Ask any small business owner about referrals and you’ll probably hear that they are the lifeblood of their business. And the reason is simple: When you have a constant flow of referrals, it’s easy to get new customers. When you don't, generating steady business becomes more difficult.
Studies have shown that referrals are 10 times more likely to generate new customers than any other form of sales or marketing communication. After all, few things are more reassuring than a positive endorsement from someone you know and trust.
Why don’t more small business owners use referrals? Mainly because it’s harder than it looks. Asking for referrals can feel awkward and make you uncomfortable. You don’t want to come across as pushy.
Here are ten ways to get referrals that don't make you look like you’re desperate for new customers.
1. Create A Referral Generating Program
The referral program doesn’t have to be complicated, but referrals are not automatic. Some “just happen,” but most occur because you do something to make them happen. Some business owners assume that a great product or outstanding customer service is all it takes to generate referrals. Uh, no.
Communicate details of your referral program to your best customers via your newsletter, through emails or other customer mailings, or on social media. Tell them that for every referral they send your way, they’ll receive something in return. Incentives like a gift card to a favorite coffee shop, percentage off future work, or a charitable donation in their name are powerful for encouraging referrals.
Here’s how Dropbox and Airbnb asked for referrals. Tailor your program to the format you’re comfortable with, one that you will use consistently.
You should definitely be asking your customers for referrals. Be direct and just ask. It’s not pushy or awkward if you’ve earned it by going above and beyond. But…you have to ask. Most customers are open to being asked for referrals, so don’t be afraid.
You may get your best results by asking new customers first. They probably haven’t referred anyone to you in the past, so their network is “virgin territory.”
When you receive praise from a customer about work well done, ask them to tell a few of their friends or colleagues who might be interested in your services. This should become an automatic part of your customer support process.
3. Focus On Your Best Customers
Instead of targeting all of your customers, focus on the ones that you already have a relationship with, those that offer complementary products and services, or those in your community. They’ll be more likely to refer you and your services to others since they trust you and can vouch for your work or products. By targeting these customers, you have a good chance to generate the highest quality referrals.
4. Recognize And Say Thank You
Whether by phone, email, handwritten note or thank you card, encourage customers to refer others by showing you appreciate the chance to earn and keep their business. When they send a new client your way, thank them with a handwritten note or card.
Provide your referring customers with feedback on how things are going with the person they referred. People who refer business your way want to make sure you’re doing a good job for the people they refer to you. It’s their reputation on the line as much as yours. And definitely share with them the success stories that occur as a result of their referral. Hopefully, this motivates them to refer more people.
5. Make It Easy For Them To Refer
It has to be easy for people to refer you. If there is any vagueness to the process, your chances of losing a referral drop significantly.
Here’s a few suggestions for ways you can make referring easy.
6. Let Customers Know You Are Open to Referrals
Don’t miss out on referrals because your customers aren’t aware that you’re looking for them. To let them know, you might add a line to your email signature about your interest in referrals or mention referrals in the emails you send to customers.
A tip: Don’t look desperate by asking for referrals everywhere, in every correspondence.
7. Give A Referral To Get A Referral
A good way to get referrals is to give referrals. An alliance with others in our industry, such as interior decorators, tile studios, lighting galleries, etc., with benefit both of you. For example, if you don’t sell countertops, refer your customers to a granite shop you trust and then ask the same from them. It’s a definite win-win.
Read our blog for the many, many ways you can benefit from having a referral partner relationship.
8. Be Active On Linkedin
LinkedIn is a helpful tool for referrals and getting introduced to potential customers. For instance, LinkedIn gives you the ability to contact your connection’s connections.
Before reaching out to prospects, make sure your LinkedIn profile is up-to-date and offer proof that you’re an active member by creating and sharing relevant content.
9. Do a Great Job for Your Customers
To make referrals an active part of your lead generating activities, you need to actually be referable. Deliver what you promise, when you promise it. The greatest source of referrals is a happy customer, so be remarkable. Prove to your customers why your company is special and worthy of being referred.
10. Don't Wait For The Pipeline To Dry Up
Put a referral process in place now to create a continuous and consistent flow of referrals so that you're not left scrambling when the referrals stop coming in.
Getting more referrals isn’t rocket science, but it does take commitment. You have to devote yourself to putting in the work it takes to let your customers know you want referrals.
When you put a successful referral program into action, you’ll have a different problem: how to handle all the new business you get from your referrals.
Want to know more about generating referrals? Here’s some sources.
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