Finding 5: Referrals and networking dominate

Right into the next CLG Study finding…

Referrals and networking were listed most frequently as the primary client acquisition methods firms employed (55% and 26% respectively).

referrals and networking dominate
Note: “Active referrals” meaning someone (a client, a partner, a friend, a colleague) directly recommends a firm to a potential buyer.

And when asked here’s what some of the firms had to say about it:

I would say probably close to 90% of the engagements I’ve worked on have been word of mouth.

Quality consulting and the word spreads.

It basically comes from his network at this point. People come to him because of work he’s done.

Referrals from previous clients.

I would say, to this day we still almost solely rely on connections. Like actual people we know who say, “Oh, you should talk to so and so.” Or they’re willing to make introductions for us.

Personal relationships with our partners.

The firm is well established, especially in the beverage, beer, wine and spirits industry worldwide. The staff has extensive technical expertise with significant individual professional experience ranging from 10 to 45 years. As such, each of the partners and associates have many business contacts and references all over the world.

Again, all of it was word of mouth and referrals and working my Rolodex.

Our business is 100% word of mouth and reputation.

However, when you dig in…

What you hear is not always what you get.

Interviews revealed that these are catch-all categorizations that can end up looking entirely different in practice.

In some cases, “networking” means emailing members of your personal network with a status update on what you’re working on, as well as making introductions and offering assistance.

…my process that ended up leading to those two things was… starting to email my network regularly trying to introduce people and, you know, be helpful in general.

…just from quietly putting the word out in my own network. Like I have a website here, I have declared expertise in this area… Email and LinkedIn. Yup. But most mostly email and then calls… never try and sell someone…

For others, this means publishing content in industry publications that members of their network see and then reach out as a result to discuss.

Most of the online referrals are coming through people that know me and then see an article or something and then they, they kind of realize, oh, wait a minute…

Others still rely on the quality of their work to generate organic referrals, while also leveraging a combination of local meetups friendly email follow-ups tracked in a CRM.

I do not have any formal way of asking for that. It typically comes unsolicited from, from previous or current clients. I’m also fairly well connected in definitely in the Boulder and somewhat in the Denver area… I typically try and just check in via email… I have a CRM and I keep track of that. And it’s… you know, it’s a pretty informal, friendly kind of email, just outreach. There is no sales or ask or anything like that.

All of these examples illustrate that (a) everyone has their own definition of what “networking” and “referrals” look like to them, and (b) there’s usually a glossed-over combination of tactics going on during this process that goes far beyond just “reaching out to my network” in order to uncover new opportunities.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *