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Recently reviewed (by Elephant’s Helen Hammond), for professional services marketeers, in PM Magazine, John Jantsch‘s The Referral Engine is not to be missed!

The words “this requires a change of lifestyle” are enough to put me off trying any new diet.  What I want is a solution that results in the loss of at least one dress-size, over-night.  It was with a similar feeling of dread that, at the start of this book, I read the words “Building the ultimate referable business is not a weekend project. It will require you to look at your business and marketing in an entirely new way… and possibly alter the foundations of your business model.” By the end of page one I had decided that this approach was not going to work within the entrenched professional services sector.  It was an unfair and incorrect pre-conception

John Jantsch is not one of the “greats” of the blogging world for nothing.  Taking the challenge head-on, his easy, journalistic writing style draws you in very quickly.  Your mind is rarely given the chance to wander because every point is illustrated with an imaginative and practical example.  Whether talking about a client, a contact or suggesting services he has found helpful, this is a clever tactic.  Every example he gives is, in itself, a referral.  Put simply, he convinces you of the power of the referral engine by practicing what he preaches.

Jantsch clearly sets out that referral generation should be a conscious business strategy, rather than a “nice to have”.  He suggests that you should aim for 100% referrals (from all of your clients)… and if you don’t get this then you should ask your clients why not.  This bold approach may alienate the more traditional marketer and they would be missing the point.

Jantsch talks a lot of sense.  His ideas and processes, particularly relating to “your people” may read uncomfortably – with comments such as “your employees probably treat your customers about the same way that you treat your employees” – but there are few of us that could technically disagree.

Correctly so, Jantsch identifies that the market place has changed and that business development methods must respond to this.  His proposal for the “4 Cs” (Content, Context, Connection and Community) to augment and support the “4 Ps” applies a clarity of thought that seems to have escaped many modern marketing writers.

It is at this stage that we must question the relevance of this book for professional services.  Is this something that we can and should implement in our own firms?

What sets this book apart from the many dusty tomes that discuss this subject is its pure, unashamed common sense.  Whilst there is no denying that professional services are slow to change they are fundamentally based on trust and referral.  It is an eye-opener to see, through Jantsch’s sector-specific examples, how basic marketing activity can contribute to referral generation.

Now, my own bold statement.  This book is the missing link.  For me it filled in many of the “what’s in it for me” gaps left by CRM, social media, networking, business development and cross-selling theory.  This book demonstrates how it all fits together and how best practice, particularly in terms of applying new marketing methods, can actually equal pounds and pence.

The biggest revelation, however, came on page 82, with the out of office email from Andy Sernovitz.  I’ll leave you to have a read for yourself… I can highly recommend it.

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