Advocacy marketing is a powerful and, arguably, essential component of any business’s marketing strategy.
A referral relationship, or advocacy relationship (I am using the terms interchangeably), is a relationship between two businesspeople designed to deliver warm leads to each party. The leads are referrals because each party refers those of their contacts who are suitable to the other. Advocacy is key because the relationship relies on each party advocating the other to their contacts, and not just passing on name and address details.
The process can be extended to similar relationships where one or both parties is not a business: for example a charity, a public sector body, government funded business adviser (eg Business Link), quango, and so on.
The process can also be extended to advocacy relationships where one or both parties doesn’t receive leads from the other but some other benefit. This could be as basic as money (though I don’t recommend this as it contaminates the relationship). Other benefits are discussed below.
What are the benefits?
(1) The value of the relationship is that the contacts who are referred know and trust the person doing the referring and therefore the recipient can have confidence that the leads will be receptive to the recipient’s offering. It is highly efficient.
(2) The principal benefit is that, once set up, the relationship should deliver high quality leads for relatively little further effort and cost.
(3) It can be a route to prospective clients who are virtually unobtainable by any other way.
(4) If I refer my client to you because you provide a service I can’t offer, then my client sees me as being helpful and it reflects well on me. It is almost as if my portfolio is extended by the addition of your services.
(5) If I know you are referring all your appropriate contacts to me, then I know you’re not referring them to my competitors. That may be an issue for some people.
What are the drawbacks?
(1) The process of setting up a successful advocacy relationship requires a lot of time – more time than you think – both actual time spent in discussion and elapsed time, the timescale over which the discussions are held.
(2) It is possible to discover only late in the day that two people intent on such a relationship can’t (or won’t) bring it about.
(3) It requires time and commitment if it is to be sustained.