You’ve assessed your current referral strategy. You’ve researched your target audience. Now it’s time to build out your referral marketing strategy. Sound daunting? It doesn’t have to be, as long as you follow a series of logical and methodical steps.

Find the Overlap

The first step is to consider where you are now and where you’d like to go. Which of your services should you try to grow? The answer to this question shouldn’t be arbitrary, emotional, or driven by opinions. Ask yourself:

  • Which of our services produce the best results?
  • In what areas does our marketplace research identify the greatest need or promise?
  • Which of our services enjoy the strongest financial profile?

Your conclusions should be informed by a data-driven understanding of your own firm, your clients, your audience, and your marketplace as a whole. The more your decisions and your services are shaped by the demonstrable needs and challenges of your audience, the better placed your firm will be to resonate with them and spur new business.

Of course, your strategic decisions aren’t just a matter of what your audience needs. The areas where you excel and the characteristics that set your firm apart should determine those decisions. Factor in your specialties, differentiators, and positioning. Which issues are both important to your audience and addressed by your services? Find the overlap and focus your efforts here, on the problems where your specialized expertise is most relevant.

Strategic Content

You’ve identified the problems that should form the focus of your referral marketing strategy. Now, how are you going to use educational content to address those problems, drawing a clear connection between the challenges and your expertise?

The answer will depend partly on the resources you can bring on this effort. How aggressively will you develop content? Some firms publish new blog posts a few times a month. Others post weekly or even daily. For blogs, we recommend posting at least once a week to keep your audience engaged and to give yourself plenty of opportunity to demonstrate your expertise thoroughly.

Blogs aren’t the only form of content you should consider, however. A blog is a perfect example of what we call flow content, the sort of quick, everyday pieces meant to foster conversation. A tweet or LinkedIn post might be another form of flow content. But there’s another piece to the puzzle — stock content.

Stock content might be research studies, books, or guides. This material is generally more in-depth and designed to stand the test of time. This is where you can get more detailed in your thought and make a definitive statement on issues in your industry.

But which type of content makes the most sense for your firm?

A Funnel of Content

An effective referral marketing strategy will generally use both stock and flow content to build your reputation and share your expertise. When the two styles of content are working together, they create what we call the content funnel.

Flow content, like a blog post, is easy for your audience to find, read, and share. It might provide readers quick and handy tips or useful perspectives on the industry, helping them become familiar with your expertise and point of view. If your content is useful to these readers, they’ll keep coming back — and start digging deeper into your offerings.

Those deeper offerings may include more stock content like ebooks and whitepapers that are gated and require an email to download. With this information from the user, you can offer even closer, more targeted and relevant engagements.

Some of the readers who download this content will continue to engage even more closely and eventually become clients. But even those that don’t can make informed referrals to your firm based on their grasp of your expertise, as well as share your content with others. This is the power of content for referral marketing — there are multiple ways it can generate new business.

Moving Forward

As you decide how your referral marketing strategy will utilize content, there are a few more factors you will need to consider.

How will you promote it?

It’s not enough to blast content out into the void. You will need
to promote your content and bring it to the attention of relevant audiences. Two of the most effective ways to accomplish this are social media and search engine optimization. By optimizing your content with targeted keyword phrases, you can help it show up in your audience’s online searches.

Who will author your content?

Do you have figures within your firm whose reputations may
help draw attention to your content? Relatedly, are there rising Visible Experts in your firm who could build their reputations by publishing authoritative content? Consider the profiles of individual professionals, not to mention their relative flexibility, as you decide who will write your content. If your experts are too busy to write regular content, you can bring in trained ghostwriters to help.

How does your content fit with your firm’s overall strategy?

Content is powerful. It can change the way your firm is perceived in the marketplace. With this in mind, make sure your content efforts are closely integrated with the rest of your brand strategy. The services you offer — and the way you talk about your firm and its expertise — should be in line with what is conveyed by your content.

With a well-thought-out approach to content, you’ll be well on your way to generating new referrals and new business. But now comes your next challenge — creating knockout content.