Insights and Resources

Why fish and chips are the real reason you need referrals

By Jim Thompson

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about why word of mouth is still the main source of leads for so many firms.

Back in the days before electronics let alone the internet, word of mouth was the only way to find help, so why do we still rely on it so heavily?

From a professional services perspective, I think it’s because we’ve collectively made it too hard for anyone to make an objective decision any other way.

I often say I’d hate to have to find a website developer, or a digital marketing partner if I was you.

How on earth do you choose from the vast sea of lookalike competitors all peddling the same thing in different colours?

The same applies to lawyers, accountants and most consulting firms.

That’s the industries fault, not the buyers and you are more than likely part of the problem without realising it let alone how to solve it.

Let’s dig a little deeper as there are some interesting dynamics at play;

  • Your buyer has a problem that they want solved
  • They want to engage the firm/person they think best situated to solve their problem
  • When they go looking at this point, they have already self-diagnosed what “service” they want
  • You set your marketing effort and assets up to match the “service” they are looking for

The problem is, so has everyone else.

So much so in fact that there is no way for the buyer to decide who to work with beyond “service” based attributes when they want to buy expertise and outcomes.

You’ve all “matched” yourself to the same list of common services, therefore its easier for the buyer to ask someone else they trust if they know a good practitioner.

It’s like buying fish and chips, you already know what’s on the menu but only want good ones and there’s nothing worse than soggy chips and batter.

So how do you avoid this situation and make it easier for the buyer to buy your expertise without having to rely on someone else to “put in a good word” for you?

  1. Narrow your focus to a specific market segment
  2. Catch them earlier in the buying cycle even before they are ready to buy
  3. Understand and market to your buyer’s pain points
  4. Sell outcomes not services
  5. Demonstrate and show your expertise
  6. Help your buyer choose and if you’re not the right fit, don’t try or pretend to be

Trust me if you get it right your new clients will appreciate it because I can guarantee you they will be frustrated with how hard it is to find the best fit.

How do I know? – because I have been a buyer and am for most of you still a potential buyer of what you do.

How will I be a better client if I found you or at least thought I did?

  • Price and geography will be less of an issue for me
  • I won’t ask for competitive quotes
  • I will respect your expertise before I work with you
  • I won’t care if your service is less than 100%

And I won’t end up with soggy batter but most importantly you won’t be placing your value in the hands of someone else’s opinion – a referrer.

Postscript: the week after a wrote this I tried a new fish and chip shop on the recommendation of someone I trust and had the worst soggy batter that was all stuck to the wrapping paper, karma :)?

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.