How to Get More People Referring Your Business More Often
THE BEST ADVERTISING IS “WORD OF MOUTH.” This statement is universally accepted.
An enthusiastic endorsement builds a bridge of TRUST between you and a new, prospective client or customer.
The previous statement is nearly a tautology, a universally accepted self confirming truth.
EVERYONE knows that the very best form of “raw advertising” is getting new business via a confident referral from an existing client.
What many small business owners overlook, however, is that it is marketing to existing clients that results in receiving those confident referrals.
Everything is Marketing and Marketing is Everything.
Allow me to explain. When you provide a quality product or service to your clients you are indeed in the very act of marketing to them!
- Marketing does not stop with an advertisement, it merely begins there.
All the advertisement does is provide you with the privilege to attempt to market to them.
Satisfied Customers Is Not Enough
Referrals for new business don’t usually come from satisfied customers, they come from ecstatic ones!
It is “over the top”, consistent, good business practice that fuels the ecstasy.
So, it is effectively marketing to existing clients that yields those wonderful results of enthusiastic endorsements.
- Such referrals are new business to you that is already sold!
So, if you are already in business, your first step in marketing to reach new clients is to deliver over the top goods and services to your existing clients! - This is your first step if you really believe that “word of mouth” is the best advertising.
And the adverse is true as well, “word of mouth” can be the worst form of advertising when it comes from a trusted source and it is negative.
Ok, having completed the philosophical it is time for the practical steps you can follow. Below are 4 STEPS 5 STEPS that you can follow.
Step 1: Deserve Referrals
Be nice. Be friendly. People like doing business with nice, friendly people and smiles sell.
Don't simply meet expectations, try to exceed them. Take the Lord's advice and go the second mile. Exceed their expectations.
You've probably received bonuses with some purchase. That bonus was an attempt to exceed your expectations. Note that there is a difference between a "BONUS" and a "BUNDLE".
For the bonus to be a real bonus, don't make it a part of your sale. In other words, you don't reveal it until AFTER you have secured the sale.
Cultivate and Attitude of Gratitude
Send an email, card or make a phone call simply to say "Thanks for your business". I think it is more powerful to do this on their "anniversary" of becoming one of your clients or customers.
Go ahead and send those holiday cards - but these are more for trying to maintain top of mind awareness with your customers.
Step 2: Maintain Contact
There are lots of images, sounds, messages and life experiences that are necessarily being managed by each one of your clients. You want to work to cultivate a relationship with your clients. If you love them as people (not just need them for their money) you will be able to have a relationship with them that is more than just strictly trading money for products or services.
The most basic definition of love is "concern for another's welfare."
Love requires action.
A fundamental "action" of love is going to require contact.
Have a Contact Plan
Create a plan which includes specific actions on a schedule that results in keeping in touch with your clients. For one of my companies, we created a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) module as a part of our administrative platform that has scheduled courtesy contacts with each of our customers. The frequency of contacts and methods of contacts are dependent upon the service that they are purchasing from us. Some of them are contacted weekly, some monthly, some every other month, some quarterly, some twice a year and some one time a year.
Sometimes its Exclusively LOVE
Some of these contacts are "checkups" only. How are they doing? We have a place for notes for each of our clients and we timestamp each conversation. We review these notes before each call. So, we can "remember" from last contact and thereby demonstrate that we actually do care about them (love them).
Sometimes its Love & News
Just let them know. "We're reaching out today to check in and see how you are doing and we've got some news to share as well." That "news" could be a new service that they may want or some add-on sale as well.
The importance of maintaining contact with your clients and customers has been covered in the article How a Small Business Can Achieve Top of Mind Awareness as well.
We Prefer Business Anniversaries
Rather than sending holiday cards, which is certainly OK, and it is definitely an inexpensive way to brand, we like to contact them on their business anniversary dates with us and connect that to a calendar. You don't have to tell them the WHY of the contact, this is simply a good way to put it on the calendar.
Use automation as well. We have both email marketing programs as well as SMS (text message) systems that we use with our clients.
These things aren't nearly as personal, but they certainly accomplish the goal of staying in touch.
When using these, just make sure that you clients are in control of the frequency of contact and make sure they can "unsubscribe" easily if they don't want the automated messages.
Step 3: Ask for Referrals
Ask and it shall be given unto you.
The act of asking for referrals provides "input" for the mind of your existing clients. If you ask for referrals, you'll get more referrals.
How are We Doing?
Start by asking them if they are 100% happy with the service you are providing for them. Probe a bit. Ask if there is anything you could do to improve your business relationship with them.
Hopefully, they will say something like, "We couldn't be happier."
Repeat how much they mean to you as a customer and as a colleague or friend and then let them know you are still working to grow your customer base.
"Please keep us in mind if you come across someone that we can help like we have helped you. We promise we will not be sorry for referring them to us. We will treat them just like we have treated you."
Something that I Do
I work hard to provide OVER THE TOP experiences for my customers. Since I make a conscious, continuous effort to do this, we accomplish it.
Many of them are very forward to thank us and tell us how much they appreciate us. (We don't have to "pull teeth" to get the compliments.
When I receive these words of gratitude, I always turn it into a request for referrals, and I will say something like this.
"Well, we love you and appreciate your business here, but we are not treating you special. We treat all of our clients just like we do you, and I mean that. It is kudos to you for having a heart of gratitude. Many people never say thank you. It is especially rewarding for us to get the kind of feedback you have given me today.
