where I’m like alright, let’s get my creative juices flowing about like how can I attract more people like that because I had such a blast working with Tom, and I think it just puts so much joy back into your business, which I love that. It

Sara McCabe
does, I think, but it also provides so much insight and clarity. I think that that is business owners is something that we crave constantly, I think, you know, we take a step back, running your own business and sort of like, paving your own path is something that is scary. And it’s scary, because we don’t necessarily always know what the outcome is going to be. And so clarity is something that I find so many business owners rightfully crave all the time, I include myself in that. But when we reach back out to people, when we, you know, share surveys with them to capture more of that information, it gives us so much insight into clients, what they want more of what they love about working with you how they describe working with you. And all of that can shape your entire client workflow, it can shape the content that you do inevitably share on social media, it shapes your proposals, it shapes the way that you even explain what it is that you do, right. So it really sort of tap touches every aspect. And the nice part is, is you’re not guessing, you’re getting that information directly from clients. And you can see the ways that it works, you know, through increasing in conversion, an increase in referrals. So it’s it just gives you so much clarity. And it’s not a guessing process of just pushing out content on social media and sort of hoping for somebody to bite, it’s just so much more strategic, and

Akua Konadu
so much more strategic, and lets you know exactly where to be more intentional with spending your time because as business owners, we wear so many multiple hats, especially as we’re starting out and you know, as things keep evolving, and so you can’t be everywhere. So be strategic and use that data to figure out okay, what’s going to be the most beneficial for me what’s gonna give me the most bang for my buck? So exactly. I think that’s key. Another thing that I’m really curious about because you know, we’ve talked about communities earlier has, and that’s fine, if it hasn’t, but has partnerships and you know, collaborations has that also played a part in your referral marketing strategy. And if so, how,

Sara McCabe
as far as partnerships go, it hasn’t, at this point, I’m starting to do a couple of different collaborations that are probably going to happen next year, it really wasn’t a focus for me for all of last year, just from a capacity perspective. But it also felt like some of the increase again, I’m very mindful of aligning myself with people that are a part of communities, or are working with businesses that I ultimately want to continue to work with, or other types of companies that I want to work with. So until collaborations, or partnerships come through that I feel like really sort of meet that criteria, I’m pretty clear on saying no, but at this point, I have a couple that are, again, with companies that are more aligned with communities that I want to be a part of. And so we’re going to do some workshops together for my business, just being a consulting business, you know, online workshops, and things like that aren’t necessarily the type of collaborations that I do mine are more so partnering with another consultant and going into companies and sort of privately delivering those workshops. But again, that’s just really lovely in that it gets my foot in the door, or it sort of lends some credibility again, right, if it’s someone else is working in a particular industry that I really want to get into, to sort of collaborate with people in that way can be very strategic and incredibly helpful and just continuing to meet people get your foot in the door, it hasn’t been, like I said, it hasn’t really been a huge focus of mine, it certainly can be for, you know, other businesses. But for me, it’s just starting to be and that’s also because I miss collaborating with people, you know, being the only person doing everything in my business gets lonely after a while. So it’s something that I put a lot of focus on in the last couple of months of building relationships. And I actually was the one who sort of pitched it some other consultants, right. Like they didn’t they didn’t approach me, they just said, I like talking to you. But I said, what if we did this, and that, again, is for a very specific reason, but also because then I get to collaborate with somebody. Yeah,

Akua Konadu
that’d be that’s exciting, though, right? Like, that’s a new fun venture that you’re exploring. But then also too, it’s like being of course, the beauty of community over competition, like the fact that you hit up other people in the same industry as you and you guys are both collaborating together just makes you so much more powerful. And again, building that credibility because to your point with what you said, like referral marketing, it’s all about sustainability, you know, the results are not going to come right away of what you’re looking for. So again, really just getting your foot in the door. I think that’s such an important thing as business owners, instead of thinking like, oh my gosh, I want to make this much what I think is great to have those goals, of course, but breaking it down into smaller goals of how you’re going to get there and being realistic about how you’re gonna get there because again, it’s like, what’s gonna, what, how are you gonna get your foot in the door, right, like, I think that’s a great starting point. Okay, then what’s winter? Your foot in the door like, what’s the next step? How are you going to build that credibility? How are you going to build that, like know and trust factor right before you finally get to like selling? I think, again, it’s just so many key steps that we need to take into account with referral marketing. And just in collaborations in general, being very strategic with your collaborations, and really looking at like, what’s the ROI here with us coming together, but also to how can we have fun when doing it. So I absolutely love that. It is

