Some insights from Upside's pivot to Switchboard

Posted .
Hey everyone - I've posted about Upside in this community in the past. Yesterday we pivoted to Switchboard, which helps solopreneurs and agencies power their own referral networks. I think the reasons why could be helpful insights for folks in this community. Happy to dive deeper on learnings/challenges if folks have any specific questions.

What was Upside trying to solve?
The universal challenge for an overwhelming majority of service businesses (whether you're fractional or running an agency) is getting clients, but most people dread sales and marketing. So we built a business development tool that helped users get more referrals from their networks (because referrals are the best channel). Some customers also used Upside to make referrals to other service providers they trust. We were essentially powering how people could get referrals from their network, and also how they could make referrals to others.

What did we find?
There were two core insights:
  1. The users who prioritized making referrals to others were actually the ones who ended up getting the most referrals from their network
  2. Simply asking/empowering your network to send you referrals – on its own – is not very sustainable. While it helped users create a burst of new pipeline, repetitively empowering your network to send you referrals becomes less effective over time.
Lessons from our most successful users
When we dove deeper with our power users, we saw how referring potential clients to others is one of the best non-salesy things you can do to grow your business. There are a few reasons why:
  1. It gives you a new way to engage/support prospective clients even if they’re not ready for your services
  2. When you make referrals to others, you stay top of mind and they reciprocate
  3. Over time, you become people’s first call when they need help
High level advice (regardless of Switchboard)
I've coached a lot of freelancers/consultants/agency owners on growing their business over the years, and based on some of the learnings over the past six months, I now encourage folks to think about building their referral network from the jump.

Recently, I was talking to Austin Church, a pretty prominent business coach for freelancers. He said the same thing. One of the biggest things he focuses on with his clients is "building their roster" of other freelancers they can refer to.