Referral Placement Packages: Sending Referrals Made Easy
It’s a simple fact that not every client who knocks on your door (figuratively speaking, most of the time) is a viable one. To maintain your integrity, you have to refuse some of them.
Those reasons are varied: sometimes they don’t have the budget. Others, their goals don’t align with your agencies. Oftentimes, a geographic exclusivity conflict prevents you from working with them.
..and, if we’re being honest, sometimes you just don’t like them.
As an example, my agency chose to niche down in 2019, refining our processes to focus solely on personal injury clients; that’s where our passion is and it’s where we feel that we do our best work.
This resulted in a slow-but-steady turnover this year, as we voluntarily let non-personal injury clients go.
Regardless of the reason that they aren’t a good fit for you, they are the right fit for someone. Consider every prospect not just as a potential sale, but as ammunition for future sales. Every referral that we send has the opportunity to be “repaid” through reciprocity (hence, the “ammunition” above).
This led me to create what I call a Referral Placement Package. As I’ll explain below, an RPP allows you to do right by leads that you (for whatever reason) cannot sign, while also providing value for your company in the exchange.
What is a Referral Placement Package (RPP)?
I based the concept on employment placement packages. For the unaware, employment placement packages are assembled by business owners and given to departing former employees (generally those who have been laid off).
They are designed to help the recently downsized quickly transition back into a new position at a different company. Employment placement is customized (to the largest possible extent) for each employee, taking into consideration not only their job skills and work history, but also personal details, to help ensure that the job-seeker lands on their feet somewhere that they are already equipped to succeed.
While there’s a clear benefit for the former employee, there’s a subtler benefit for the employer: they not only maintain their reputation with the employee and community, but they also increase their standing with the company hiring these referred workers.
A Referral Placement Package serves a nearly identical purpose. It’s rare that a client goes unsigned simply because you don’t want to work with them, so with circumstances being what they are, you can do the next best thing: help them not only find the proper representation to achieve their goals, but give them the information they need to have some control over the process.
What is the RPP format?
What format should you use for creating your RPP? It should be a one-page PDF, broken into two primary sections:
- A list of three agencies to whom I would recommend that the non-client speak
- A series of questions that, at the minimum, I would recommend that a non-client ask
How do I choose potential referral recommendations?
First of all, where possible, I do my best to match agencies to the client’s budget, as a mismatch in that area is one of the easiest ways for things to go wrong. After all, there’s no value in sending a client with a four-figure budget to an agency that is looking for five-figure leads.
Secondly, it’s crucial to consider the non-client’s practice area and how it may align with the specialties of a given agency. I know first-hand that my company’s decision to specialize in personal injury clients has played a major factor in what referrals are sent our way. Similar to the budgetary question, this is an area where you can quickly narrow your field of choices.
Lastly, and quite honestly, I recommend agencies whose work I respect and results I have seen. Everyone in SEO knows which agencies help law firms dominate their markets…and everyone also knows what firms are just throwing away their money.
Why three referral options?
In general, and if possible, I think three is the perfect number of choices to offer someone (and there is psychological research to back me up). One is not a choice at all, obviously, but two is problematic: no matter which choice they ultimately make, there will always be the risk of a “was the grass greener” scenario. Beyond three, however, humans tend to increasingly suffer from “analysis paralysis” (the idea that there are an overwhelming number of choices, so they simply do nothing).
Think of it this way: if someone asked you to make a big decision by either flipping a coin or playing rock-paper-scissors, which would you prefer? Most would pick the latter, as it at least offers you some agency in the decision.
There is a further psychological effect to consider: when you recommend one person to another, and that first person does not have a pleasant experience, they tend to blame you. After all, you made the recommendation.
However, when you present three options, you are once again offering the client some degree of agency in the decision-making process; the decision is, ultimately, their own. That’s not to say that you don’t always endeavor to make the best possible recommendation, but rather that you can’t control the outcome.
What vetting questions should referred clients ask?
There is no upper limit on how many questions a non-client should ask when taking a consult from a prospective agency. To be blunt, they should ask as many questions as they need to feel comfortable making a decision. However, at the very least, I would recommend that any non-client I refer out ask the following:
- How do you determine the SEO investment that will be needed?
- Do you provide geographic exclusivity?
- How long do you expect before results will be evident?
- How do you obtain your backlinks?
- Can you provide case studies/references?
- Why should we sign with you rather than a competitor?
Why these vetting questions?
Simply put, these questions should give a referred non-client a reasonably clear picture with the kind of agency that they’re speaking.
- Does this agency’s approach appropriately match my budgetary expectations?
- Can I be sure that they are not working with my competition?
- Does their roadmap for the future of the campaign align with my needs?
- Are they conducting white-hat SEO?
- Do they have a proven track record of results/satisfied clients?
- Can they make a compelling case for themselves?
You can’t work with everyone/every client isn’t the right fit. Referrals help fuel future lead-gen. RPPs make the process easier for the non-client.