Referrals from happy customers should be your #1 source of new business. You can’t get a better business lead than someone referred to you. You can’t get a more motivated business prospect to your business than someone sent by a satisfied client.
We’re often asked: How do I get my clients to promote my business to their professional and social networks?
The answer is elusively easy: You have to train your clients to promote you. You have to remind them to do it. Constantly. And make it easy to do so.
The magic words you want your referrers to learn: “I know of someone who can help you.”
“The reality is that people almost exclusively do business with people they know or know of, rather than with strangers,” says Brian Polacek at the Rage Agency Marketing Firm. “A personal recommendation from someone you know and trust is far more reassuring than cold calling around.”
The 6 steps to add to your marketing plan to realize better and more business referrals:
1. Ask clients for referrals. Constantly.
Ask regularly. During the sales cycle. During the close. During delivering excellent service. And regularly thereafter. The best time to ask for a referral is while you are actively involved with your client and have their full trust and attention.
Don’t be shy. Asking does not threaten your client relationship – studies show the opposite – it enhances client relationships. “Asking a client to recommend you makes things personal,” says Polacek. “you’re asking your client to judge you and to make a personal decision about supporting the future of your business.” Clients can become raving fans when approached properly.
Keep yourself motivated by setting referral goals, and asking systematically. Use an “ask method” that fits with your personal and professional demeanor.
Start with the assumption that your clients would be happy to refer you. But let them tell you (and explore why) if they are uncomfortable doing so.
2. Teach clients how to refer you. Constantly.
Don’t assume that your client knows how to refer you. Many clients would be happy to refer you but don’t know how. Give them:
- Printed information. Include your value proposition and some client results. Answer these two questions about your business for them: ”What do we do?” and “Why us?”
- Permanent space. Reserve a space on your print and email newsletters. Add links to your site so that the reader can get a full answer to the two questions.
- Review sites. Provide instructions on how to go on review sites like Yelp to give you a review.
- Business card. Consider adding a request for referrals on the back of your business card.
3. Remind them to refer you. Constantly.
Reach out to your current and past clients on a regular basis, and always include a request for referrals. My long-time mortgage banker hasn’t contracted new business with me in years, but I get a letter from her every two months that reminds me that she appreciates my support and would love my referrals. (She openly admits in her letters that referrals are the lifeblood of her business. This motivates me because I want to help her.)
4. Look for ways to make it easy to review you. Constantly.
- Website – Consider adding links on relevant pages of your website to review sites where you appear or want to appear. (Yelp, Angie’s List, etc.).
- Communications – Add links to review sites when you send a client communication: Put them in emails, on Facebook company pages and Facebook postings, and in direct mail.
- Write it. Create a PDF of your “What do I do?” and “Why me?” and place them on your website. Include the PDF link on all communications. Here’s what our PDF looks like.
- Sample reviews. People are often reticent to write a review from scratch, so share reviews that other people have written as models. (Keep it honest – don’t write the reviews for them – we’ve all become good at spotting fake reviews, and some companies like Amazon have initiated legal proceedings against fake reviewers.
5. Say “thank you.” Constantly.
Reach out and thank and recognize referrers – not only is it good etiquette, but it is good for business. People feel that they are doing business with a caring company when they are recognized for their favors. There is no need to offer financial rewards, in fact many businesses have restrictions against it.
“Most referrers are motivated to help you because you helped them,” says Polacek, “they not looking for a reward for themselves.”
The best reward is a referral back to them, if appropriate for their line of work.
6. Give. Constantly.
One of the best ways to get referrals is to generously give them. If you have the opportunity to refer an associate or link two contacts together, do so. Attending a networking event? Make a point of introducing people to one another. People will appreciate the referral, and it inspires them to respond in kind.
Referrals should be the number-one tool in your tool belt. Reach for it often–as often as you glance at your phone, and get more business.