Step 1: Change Your Mindset on Referrals
First of all, let’s clear out some cow webs from your thinking about referrals before we dig into creating a system for getting and increasing referrals to your business. Realize that referrals are the least expensive and one of the most efficient marketing methods to build a business and practice. Yet most businesses do not create and implement a complete referral blueprint system. They haphazardly take a shot at it but are not consistent with it as they do not have a true referral system in place in which they and their employees routinely implement. Therefore, client referrals are the untapped “gold mine” collecting dust or are right underneath a business rarely explored and left un-mined.
This is what many of you do or have done in the past: plow straight to asking for referrals almost immediately after the “close” or delivering a of product/service without establishing a foundation of trust. That’s like asking someone to marry you after just going out one time. Huh? Are you kidding me? Then why do you ask for referrals before establishing and building trust? It can be perceived as sleazy and lowers your credibility.
Step 2: Are They a “Client” or a “Customer.”
The term “client” originally denoted a person or entity under the protection and patronage of another, hence a person protected by an adviser (trust-based relationship), while the term “customer” denoted a person or organization that simply buys goods or services from a business (transactional relationship only). So from now on refer to them as a “client.”
So here’s a simple question: Which would you rather be, a trusted adviser and authority for your clients and someone who they will keep in mind (two-way benefit), or just a person or business that a client contacts or visits only when they want something (one-way benefit)?
Step 3: How Referrals Happen:
Referrals take place when your client trust you or your business to deliver high-quality products and world-class service(s). When you’ve just closed a transaction but not yet delivered, you still have to prove to the client that you can. So, rather than do the typical thing and ask for a referral at “closing”, as has been taught for decades now, change things around and use the “post-closing” conversation to describe action items that you will take on their behalf that will earn the client’s trust. Ask the client how you could be of service to them or what other services or products would they like to see offered that would help them out or make life easier?
With that mindset and foundation in place, here are the 10 Strategies to Increase Referrals and Revenue to Your Business:
STRATEGY #1: World-Class Service!
Provide world-class service so that the customer feels that there is little risk in recommending your business, your firm or you to their network of family, friends and associates. You do that with each and every single client, no matter how big or small the value of the transaction. In some cases, they may be “testing the waters.” Case in point: I had a client who began our business relationship with only $5,000 but within a couple of months it turned into a $450,000 client. He said he wanted to see what kind of quality service was delivered. He also happily referred other major clients as well.
World-class service, first of all, is the correct thing to do. What did you think you would do: provide sub-par service and expect to build a long-standing business? It also makes clients feel and believe that they matter, make a difference and are important to you and your business or practice. You are their trusted advisor, expert and “doctor” that can cure the pain they have in the area in which you provide services or products.
STRATEGY #2: Be Engaging, Not “Salesy!”
Befriend your existing clients and future clients by engaging with them in friendly non-business or non-marketing conversation at school, meetings, social events, business networking events, place you frequent often (restaurants, church, synagogue, market, etc.), community events (parades, fairs, farmer’s markets, etc.) and other non-business related gatherings (local chamber, city or entertainment). The hint: don’t approach every engagement as a possibility to sell but rather to offer service, educate or help people.
STRATEGY #3: Ask and You Shall Receive!
Once you’ve engaged the client and earned a level of trust, ask for a referral appropriately, but ASK! What it would it take for the client to refer you to his or her network of family, friends, acquaintances and colleagues? Let them know that you prefer to work with and service a network of clients you have a connection to.
Advise them of Strategy #7 and if they are willing, receptive and, in some instances, incentivized to giving a referral, then get the contact information (name, address, phone number and email). The best referrals are when a prospect calls you (not the other way around) as the result of a recommendation from an existing client.
Then kindly ask the client to contact the referral (text, call or email) to let them know you will contact them and remind the client that with their permission you will mention their name to the referral.
STRATEGY #4: Them First, Not You!
Since you are their trusted advisor, resource and expert be proactive on their behalf and about their needs by anticipating what they’re likely to want and arranging ahead of time to have it handled, if not by you then someone else. Always be thinking of your client’s interests, hobbies, likes, and needs.
