Having read numerous reports and articles over the last six months about how agencies are winning new business, there is a clear trend toward an increasing percentage of growth coming from existing clients or relationships. It is much harder and more labour intensive to find and win new clients, than it is to seek opportunities through people we know, riding on the excellent reputation already established. Gaining business in this way or by referral often has a better chance of sustainability.
In our industry, a referral is the recommendation of an agency to a client who needs services or expertise that agency can provide. For that to happen, a healthy, trusting relationship between referrer and referral recipient needs to exist.
For simplicity, we will rate our relationships using a three-phase scale, used by the Referral Institute, called VCP (Visibility, Credibility and Profitability).
The initial stage of building a relationship is visibility, meaning two parties become aware of each other. It is worth noting at this point that most agencies do not go beyond this stage with their peers, due to the competitive nature of the relationship. At this level, the two parties may have begun communicating, establishing some links and forming a casual association based on a shared topic or interest, but likely have no real shared interests based on mutual clients or new business opportunities.
Once the relationship begins to form expectations of one another (and if the expectations are being fulfilled) the relationship enters the credibility stage. If both parties are confident of gaining positive outcomes from the relationship, then it will continue to strengthen.
Profitability then defines the more mature relationship. Not just in monetary terms, but in that it is mutually rewarding, and both parties gain satisfaction and provide benefits. This stage must be cultivated, it takes patience and effort and can take many months or even years. It becomes a profitable relationship only if each party is at the point of consistently referring business, perhaps sharing resources or regularly working on global accounts.
For many years, BBN has offered its partners this perfect platform to engage in this type of new business referral, as it provides a business strategy to attract new clients through a process of building profitable relationships, which results in a flow of on-going recommended business. Through building relationships in BBN, it provides partners with the opportunity to build a reputation among those with who they have interacted. Partners have committed time and effort to get to know and learn about each other’s skills, abilities and achievements, resulting in reputation growth among agencies. By building a reputation, the trust has built naturally, and partner relationships have moved from visibility to credibility, to profitability.
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If you want to know more about how BBN can help your agency, then please contact us.