When I started my content marketing agency LEP Digital four years ago, I made plenty of mistakes early on. Like many solopreneurs starting out, I did a lot of work for free, I didn’t value my time as much as I should, and I spent too much time ‘in’ the business instead of ‘on’ the business. Because, if you have a great network, work will fall in your net, right? I assumed that after working hard in the digital marketing industry for 10 years, having made a tonne of executive connections, and doing lots of favours for my colleagues along the way, that people would naturally refer me when it came to going solo.
It turns out that most people, even if they like you and you do great work, won’t go out of their way to refer business to you. It takes a special kind of person to put energy into becoming your brand ambassador for free, time after time. In a fast-paced world of 24-7 stimuli, people quickly forget about you if you don’t help them to keep you top of mind. And to stay top of mind, you need to help people feel important to you.
The MICRophone referrer theory
In my first year of business, I attended a marketing conference in Sydney. My favourite speaker of the day was Chris Savage—a self-proclaimed “growth accelerator.” Chris was full of energy and passion, and gave me a big hit of confidence and motivation that I desperately needed at that time. I found him on LinkedIn and wrote him a note to thank him and explain how much his words meant to me.
To my surprise, Chris invited me for coffee to discuss my business. As we sat together talking at a cafe in Sydney, he asked me to name my five most important referrers—people who I could trust to be the metaphoric megaphones for my business. He called it the MICRophone theory (which stands for Most Important Client Referrers). And boy, has it served me well.
Find your MICRophones, treat them well
Who are the five people who are most likely to refer work to you? Can you write them down? Often, your key referrers are not who you expect. My referrers are not clients and never have been. They’re people within my professional network who resonate with what I’m doing, align with our core values, and genuinely want to help without reward. Once you find your five MICROphones, treat them like gold. It’s not enough to simply thank them for referring you business in an email or text message.
Remember, your MICRophones are the most valuable tool for growing your business and their significance should not be understated. Referrals are the best way to win work (especially if you work in professional services), and it will often be your most profitable work too.
So, surprise and delight them with a gesture or gift that’s appropriate. Go out of your way to add value to their business, career or life where you can. Make sure that this small group (who probably don’t know each other) feel special, appreciated and valued. You may wish to create a nurturing program to drive this process within your business so that it doesn’t fall by the wayside. Consider referring them work if and where you can, honour their successes, celebrate their birthdays, and care for them like a friend.
Do this with flair, and your business will soar.