5 Reliable Ways to Use Content as a Referral Tool

post image with quote The Best Lead Generation Tool is a Happy Customer

I’m guessing you do great work.

You add value everywhere you can, and people want to refer you on their own.

Clients who get what they expected and have a great experience in the process want to tell their friends, neighbors, and colleagues about us.

It’s a behavior that many people are simply wired to do.

But, let’s be honest: we’re all busy.

And sometimes we need a nudge, a reminder, or a tangible way to easily make referrals that are relevant.

While you may have jumped on the content train for lead generation, SEO, and education, you may not have considered all of the ways that content can be used to help generate referrals.

Valuable content can act as a catalyst for referral introductions in ways that are mutually beneficial as opposed to awkward and fruitless, as is too often the case.

Valuable content is also a fantastic tool for attracting strategic partner relationships. While many people focus their referral efforts on customers, non-competing businesses that also serve your target market can be one of the most potent sources of referrals available.

Your ability to share educational content can gain you access to a strategic partner’s entire network in a very logical manner.

And, by the way, these tactics work equally well for business owners and individual sales professionals.

Below are five reliable, proven ways to use content to forge strong referral relationships.

1. Invited content

Some people might refer to this as “guest content.”

But in reality, if someone asks you to write a guest post on their blog or you ask someone to write a post on your blog, it’s really invited content.

So many content marketers try to force the idea of “guest” posts when, in fact, the best opportunities are earned.

I was invited to write this post by Copyblogger. In effect, they are introducing me, or at least some of my ideas, to their very large and educated network. But I didn’t just show up one day and get invited — I’ve invested time and energy into building a relationship with this strategic partner.

Reaching out to potential partners and offering exposure on your blog, or offering content as a post for their readers, is a great way to get referred and introduced to their community. This also potentially lightens the content load for you and for your partner.

2. Co-branded content

Have you created a “must-have” ebook to use in your own lead generation and capture efforts? (Please tell me you have!)

Take that content to potential and existing partners. Offer to let them send it to their community, and even let them co-brand it with their contact details.

Your partners know they should be offering this kind of information. Since you fell into their lap with a proven winner, they’ll happily refer you via content.

Years ago I worked with a large software company that had a very active channel of resellers who looked to them for marketing and business building support. I approached the software company with an ebook that featured a tremendous amount of marketing advice and suggested they freely share with all of their resellers. They loved having a resource they could attach their efforts to. As a result we worked with several hundred of their customers over time.

This is also a great approach for a traditional supplier or service provider relationship. Now your accountant or banker can introduce you to their other clients by providing something more useful than a letter saying how great you are.

3. Sponsored content

One of the most powerful ways to use referrals is to be asked to present your expertise to a room full of a partner’s best clients.

I call this approach sponsored content because the end result is that your partner is sponsoring the event and putting you in front of an audience as an expert.

If you have the “must-have” ebook as suggested above, then you’ve got the potential for a “must-attend” educational workshop or seminar. Offer to present this workshop for free as an added value for your partners and let them invite their community.

Several years ago I used this tactic with a powerful twist.

Instead of approaching just one partner, I went to two businesses — a bank and an accounting firm — that had similar customers and proposed doing the workshop for both at the same time.

This way it was not only an opportunity to add value to their existing customer relationships, it was an opportunity to promote their businesses to each other’s customer bases.

In effect, I was being referred to a large network of potential customers while creating a referral opportunity for both partners.

My content, given freely, turned into a substantial amount of business by way of this referral approach.

4. Curated content

Consider the impact of putting together an entire day’s worth of killer content.

What if you went to your strategic partners and hand-selected experts on several different subjects and brought them together for a conference or other event. (Similar to what Copyblogger did last week with Authority Intensive.) This curated conference could draw lots of attention from people interested in getting a whole day of useful information in one sitting.

Choose a big topic and bring in partners who are willing to introduce their networks to the event. You can fill the event with what becomes a group referral of all of the partners.

This method can work just as well as a curated ebook of partner content that the entire partner group can share.

An additional benefit to investing in this type of referral thinking is that by putting together events like this, you generally increase your profile and authority in your community — and this often leads to additional referral opportunities.

5. Incentivized content

Some of the best content possible comes from what customers are willing to create and share.

If you want to get introduced to their networks, give them an incentive to get active producing and sharing content related to your business.

Something as simple as asking your customers to share a photo using your products, or a running a contest rewarding the person who gets the most votes for a video featuring your services, can be an effective way to create buzz while getting great referrals and exposure in the process.

The key is to set up your “ask” or call to action in a way that prompts referrals.

For example, your campaign might be: “Tell us the best use of our product. Show us the results you’ve achieved using our service. Tell us why you really want to win.” This can create powerful endorsements as people compete for some prize.

Think like a marketer, sell like a superstar

You may already be generating referrals from the awesome work you’re doing.

But using content in the ways mentioned above will allow you to create even more relationships with strategic partners who will gladly open doors and introduce you to their audiences.

Which of the five methods described above could you implement right away?

Let us know, and ask John any questions about his new book, by joining the conversation over at Google-Plus.


Want a free copy of John’s book?

This post was drawn from the teachings contained in John Jantsch’s latest book, which goes on sale worldwide May 15 (and is available for pre-order now): Duct Tape Selling — Think Like a Marketer, Sell Like a Superstar.

We always count on John to deliver solid, pragmatic advice on marketing and selling. That’s why we’re going to be selecting 15 Copyblogger readers at random to receive a free copy of the new book. (U.S. and Canada only, sorry international peeps!)

Entering is simple: just tweet your favorite quote from this post and include @copyblogger and the hashtag #DuctTapeSelling. You must include both to be eligible. We will choose 15 winners at random on Thursday, May 14 (so you have two days).

About the Author: John Jantsch is a marketing consultant, speaker and author of Duct Tape Marketing, The Commitment Engine and The Referral Engine and the founder of the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network. His latest book, Duct Tape Selling -- Think Like a Marketer, Sell Like a Superstar is available online and in bookstores May 15.

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