During my 30+ years in business, it has always been known that referrals are the best form of advertising. The idea of having existing customers and other business contacts promoting your business by referring friends, family and clients to you is obviously a great option for growing your business.

Blog: Be aware of how referral process has evolved

Some businesses have embraced the referral process and made it a key part of their marketing, while others have not given it the emphasis it deserves. Successful businesses have been built on managing the referral process for other businesses and this has been a great option for smaller businesses lacking the marketing clout to achieve the results themselves.

Like many business ideas, the “standard” referral process has undergone a digital upgrade over the last 10 years with the development of review sites. The success of these sites is obvious when you consider the proliferation of similar sites but (more importantly) the participation rates.

The opportunity to express opinions on a wide range of products and services has been embraced by a large part of the consuming public as a normal part of the purchasing process. Reviews are checked prior to purchase and (of course) adding a post-purchase comment adds to the wealth of information regarding the product or purchase.

Some specialised review sites (especially in the travel sector) have achieved “must view” status with excellent information available about the most obscure parts of the world. This means that the intending traveller can obtain first-hand information about remote destinations to assist planning and (in many cases) find travel bargains.

The interesting aspect here is that, no longer are we limited to the opinions of people we know. Through the magic of social media, the reviews of people we will never meet have become a trusted source of information. The self-reviewing aspect of review sites ensures that poor quality reviews are quickly identified and corrected.

For businesses, monitoring review sites is important. Whether it is a specialised review site or a more generalised site such as Facebook, knowing what your customers are saying about your goods or services is critical.

Being informed allows the business to improve if the review is negative, justify or explain your position (be careful how you do this) and leverage off the positive reviews with other marketing efforts.

No matter what business you are in, focussing on encouraging referrals is still an excellent marketing technique. You need to be aware of how the referral process has evolved with the development of social media platforms and review sites to maximise the effectiveness of your marketing efforts.