Insights and Resources

Life is not always as it seems inside the Referral Bubble

By Jim Thompson

You have probably heard the saying that you can’t see the label from inside the jar; in other words, you can’t honestly see yourself the way the outside world does.

That’s why an impartial outside perspective is so important when positioning your firm to the market.

I’m sure you all understand that, but there is another layer beyond the jar that we only recently uncovered.

We call it the Referral Bubble.

To explain, most of our clients come to us to build a sales pipeline beyond their existing networks and referral base, which means finding and attracting clients directly to them.

The problem here, when tackling their positioning and attractiveness to the market is that their view of themselves, capabilities, and uniqueness has been artificially inflated.


Because the typical referral has decided what they need and /or been told what they need and referred to you as the answer to their problems.

They haven’t had to go looking for you directly and in many cases not had to critically diagnose their actual problem and who and how is best positioned to solve it.

That’s not to say these clients don’t possess these qualities, but they haven’t had to present and articulate them in a way that attracts someone directly to them who has never seen or heard of them before. At least not in a strong enough way to build a pipeline healthy enough never to need another referral.

Making that transition is no small feat – one, you have to find them, and two, you have to convince them that you’re exactly who and what they need to avoid competitive pitches and multiple sales calls.

It’s worth noting at this point that over 95% of One Rabbit’s clients come directly to us.

The typical referral has decided what they need and/or been told by the referrer that you are the one to help.

They’re a “warm” lead and half sold before they even get to you; of course, they are going to like what you are saying once you talk to them and why your conversion rate is so high.

In that scenario, from a marketing perspective, all you need is a solid capability-based website for them to reference before contacting you, making life pretty easy. All you have to do is close the deal.

Most clients tell me that once they get a prospect in the room they usually close the deal which is great but have a think about how they ended up in that room and what they were told before they got there.

Moving outside the referral bubble, finding (as opposed to hoping to be found) ideal prospects and converting them from cold to warm to a new client is a whole different ball game.

Step back and think for a minute about these cohorts (I hate this word post covid btw), that we call the “unaware”, and they may:

  • Not even know they have a problem or contemplating buying
  • Know they have a problem, but it’s not painful enough yet to fix it
  • Think they can solve things themselves
  • Have misdiagnosed their problem and heading down a different path to solve it
  • Not be aware of new or other options available to solve their problem
  • Have never seen or heard of you
  • Have no idea how to approach finding a vendor to help them
  • Not know how much things might cost, and the resources required to engage an external party

At a minimum, even if you only want to catch their interest, there’s a whole lot of heavy lifting required from your marketing effort.

I can tell you now that a capability statement that serves you well with referrals isn’t going to cut the mustard unless you get lucky.

And yes, occasionally you will get lucky we all do, but it won’t fill and build a healthy visible sales pipeline with predictable conversion rates.

That is why so many marketing activities predicated on existing experience inside the jar and the referral bubble prove costly and ineffective.

But don’t despair. You are not alone we see it every day.

Before you undertake your next marketing project, consider first how will you make yourself marketable enough to find and attract the “unaware”?

My number one tip: Don’t talk about yourself and how good you are using done to death meaningless corporate jargon.

Before you start

Before beginning any engagement and to create a more valuable initial conversation we ask you to download and read our guide.


Inside you will find out more about the One Rabbit philosophy, learn some uncomfortable truths and how to market your firm.

Why it’s so hard for consulting firms to market themselves.
Practical steps you can take to overcome the uncomfortable truth and leapfrog your competitors.
The most common mistakes that consulting firms make in marketing themselves.