CEO Stories: Moving Beyond Referrals

By: Ilene Rosenthal

Meet today’s CEO, Chris. Even though referrals convert best for her business, she couldn’t rely on them exclusively to get the growth she needed.

This was not for lack of effort. Chris had done the groundwork to set her business up for success. Her company had great tech, superb service, accolades from her customers, a high NPS. But, there wasn’t enough volume in her referral pipeline to get the lift she expected.

Still, year after year, she moved more resources into sales, refined the process, and aligned her messaging.

Unfortunately, this is one case where the facts are the facts…and unless something changes, things will continue to stay the same.

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Nurturing takes time and patience.

The process of nurturing is a big part of sales and marketing strategy. Prospects just aren’t ready to sign on the dotted line after an initial email, phone call, Zoom meeting, or visit to Chris’s website. Showing interest is good news, of course. But it doesn’t mean prospects will take the next step.

It’s hard to get a commitment from a prospect on the second date.

Accompanying prospects on their buyer journey.

In The Strategy Lab, Chris learned from others more about the “buyer journey” concept — which kept coming up, again and again. With a little work, we uncovered the moment when a good discovery call went limp, and what experience would help a prospect move forward.

Together, we identified a three-step process Chris could implement immediately:

  1. She pinpointed a specific prospect group, and set up a powerful nurture process focused only on the opportunity audience.
  2. Then, Chris built a few lead gen assets that appealed to prospects right in the consideration phase.
  3. And, she reached them with a good old fashioned email.

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Why did this work so well for Chris?

  • She focused her marketing on one audience with a single need.
  • She narrowed her channels to those that worked best against this prospect group.
  • Now, her leads had the chance to get acclimated to her generous, educational content and her non-salesy approach.
  • Now, sales had a warm list of interested prospects who were ready to hear from them.
  • Now, her sales teams had a more efficient process for near-term success.

It took leadership and patience, some rejiggering of her sales bonus structure. But, it began to take hold.

Where is Chris now?

After a year of thoughtful, strategic consistency, Chris is now ready to expand to another user group on the buyer journey. And, she’ll fund that marketing effort with the revenue she grew in the first round — a significant accomplishment for any CEO.

Do you have a similar challenge? Just like Chris, crafting a realistic, actionable marketing roadmap — before you hire for marketing services — can help you frame, focus, and formulate the best plan for this year’s objectives.

Here’s a training video to get your roadmap started.

[Related: Cultivate These Five Mindsets to Become Your Community’s Go-to Expert]

Ilene Rosenthal is the CEO of White Space Marketing Group.

Originally published at

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