Pretty much everyone claims his or her business comes primarily from referrals. It’s true that clients who come to you at the recommendation of someone else are the best kind. After all, they’re proactively contacting you because they need what you offer and they’re biased because their friend or colleague already likes and trusts you.
If you want your business to continue growing, it only makes sense then to have a program in place to encourage and collect referrals. Don’t have a referral program already? Here’s what you need to do. Shortly after delivering your product or service, ask for a testimonial along with three referrals. The testimonial can be written or it can be an audio or video recording. Now is presumably the time when your client is most happy with you and therefore most willing to recommend you to others.
Put these testimonials on your website and share them on social media. They provide social proof for your services and they give your clients nice exposure as well.
Reach out to existing clients by sending a special letter asking for that testimonial if you don’t already have one, as well as the referrals. It’s a good idea to include an actual script that your clients can share with someone they think could benefit from your services. Make it super easy, take away the need for your clients to put a lot of effort into giving referrals, and it’s far more likely they will deliver.
Once those referrals start coming in, you absolutely must acknowledge them, whether you think it will be a “good” referral or not. It’s common courtesy to let the person referring know you’ve connected with their acquaintance. Then keep him posted on the outcome.
Sharing the outcome is important for two reasons. First, it’s good manners of course. Second, regardless of whether or not the referral works out, your feedback allows the referral source to get better at sending you future connections. For example, “Thanks so much for the referral of Sally Smith. We had a great conversation. Unfortunately we weren’t able to work together because she’s in the xyz industry and my services are better suited for the abc industry.” Now your referrer can be on the lookout for contacts in the abc industry.
When the referral does turn into a client, it makes good sense to not just let the referrer know, but to share your appreciation with a thank you note or gift. (See why cash isn’t as good a gift in this free special report.) Rewarding people for their kindness encourages them to continue that kind of behavior. Make this reward part of your appreciation program system and you’ll never have to stop and spend time figuring out what to do or give. You’ve already decided when you created the program and now it’s really easy.
You want a referral-based business? Set up the proper systems to support you.
March 14, 2013 at 10:17 pm
Just curious… if someone regularly refers clients would you recommend sending a note or gift each time? Most of my referrals come from other professionals.
March 15, 2013 at 12:21 pm
Thanks for your question, Lisa. Depends on what you mean by regularly. Is that every week, every month? You should say thank you regularly, but that doesn’t have to be every single time you get a referral. If someone’s sending you referrals every other week for example, you could send a note or gift quarterly. If you send thanks every month even, you could have fun with it and send themed appreciation. “Hey, it’s the first day of spring! In appreciation for all you’ve done to help me grow my business, here are some flower seeds to plant in your yard.” OR June is National Iced Tea Month and you could send a card with a picture of someone relaxing with a glass of iced tea and a reference to that theme, or a tin of loose leaf tea with a note about how it’s your favorite summer beverage. It’s all about getting creative!
March 15, 2013 at 5:26 pm
Thanks Lori for your thoughts. I appreciate it! I must say that creativity can be a challenge for me… which is why I like to keep up with you and hear your creative ideas 🙂