Getting on the “In” List: Here’s how referral services do better for your business

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By Jane Daly

Arnon Melo, who sits on the national board of directors for CIFFA and is co-founder of Toronto’s MELLOHAWK LOGISTICS freight-forwarding company, understands the value of business referrals. Originally from Brazil, he used his deep knowledge and experience in that market to earn a spot on the preferred supplier lists of the Canadian and Brazilian federal governments, as well as the Brazilian Consulate.

“It’s been fantastic,” said Melo. “It took a few years to prove what we could do and show the integrity and responsibility with which we do it, but we’ve made a lot of new customers because of the validation we received from these trusted institutions.”

MELLOHAWK has also made concerted efforts to forge connections with other groups that provide referrals, such as chambers of commerce and industry organizations. “All of these bring credibility to your company and real support to the freight forwarding community when they refer a business that specializes in certain skills or capabilities,” he said.

Why you need referral services to find new customers

Finding new customers is a leading concern among freight-forwarding companies of all sizes. If you’re not already using referral services to bolster your sales and customer prospects, consider this: a number of studies show the success rates of various marketing techniques range from a low of 2% to 5% for cold calling to 50% to 80% when a referral or introduction is used. Moreover, according to a hubspot.com infographic, 73% of executives prefer to work with someone referred to them, and 84% of B2B decision-makers start the procurement process with a referral. (17 Surprising Stats on Sales Prospecting that will Change the Way You Look at Cold Calling, Emma Brudner, 2015).

The reason referral services work so well comes down to basic human nature. People tend to trust recommendations more when they come from a person or organization they know or know of, especially if that person or organization is one that is trusted and reputable.

Given the immense power of referrals, it’s not surprising that companies of all sizes and across all sectors are trying to figure out how they can get referred, and how to work these methods into their business marketing plans.

There are, of course, many different ways to get referred, such as online directories, requests to current customers to recommend your company to a colleague, or even offering a cash reward to customers who bring another on board. Each type has its pros and cons, and some work better for some types of companies more than others. While referral marketing is generally easier to initiate than other types of marketing, tackling it alone, especially for smaller companies, can eat take up time and money, depending on the tool used.

In-List: A free, more powerful referral service for freight forwarders 

Fortunately for freight forwarders, there’s a new referral service launching this spring, administered by Export Development Canada (EDC). It’s a way to find customers, made easy. The service will enable Canadian exporting companies to find the qualified suppliers they need—starting with freight forwarders—that are vetted by EDC. In-List, as the service is presently called, is free. And although there is an application process to ensure suppliers are qualified, the time it takes is far outweighed by the expected return on investment.

Here’s how it works. If you’ve used Google, you already have a basic understanding of how most online referral services operate. You key in the type of service or supplier you’re looking for, and up pops results that match your query.

And unfortunately, if you’ve used Google, you also understand the problems and weaknesses inherent to those types of systems. First, there’s quantity instead of quality. Today, an exporter typing “freight forwarders” into Google will get 980 million results in .54 seconds. And because the results are based on a ranking algorithm, you can’t even be sure the top contenders are relevant to your needs, let alone trustworthy.

The difference with In-List is that the service actually takes the time to gather pertinent information about the suppliers and their capabilities, so that when an exporter searches for a freight forwarder, for example, they’ll be matched with companies that better suit their needs. Moreover, and perhaps best of all, the companies have been vetted by EDC, so the exporter can start building the new business relationship with more confidence.

Specifically, the service will offer three significant benefits to CIFFA freight forwarders:

  1. Approved applicants will be featured amongst Canada’s top freight forwarders in a well-promoted referral program.
  2. For a limited time, applications will be accepted by CIFFA members exclusively. This will increase your reputability as a supplier that’s vetted by EDC, a leader in international trade insight.
  3. Quality referrals. Unlike typical directories, In-List builds a thorough profile of both the freight forwarder and the customer to make the quality matches.

Freight forwarders can apply right now for In-List

To launch the referral service, EDC is inviting CIFFA members to fill out the online application. Melo has already taken EDC up on the offer.

“MELLOHAWK is happy to join because I think there’s tremendous value here. We belong to other referral programs but they don’t delve into specific information to make a better match like EDC is trying to do,” Melo said. “In-List not only looks at the region you do business in, but also the talent and specific skills that you can offer an exporting company.”

Melo adds that he believes the program will help save time and expedite decisions for both sides. “Basing matches on more information helps narrow down requests for quotes from prospective customers.”

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