Sara McCabe
I, and to just really sort of echo everything you said, it’s, it’s such a long game, and I don’t know that people are always aware of that. And I’ll give you an example, a franchise company that I’m consulting for right now, at the start of this year, so I guess it would have been in 2022, they reached out to me to do one singular workshop, they were having a sort of company wide retreat, they wanted me to come in and do a singular workshop, I said, that’s great, I can do that. So what I did is I came in, I delivered that workshop, I sent a survey to the owner of that franchise of that company. And they had such wonderful things to say. And they said, let’s keep in touch. So I followed up six months later, and now you know, I have a monthly retainer with them. But that is something that took almost a year to sort of slowly get to. So if you can always get your foot in the door with something like a workshop or something that sort of smaller scale. It gets you in front of that person, they get to see a fraction of what you’re capable of. And you do you have to put in the work to continue to stay in touch in contact with those people and remind them hi, I exist. I’m here. And I’m still killing it. And here, here’s a case study. Look at this case study.

Akua Konadu
Yes. Somebody one of our previous guests who in a previous episode I Lucretia Davis, she said there’s there’s money in the follow up. And

Sara McCabe
like I Yes, 1000 times, yes, more often than not, I don’t have any data to give you an exact number. But more often than not, when I follow up with clients six months down the line. They’re saying, Hey, can we we have this one thing, can we just do this one thing with you. And you know, maybe it’s gonna take us a month to fix that. But almost every time they’re they’re signing on to do a little bit more work a little bit more work. And you can continue to build on that. And I mean, the cost of acquiring any client from a social media perspective is so high, versus if you can retain clients, or get them to do the heavy lifting through referrals. It’s just so much better. There’s established relationships, there are so much more trust, which just makes the work such a joy to do. Yes,

Akua Konadu
I have loved this conversation. Like there’s so many things even within my own systems like my own client flow. And I mean, again, how can I really nurture and build these, like, continue to deepen the relationships with my current clients, right, and just learn more about just the power of referral marketing? And so this conversation has been wonderful. And so a question that I always love to end with is, what do you think the biggest differentiator is between the businesses that succeed and the ones that fail?

Sara McCabe
I think to keep it short and sweet, it’s probably the ones who ask for what they want. I think that’s the biggest thing. But beyond that, it’s it’s the people that are genuinely of service. And their top priority is making sure that you are helpful to somebody,

Akua Konadu
boom, that was great. I could keep going. But I’d be No, but I mean, that was great, though. Simply that right? Again, make the ask it’s okay to be directed. It’s okay to ask and also to always coming from a place of service always asking how can I serve this person, I think of myself to how I started my own business. There were so many wonderful people who came in that exact way, and didn’t ask for anything in return. And so now even me, myself as a business owner, that’s how I always come to other people, like how can I serve you? How can I support you? And how can I help you? And I realized that as that has taken my business so so much further, right, just being that just being of service to others, and doing it in a way that where you’re, you know, where it’s almost like you’re you’re you don’t want anything in return, you write because I feel like that pays off later on. Because then when people are thinking about something of like, Hey, I have this person that can help me with this, you’re the top person that comes top of mind immediately. So again, that’s just the power of referral marketing. And so thank you, thank you so much, Sarah, for being here. You have given so many tangible tips on how we can just get better at that how we can nurture our relationships with clients, and overall just be much more powerful with our brand and referral marketing. And so where can people find you to connect with you as

Sara McCabe
much as I said, I’m not on social media I I mean, so I don’t very much but I am frequently on stories. So at Sersi McCain consulting, you can go there. I’m pretty I story every day. And what I do is I love to share. I’m passionate about teaching. So I teach or I mentor outside of my business. And so I love to show up and share on stories, any information that I think is going to be helpful. And that is, again in my two areas of focus, so operations and people development. So you can find me on there just about every day sharing stuff, not posting that much, but certainly on my story. And if you ever want to reach out and connect and just ask me any questions, I love that I love meeting people. I love sharing anything that I can to make anybody’s life is your business. So go ahead and shoot me an email at info at CRC, McCabe. I love connecting. So those are the two best places to find me. Yes.

Akua Konadu
Oh, well, thank you. Thank you so much for being here on the show. And if you’re listening until next time, that ends our episode of The Independent Business podcasts. Everything we’ve discussed today can be found at [email protected] headrow website to access for show notes, relevant links and all the resources that you need to level up. And if you’ve enjoyed today’s episode, be sure to subscribe to the podcast to make sure you never miss our future content. Drop us a review and leave our guests some love on social and thank you again for listening.

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