Is there any better way to get business than from a referral?
Think about it. A referral is the ultimate validation of a job well done. Flowing from an organic, positive reaction of how you do business, a referral is the ultimate word-of-mouth advertising.
Referrals are great because your best customers – those folks who love your business, products, and brand – become your advocates, your unpaid cheerleaders.
These days of course, referrals are even more important, after all, what is social media if not a way to share your opinion with the world?
So that begs the question: How can you get more referral business? Here are five ways that really work:
1. Be referral worthy: The bedrock, bottom-line rule is that if you want people to refer your business, it must be referral-worthy. That seems self-evident of course, but in fact it can be one of those things that can be easily overlooked. People don’t refer business to boring or mediocre businesses, but they do refer businesses that exceed their expectations and do something exceptionally well.
2. Work with your existing customers: According to John Jantsch, author of the book, The Referral Engine, getting referrals requires wowing existing customers. Jantsch recently told me that the steps to get a referral are these: Someone must learn about your business, try it, and like it enough to shop there again and again. Says Jantsch, “Only when they become repeat customers will they refer business to you.”
Once people find and like your business, Jantsch says, it is your job to make it easy for them to give and refer business to you: Create customer loyalty programs, offer frequent buyer cards, give people incentives for referring your business.
3. Connect: People refer business to people they like and trust. If your business is fairly nondescript and anonymous, it probably won’t get many referrals, but if you personalize it and connect with your customers, referrals are far more likely to happen. You could, for example,
- Have a fun Facebook page that engages people
- Interact with followers on Twitter
- Have a friendly blog or e-newsletter
- Ask people in the store how they are doing
- Take customer surveys
- Offer feedback forms on your site and on invoices
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4. Create a strategic network: Another way to get more referrals is to find companies similar to yours and start a referral network. Here’s a simple example: You go into a dry cleaners and you see business cards on the counter for a florist down the street. At the florist, you see cards for the dry cleaners. Presto – both businesses are referring work to each other.
Other similar ideas include:
- Sending out promotions to each other’s network / list
- Offering free samples to each other’s customers
- Having a joint sale
The beauty of this strategy is that it instantly doubles your reach. You gain a whole new audience – with an introduction by someone they already know and trust. And don’t just look for one strategic partner, look for many.
5. Ask: On Amazon.com, my book The Small Business Bible has about 40 reviews. Online, a positive review is word-of-mouth gold. But not long ago, I noticed that a friend of mine had over 100 reviews for his book. So I asked him how that happened.
“I ask them,” he said. Whether he is giving a speech or answering an email, he always says something like, “My new book is out, and I sure would appreciate it if you would take two minutes to review it on Amazon.”
It’s so simple. And effective. Just ask for a referral.
About Steve Strauss
Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest,The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss.
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