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Heather Townsend

The Excedia Group


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How all trainers can turn their network into a well-oiled marketing machine – Part 1


In this two-part article, Heather Townsend explodes the myth that getting referrals from your network is down to luck. Read on to find out how to predictably get referrals for juicy pieces of client work from your network.

I often hear people telling me that it is impossible to build a scalable marketing system just by using networking alone. After all, getting business from your network or word-of-mouth is down to luck. Or is it? In fact, BNI found that 98% of businesses generate business by referral, but only 3% of businesses actually have a formal referral generation strategy. This is where the problem lies: if you believe the myth that generating referrals is more down to luck than judgment, you will never invest in a referral generation strategy which will turn your networking into a well-oiled marketing machine.

With over 80% of all buyers of training services wanting to use a recommendation from a friend or colleague when thinking about hiring a trainer, doesn’t it make sense to invest in a referral generation strategy to build your training business?

In my new book, ‘The Go-To Expert’, I explore our referral generation framework, SERVICE, which you can use to build your own referral generation strategy. In this article, we will now look at the SERVICE framework and how it can be adapted to your training business. It is no accident or lucky co-incidence that the framework is called SERVICE. Ultimately if you don’t provide high quality service time and time again, any investment in a referral generation strategy will be wasted. 


Far too often, trainers tend to be the equivalent of a silver car rather than a pink car. Even though you see silver cars on every street, when was the last time you remember seeing a silver car? However, if I asked you when was the last time you saw a performance sports car or a pink car, I bet you may remember. Therefore, if you are going to be that memorable, 'sticky' person within your network you need to have a niche or a specialism. I’m not talking about being a leadership expert or an executive coach. I’m talking about taking your niche or specialism down to the next level. For example, are you an executive coach who specialises in helping senior decision makers in manufacturing companies?

As well as focusing on marketing to a specific niche, you need to be very specific about the requests you make of your network. Instead of trying to meet decision makers in corporates, how about having a list of ten companies you really want to work for? Just be building this list, you’ll be amazed how easy it then becomes to get introductions to people in those companies. 

Extraordinary client service

Very often referrals come to you via word-of-mouth business, i.e. delighted clients telling others about you. However, you will only get this word-of-mouth business if you deliver to clients not just good service, but extraordinary client service; the type of client service which just compels your clients to tell others about it. (Warning: if you don’t deliver on the basics of client service then any attempt to deliver extraordinary client service will be wasted effort.) Luckily, extraordinary client service can be easily delivered fairly cheaply with just a little thought about what will make the difference to your clients. For example, how about:

  • Keeping a stock of mobile phone rechargers in your office for when clients visit, so that they can charge their phone while they meet with you or your team.
  • Taking note of your client’s dietary preferences, so that you can always offer them a hot beverage and something to eat which they can eat/drink and will enjoy.
  • Having some umbrellas in the office so you can walk clients out to their cars when it is raining.
  • Sending them birthday cards.
  • Introducing them to one potential client or referrer every six months.


A small core of relationships will be responsible for the vast proportion of your new business. Therefore, take the time to identify which relationships are likely to yield the most referrals. After you have identified these relationships then build and implement a relationship plan for each of these relationships.

For example, one of our clients is a medium-sized consultancy. Although this is still a small client for us, there is an incredibly strong relationship between myself and the head of learning and development. This relationship hasn’t grown by chance. Yes, there is chemistry, but there has been plenty of opportunities when I have helped out my opposite number for no apparent reward. As a result, this account will grow by five or six times over the next 12 months. Which of your clients has the potential to grow big next year? How can you strengthen this relationship to deliver on the potential?

In the next part of this article, Heather will explore the remainder of the SERVICE framework, and how trainers can use this to turn their network into a well-oiled marketing machine.

Heather Townsend helps professionals become the Go-To-Expert. She is the author of ‘The Go-To Expert’ and the award-winning and best seller, ‘The FT Guide To Business Networking’. Click here to get a free report with 9 top tips to help you become The Go-To-Expert and get your telephone ringing with clients coming to you.

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Heather Townsend


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