Savage counsel – rewarding people who refer you clients

Chris Savage

Each week in Encore, STW’s Chris Savage answers your career and agency related dilemmas. 

Hi Chris,

After many years in the industry I have started a new marketing and communications business and I’m on the hunt for clients. We’ve got a few on the books already but I find myself getting caught up in ensuring we’re delivering for these existing clients instead of recruiting more. In your experience, what is the best way to ensure you’re keeping an eye on bringing in new clients?

It was about 15 years ago when I learnt that answer, and it started when Andrew Parker (today a senior executive at Qantas after a long period at Emirates) sent me a dozen mangoes and a bottle of French champagne. With that gesture, I learnt the secret to guaranteeing a steady flow of referrals and new revenue to any consulting services firm.

When I started my own firm, I had 17 years ‘sweat equity’ behind me – relationships I had worked to build and favours I had done. I expected a stream of new client referrals in those early days, a ‘thank you and good luck’ gesture from a long list of professional I owe you’s. It didn’t happen which really surprised me. I learnt it is a rare (and often unexpected) person who makes the effort to refer clients to you. It’s in their nature and they are highly likely to do it again if made to feel appreciated.

That’s where Andrew had it absolutely right. His firm, Parker & Partners, was growing fast, helped by referrals from a handful of what Andrew labelled his MICRophones; his Most Important Client Referrers. He knew this group was priceless to his business, and he treated them as such. He created his MICRophones program to ensure he nurtured them and importantly said thank you for a referral, fully and appropriately. The MICRophone program ensured Parker & Partners kept a strong line of communication with each referrer. Andrew in turn added value to their careers through a stream of introductions, events and insights. He made sure this small group (who did not know each other in most cases) felt special, appreciated, valued, and loved.

So who are your MICRophones? Do you know? Make a list. Think hard about what would be the right relationship strategy with each. Write it down. Set a timetable. Implement it relentlessly. Thank them with flair (and within appropriate parameters) when they refer. Nurture your MICRophones. They are a rare breed, and the most powerful weapon for growing your business.

Oh and why did I get the mangoes and champagne? I referred a client to Parker & Partners of course. And so started a wonderful experience being part of their MICRophone program.

Chris Savage is the chief operating officer of STW Group. His blog, Wrestling Possums with Chris Savage, can be found at chrisjohnsavage.com
Encore Issue 24
This story first appeared in the weekly edition of Encore available for iPad and Android tablets. Visit encore.com.au for a preview of the app or click below to download.


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