Referrals can make a small business, so we asked a handful of experts about how to generate more.
We'll be discussing this topic and others on how to grow a business in our fireside chat via Google Hangout on March 24.
Here's what our experts had to say:
Remind your customers.
I sent out regular reminders via handwritten notes.
Betsy M. Smith
Just plain do a great job.
The primary method we’ve used to increase customer referrals is doing a great job. Word of mouth is the most essential way for a business to grow. From a reputation of excellence - and that excellence can be found equally in a product-based business as a service-business - you can build social media campaigns, relevant newsletters and email blasts, and pursue specific customer referrals.
Depending on your business, there are myriad platforms on which to develop a customer base, many of them free. For example, if you are an interior designer, rather than just getting an office and putting your name on the window in cool lettering, you can put your portfolio on Houzz, develop a Pinterest page and following, get a blog going. Reach out to local design stores and offer services.
Customer service + quality + fair price.
Referrals start with customer service and are backed up by a quality product at a fair price. If you always leave the customer with more than they expected referral is automatic. It also helps to ask and be clear you would like more business.
Do good work. Period.
There's really only one way to increase customer referrals. Do good work.
Beanstalk Internet Marketing, Inc.
Amazing knock-the-socks-off good work.
Generally being awesome at what I do and over-delivering every single time. You have to. People no longer expect over-the-top, amazing, knock your socks off service because its so uncommon with big business so thats the small biz advantage.
Amy Wright, LLC
Partner with others.
Find a complementary business with like values (& potential clients) and exchange referrals, sending happy people each other's way.
Have a plan
Apart from networking in general (whether that be as an attendee, an event sponsor or a guest speaker) the best ways to increase referrals is to have a plan before you start any of the above. As such I always go to the above with one goal - to find more cross promotion, strategic alliances and JV partners. Referral marketing is good for the people you come in contact with, as is affiliate marketing for the people they come in contact with but nothing is more powerful than regularly having someone else promote, on sell or sell with theirs your product/service to their list.
Prove it with a blog.
Blogging, combined with social media, is very effective. Your customer not only needs to know that you are good and have good customer service- they also need to believe you are one of the best at what you do. Your advertising and social media and content needs to impress existing customers, not just new customers.
The Brian Carter Group
Free samples to the right people, baby.
Blogs - send a lot of ‘free' samples to parenting blogs and watch how their airtime boosts my referrals. Anyone one reads these blogs has a high level of trust to begin with and so the opinions of those writers is particularly effective on my target audience.
Stand Up & Smile
Ask for referrals.
The best piece of advice when it comes to securing customer referrals? Just ask. It can be intimidating to ask a customer to vouch for you, but if you've generated results for them and set the proper context for the request, it's likely you'll get a yes. A few things to keep in mind when making these requests:
Communicate the context. Let them know who they'll be speaking with, why you think they are the best fit for the reference and how much time it will require.
Guide them. If you've been particularly successful with the client in one area, ask them to focus on that part of your relationship in the referral conversation. Take the opportunity to remind them of a few key successes they could point to.
Limit the requests. Focus on expanding the list of customers you can leverage for requests so you're not placing a large burden on any one client. If you serve multiple markets or offer differing solutions, try to secure 2-3 clients for each segment so you can more effectively rotate through your list.
Plain and simple, we ask for them. Our happy clients have no problem handing them over. A referral is just like a sale, if you don't ask for it, you won't get it.
Listening to customers and continuing to innovate with better services or products will keep you ahead of your competitors. When you understand your customers and satisfy their needs and you realize you can grow quicker by raising additional capital to expand, you must make the decision of how fast you want to grow and what the competitive threats are if you don't grow fast.
Ask, and then thank.
First think about what you have done for your customer or client that would give them a reason to want to refer you. Then ask them what they value most about their relationship with you. Explain that you appreciate their business and would like more customers (clients) like them that you can do a great job for as well. Then ask what family, friends or co-workers they know that could benefit from your service.
Once you receive a referral, send your client a thank you note and small gift letting them know that you appreciate their referral and the trust and confidence they have placed in you. Also let them know that you will provide the same great service to (name of referral) that you have given them.
Above All Else, Success in Life and Business