Let me say, you are most very welcome and ask you to please keep us in mind when you come across others that could use the love and service that we provide for our clients. We are working really hard to grow our business.
We promise you these two things:
1) That if you refer others to us that you can tell them to expect the same service you have received and
2) The service that you are used to will NEVER be diminished as our company grows.
Step 4: Reward Customers that Refer You
Reward with a Thank You
Make a phone call, send an email, fire off a text, mail a gift card.
Make sure the gift card is adequate for them to have a couple of cups of coffee or a nice meal for two. More likely than not, they will tell their guest who bought their coffee or meal and why.
Saying thanks will create a desire for them to refer you more.
Offer Incentives, Too
One of my companies is a website development and content management system. It has a built-in affiliates program or referrals program. When one of our clients refers someone else, our system automatically issues credits to them for the business they have referred.
Cash Incentives Can Work as Well
You may want to thank them with cash back, and that is fine as long as your industry considers it an acceptable practice.
I suggest you always offer the alternative to make a donation to a charity that they name if they don't want the cash back incentive to use themselves.
Be careful not to insult them by offering them money.
Your gratitude can be 100% genuine and your motives 100% pure and still give them a 100% insult.
They are referring you because they appreciate you and know you will take good care of those that they refer.
If you are going to offer cash incentives, give them the choice of you donating this referral fee to a charity that you support or to one that they would like it to go to.
Step 5: Repeat Steps 1-4 Continually
I suppose it is sort of like the instructions on your shampoo.
Just keep on doing your BEST to provide over the top service, keep in touch with your clients, ask them for referrals and reward them when they do.
SOMETHING FROM MY OWN EXPERIENCE & MY OWN MIND
You've made it to the bottom of this section and now you get a little extra!
I'll give you a couple of examples from my own experience:
One Restaurant Example
The restaurant that I managed achieved top rating (out of over 300) by implementing two things:
- I paid my good staff more than any other similar establishments would pay. I instituted a cross-training program and paid my really great employees MORE than what I was "supposed to pay." I paid them quite a bit more. My labor costs went down. How? I'd have one great, happy staff that would do the work of 3 good ones or 6 poor ones. I got a lot for an extra $2/hour back in 1986. I think the minimum wage was about $4/hr then.
Instead of paying $12/hour for three employees, I paid $6/hour for 1. That's good math. And these employees actually liked people and their jobs. They liked to work.
I cut the hours back (way back) for sour pusses and unmotivated employees and they would quit. So, I didn't have to try and find a reason to fire them. This may sound mean, but it was simply good business. My income was dependent upon the profitability of the store.
Everyone had the same opportunity.
- We implemented a Seven Contact Policy (I think). This was not my idea, it was actually mandated from the top. It was challenging to do, took real effort, and so most stores simply wouldn't do it, but we did.
And it worked. Our customers picked up on the hint that we actually were glad they were at our restaurant and began to believe that we liked them. Not to say that the other locations didn't like their customers, but maybe it was not conveyed so clearly.
I don't think that our food was that great. These people came because they felt good coming there. It was CUSTOMER SERVICE that made the difference.
In fact, they liked being liked and appreciated so well that they came back more often and would bring friends and family with them.
I learned many of their names, and when they came in with a guest, I would greet them, with something like, "Hi John, who is this you've brought with you?" shake hands with their guests and then look them in their God-given eyeballs and THANK THEM for bringing guests with them. I'd then escort them to the order counter and tell my till operator that their non-alcoholic beverages would be on the house.
They were getting over the top customer service. We loved them and they loved us back with their wallets.
Two Shoe Store Examples
Over the Top Example
I was working downtown Seattle. I had bought some expensive shoes from one of the downtown stores. After a few months, there was a problem with these expensive shoes. These shoes were sold at all of the top merchants and you could find them sometimes at a thrift store (used). I know this personally.
I walked into the store with the shoes and a floor salesperson saw me and smiled at me and before I could say a word said, "Looks like you have a problem with those shoes, looks like a definite defect and we're so sorry about that. Would you like a new pair to replace them or would you like a refund."
She didn't even ask if I bought them there. She didn't ask for a receipt. I got a new pair of shoes that day. The store got me telling this story over and over and over again and I sent a LOT of people to that store ... and bought more stuff from them routinely myself.
Under the Bottom Example
My wife bought an expensive pair of nursing shoes (she is a medical assistant) from a local shoe store. After just a couple of months, they started coming apart. We went out to run some errands together and get a bite to eat at a restaurant nearby the shoe store.
After lunch, we went in to the shoe store and went to the counter, the owner met us at the counter.
He was not friendly.
He did not offer to replace the shoes.
He refused to give us a refund.
He did, however offer to repair the shoes, but we would have to pay for it.
Today, I don't remember what we did regarding her expensive shoes.
What I do know is we NEVER went there again and purchased shoes from any other place for more than 20 years.
We also have WARNED lots of people to NOT shop there.
MOST PEOPLE ARE LIKE MOST PEOPLE
There is a lot that I teach that I have picked up somewhere else. However, I can honestly say that "most people are like most people" is actually my own.
Since most people are like most people, you are more likely than not like most people, too.
People are very predictable, usually.
ALL people are not like MOST people, but MOST people are and if you are like most people, you can figure out that most people will react in the way that I did in the above examples.