Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Can Non Profits Use Referrals?

I had a great time interviewing John Jantsch -- author of the book The Referral Engine: Teaching Your Business to Market Itself. It was a great addition to the continuum of books I've read lately having to do with ways to market in this new landscape (see Gilbreath, or Halligan). But I'll admit, I was initially skeptical of the book as I worried it would be some multi-level scheme machine. It wasn't and it's something you should seriously consider reading if you're interested in growing your organization.

What was most refreshing about this book was Jantsch's solid marketing sensibility surrounded by a keen people-sense. I so appreciated his emphasis on being genuine and authentic and his emphasis on staying away from referral-mill style activities. In fact, his idea of creating an "authentic referral strategy" has nothing to do with you but everything to do with who your ideal, narrowly-defined customer. This outward-focus is what separates Jantsch's book from the chaff.

Trust and confidence reign supreme as the key ingredients of what makes a referrer good for your company. Thus, the way to get a good referral is to be trustworthy, and to engender confidence with each customer experience and interaction. And then, having delivered on your promise to the customer, with some education of what you need/want them to do for you, you're ready to have that customer introduce you to others.

But the question that was burning in my head the whole time I was chatting with Jantsch was "would this work with non profits or cause-related organizations?" I believe the answer is YES. By their very nature cause-related organizations and non profits are naturally social. They have an inherent talkable reason for being. The challenge, however, lies in the organization's ability to have a talkable difference for being -- that thing which separates them from every other good cause out there.

In the back of Jantsch's book are 12+ elements that can be mixed and matched to create a referral strategy. Non profits would be wise to spend time reviewing these elements to see which matched well with their capabilities. (And the referrals are not just for more "customers" but also for donor development, media relations, etc.) And if you need help getting started, the back of the book also offers several "snack-sized suggestions".

-- David Kinard, PCM

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