The Easiest Way to Ask for Referrals

Closeup of a business handshake

We have a great opportunity in the small business world these days that can be simply defined by one word: collaboration.  Coming together and focusing on a common goal, contributing what resources you have, and working towards something bigger that just yourself is the idea here.  I have the opportunity to work in collaboration with some of the world’s greatest marketing consultants on a daily basis with the common goal of helping as many small businesses as possible.  So what does this have to do with asking for referrals?

The easiest way to ask for referrals is to think about your best possible strategic partnerships and create a game plan for how you can add value to their audience and in return gain exposure (Hint, hint: Coming back to the idea of collaboration here).  What types of content would their audiences be interested in reading?  What live events would their audience spare time in their busy day to attend?  Below are four easy steps to creating your strategic partner referral plan.

Create list of possible strategic partners

It is time to start brainstorming.  Sit down with your team members and create a list of potential strategic partners using the B2B or B2C checklists.  Is there a local bank with a small business audience?  What about a Real Estate agent out there networking with your potential clients on a daily basis?  Or a graphic designer working in your niche?  Simply creating this list is the first step, coming up with how to target these possible partners is next.

Co-brand educational content

Now that you have your giant list of possible partners, it is time to narrow it down a bit to your best possible opportunities.  I would recommend starting with a list of your top five partners to target and then expand from there if needed. Once you have your top 5, audit your current and future content plans with your focused list in mind.  What eBooks, workshops, videos would the other businesses want to share with their audience and therefore introduce you?  Once you have “X company” and “X content” in mind, it is time to reach out and see if the potential partner would be interested in sharing the valuable content with their audience with the idea that they could co-brand the content.  The gift to their audience is valuable education, the gift to you is exposure.

Get in front of a live audience

Speaking for leads is one of the most effective ways to get your message out there.  One example of how a Duct Tape Marketing consultant speaks for leads is holding a 7 Steps to Small Business Marketing Success Workshop for an audience of small business owners.  A great opportunity here would be partnering with a local bank, lawyer, and insurance agent and having them invite their client base to an educational workshop.  The consultant then provides value to their client’s while also establishing themselves as an expert at a live event.  Another win-win in the books.

Come up with a follow-up plan

You have created your list, produced co-branded content, and spoken in front of a strategic partner audience – your job is done right?  Nope – it’s just getting started.  The main goal here is to add value. However, the 2nd goal is to gain exposure for your business.  Before you partner with a company, make sure to have set guidelines for follow-up in place.  Will you get the names and emails of the people that downloaded your ebook to target them directly?  Will you get to add a sales pitch at the end of your presentation?  After you agree on the process, think of the follow-up as another opportunity to add value.  Don’t simply send off an email asking if they are ready to sign up for your services.  Instead, follow up with an eBook or checklist where they can learn even more about your topic and by they way introduce the ways you could help them implement.

Sara JantschSara Jantsch is the Vice President of Operations at Duct Tape Marketing.  She oversees day-to-day operations to support the growth of Duct Tape Marketing and the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network.  She focuses on strategic planning, goal setting and directing the operations of the company in support of its goals.  Sara is also a Duct Tape Marketing Consultant and has a very strong passion for working with small business owners that started back at the dinner table as a child. Connect with Sara on twitter.

5 Online Assets That Are Worth Your Time

You know you need online assets, but which ones are really worth your time? I asked myself this question as I prepared to launch my company, HipHire, which is a new platform that connects companies with quality part-time candidates using a unique matching system.

While HipHire’s concept and our platform are new, the way we get in front of our best customer probably feels familiar to you. Skim through this list and you’ll see that we use opt-in offers, blogging, social media and more. You’re likely already doing most of these things to market your own products and services.

But is it working?

In the tech startup world, being able to launch and gain traction quickly is hugely important. To make sure I was spending time on the online assets that were truly worth it, I did a combination of hypothesizing, testing, tweaking, and testing some more. This process led to rapid adjustments when things weren’t working, which meant more efficiency and better success in the end.

If you’ve ever wondered if your online assets were worth the time you’re putting in to them, here’s how to start testing.

Landing Pages with Specific Opt-ins

landingpagesHipHire has two main business segments—companies looking to hire and candidates seeking part-time jobs. Instead of creating one opt-in offer for each audience, we created multiple opt-ins, each with their own specific landing page.

For example,

  • Our landing page for the Founders Club targets an elite group of Kansas City businesses who benefit from choosing HipHire early.
  • Our landing page for candidates seeking part-time summer jobs speaks directly to the needs of that particular job candidate subset.
  • We even created a landing page and opt-in offer specifically for you (yep, you!). Knowing what we do about the readers of this blog, we created something you’d find useful.

This focused approach makes readers feel you’re speaking directly to them. We tested a lot, and as we’ve fine-tuned this niche marketing, we’ve seen greater conversions.

Blog Content and Community


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In the months leading up to our launch, we provided information for job candidates and companies looking to hire. Even though our platform hadn’t launched yet, we kept in touch and kept people coming back to the site.

With the blog, as with everything else, I tested. I kept a close eye on analytics. When something didn’t work or when we found a vein that engaged people, we rebuilt the editorial calendar based on that knowledge. Being willing to change gears saves time and money by shifting energy from non-productive actions into profitable directions.

Social Media—Personalized

Social media

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Social media is about real connection.

I learned this lesson by trying to grow my number of Twitter followers. I followed 100 businesses in my target market each day. I had ditched using automated responses, so when somebody began following me back, I found relevant information about the person or company to create a personalized reply. I got creative, taking a picture of a handwritten note or making a video.

One person wanted to Skype to learn what I was doing because they were impressed that they received a custom message from me. This blew me away. The simplest level of communication and nobody is doing it? That strategy started adding 50 followers a week, but it wasn’t just numbers. Twitter became about real engagement and connection.

Personalizing each tweet may not be scalable, but focusing on quality personal connections makes a difference.

Mobile Ease


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Our target market lives on mobile devices. We needed to go beyond mobile accessibility for the HipHire platform. We needed mobile ease.

One of the ways we did that was to show HipHire users that we can really deliver before asking them to set up a profile. We streamlined the profile process: type in a few key details (name and the like), then click, click, click, submit.

Making sure your site views correctly on a phone is pretty standard, but have you made your process simple for mobile users?

Visual Content


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People want to know what the product looks like. They want to visualize themselves using it. That was a challenge for HipHire in the beginning because we started building awareness for the service before our platform was live. We got over this hurdle by providing “sneak peeks” throughout the process.

Since our audience was likely to be mobile, we showed mobile screenshots. This use of visual content demonstrated how clean and simple the process really is and helped build excitement as we neared our live launch.

To make your online assets really worth your time, focus on three Cs: customize, connect, and (when testing shows you should) change.

What tweak to online assets has been the biggest change maker for you?



Brian Kearns is an entrepreneur and the founder of HipHire. He’s passionate about connecting employers and workers who share a vision of the ideal workplace culture. He believes that the key to finding quality part-time people is through a better employee fit.

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