Referrals have, for the longest time, been one of the best ways to grow a business. Small business owners and entrepreneurs are becoming more reliant on their networks for resources as well as traditional marketing tactics. Thus, developing a referral system and implementing it in your marketing plan is an excellent way to add to your business's success.
It's common among many who run their own businesses not to pursue referrals. Perhaps they believe their clients will pass on the word about them. Or maybe they find asking for referrals uncomfortable; whatever the case may be, failing to seek out referrals proactively means they're missing out on one of the most effective and affordable methods in acquiring more clients.
If you're seeking to save on those precious marketing bucks, as well as increase your response rate, it's vital to create a referral program. Let's take a look at how you can achieve this.
Developing a referral request mindset.
The first thing you'll need to do to get in the habit of asking for referrals is overcoming your fear. This can be achieved in the following ways:
Always remember that most people like helping others if there is no negative cost to them.
Always remind yourself that the worst that can happen is the client saying, "No."
You can also avoid any awkward shift by including referral requests as part of your project routine. With most projects, you'll have a final meeting with your clients, which is the perfect time to ask for referrals.
Selecting a referral request method.
There are many referral request methods, including verbal referrals, lead forms, emails, business cards, shareable links, and social media. Believe it or not, verbal referrals are still the most effective method, while social media is said to have far less success.
While verbal referrals might be hailed as the best method, it's wise to consider the other forms as well. Referral requests can form part of your email and social media campaigns. However, if you see your clients or customers in person or speak to them via the phone, it's advisable to ask them for referrals.
Using a script for referral requests.
Until such a time where asking for referrals has become second nature, we advise writing a script to follow. However, remember you're not writing an Oscar acceptance speech. When asking for referrals, always be sincere, direct, and brief.
Here's an example of a script template:
"I'm really glad that you're pleased with my work. I'm always looking to help others with ______ (what you provide) and wonder if you know anyone else who might be interested in _______ (what you do)."
While directly asking for names will be the most effective, you could also opt to offer business cards to your clients to share with other people:
"I'm so glad that you're pleased with my work. I'd really appreciate it if you'd pass my name along to anyone else you know who would be interested in _____________ (what you do). May I leave these extra business cards with you?"
Once you've asked, be sure to pause to see what they say. Many people will offer names, others might say, "Yes, maybe", without any further information and some might say "No", but hey, at least you tried.
Should a client offer names, ensure that you jot them down and ask the person if they're okay with you making direct contact or if they would prefer to pass your information along. Should they not offer any names, be sure to ask them if you could leave some business cards which they can pass on to others.
If your clients say no to providing you with a referral, but they receive your emails or follow you on social media, this is where a referral campaign can help. For instance, a person might be comfortable with dishing out names, but they might forward an email or share links to your social media channels with their networks.
Tips for asking for referrals.
When asking for referrals, there are a couple of best practices which could bolster your chances of success:
Asking for referrals face-to-face. Not only is it more respectful towards your clients, but asking for referrals in person also tends to be notably more successful. People are commonly more likely to do something for someone else if the person is standing right in front of them. Of course, it is acceptable to ask for referrals via emails or phone if you work under conditions where it's difficult or uncommon to set face-to-face meetings. For example, web designers commonly work with clients from remote locations around the world.
Offering an incentive for successful referrals. Monetary rewards, such as gift vouchers are excellent incentive tools for referrals which lead to sales. Other options you could provide as incentives include discounts or limited-edition merchandise.
Don't ask for referrals when presenting an invoice. You never want to make your clients feel as if you're asking too much of them.
Asking for referrals is also a perfect time to ask for testimonials. Testimonials are powerful, short, written endorsements of your business and work and can be utilised on your website as well as other marketing collateral such as brochures.
Try not to let fear or nerves get in your way when building your business. Referrals are a surefire way of getting you more clients, and the more you ask for, the more you'll receive. Just imagine acquiring two more clients only by asking satisfied customers for referrals? Never be afraid of asking, the worst a client can say is no.