If you find an article or story you believe will help them, will educate them, enhance their life or give them a pep, then send it to them. However, do not make a habit of sending “junk” weekly just so you keep your name in front of them. Yeah, you will but they’ll start to think of you as a spammer not as a trusted advisor! Ask if it was helpful or insightful?
STRATEGY #5: Bring Unique Value to Relationship!
Bring unique value to the relationship with your clients. Be a provider of extra value, by finding something that you can do for the client that may be outside of the expected products and services you already offer. If you don’t know: Ask! Perhaps you can provide that for them in the future and to the rest of your client base. Or, if appropriate, to fill that need you would be willing to recommend another business or person to solve a problem, need or issue they may be experiencing.
By all means, make sure to follow-up with the client on the referral(s). It’s professional and lets them know they matter to you. Thank them and send a “Thank You” card. Be unique and send them a $5 coffee shop gift card or even a $1 lottery ticket.
STRATEGY #6: Be a Referral Machine!
Become a referral marketing machine and consistently give referrals to your own clients, network of family, friends, acquaintances, associates and other businesses that you have previously approached and set-up a mechanism for two-way referrals so that they too can quickly build their own business. This will undoubtedly create a sense of gratitude on their part and increase our side-revenue.
Ask for their business cards and for the referrals you give to them make sure to write on the back of their business card something like: “Thinking of You Jane, Louis F. Vargas”, and keep them always with you. Give them your business cards and marketing literature.
STRATEGY #7: Provide Incentives!
Advertise and announce that your business or practice offers incentives, discounts or “thank you” rewards to anyone who gives your business or practice a referral that turns into a client for you.
You can incentivize clients and tun them into an unpaid sales staff and pied piper for your business when you pay them a bonus for sending you referrals. You can give them discounts on their next transaction or appointment with you. Or, in cases, where regulations exist and a professional cannot pay an unlicensed individual for a referral you can offer “goodies” (for example, gift basket, gift certificate, movie tickets, lunch/dinner certificate to their favorite place, etc.) as a way to thank them and to them show how much you appreciate the referral.
STRATEGY #8: 100% Money-Back/Warranty!
Offer a no-hassle 100% money-back guarantee that is unabashedly and clearly marketed on your website, flyers, print material, business cards, business signs and place of business. A guarantee can be in the form of cash-back, credit for other merchandise or 100% protection warranty for 12 months from the time the service was completed.
This is a huge trust generating factor and crucial for new prospects or referrals. It lets their guard down significantly.
STRATEGY #9: Testimonials/Endorsements!
Obtain testimonials and endorsements from your clients. People are busy and have no idea what to write as a testimonial, so ask them if it would be easier for them if you pre-wrote a testimonial which they could review and edit, if necessary. That way it’s nice and easy for them and they feel they are helping you without having to bog down their mind about “writing” a testimonial.
You then use them everywhere: on your website, place of business, business cards, marketing literature, etc. It establishes trust.
STRATEGY #10: Educate Clients and People!
Attend business networking meetings and events (chamber of commerce, Meetup, BNI, conferences etc.) with a purpose to educate and offer advice, not just to gather business cards and be a “hustler.”
Give out valuable literature that contain “social proof” (i.e. testimonials/endorsements and (eBook/article/Special Report) that educates people on the topic or area in which you are an expert in. Ask for referrals from business people at networking events in the course of an engaging conversation if appropriate at the time if not set up a date and time to find out more about them and their needs.
Yup, you got it! Clients and prospective clients like and prefer to do business with people and organizations that they know, like and trust. Be honest in how you provide services to your clients and how you answer questions from prospective ones. If you don’t know the answer tell them so. We’re human and are not expected to know everything. But do tell them you will find out and follow through with them. Then do it!
Referrals are about trust, acting like and being perceived as the go-to expert and trusted advisor of your clients, business associates, colleagues, media and even your competitors. Implement this strategic referral system with military-like consistency, precision and dedication to achieving victory and you will find all the gold there is.