Everyone loves referral business! Unfortunately, not everyone takes an active interest in generating referral leads. Consider the following statistic: 91 percent of consumers are willing to give referrals, yet only 11 percent of people ask for them. It doesn’t take a math wiz to see there’s a gold mine of referral dollars being left on the table.
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Despite what you may have heard, referral business won’t take care of itself. In fact, drumming up referrals can be quite a challenge. You not only have to lead the horse to water, but you also have to make the water worth drinking—and that means being proactive and providing exceptional value.
Take an active interest in your clients’ happiness and they’ll be more likely to return the favor. With that in mind, try our 10-point proactive approach to earning (and increasing) referral business long-term.
Think about your past experiences—your greatest successes and your most dismal failures. See any patterns? Timing is everything, and finding the right time to ask for referral business can be a matter of trial, error and strategic adjustment.
Consider your best successes, determine when you made the initial referral request and base future inquiries on the same timeframe. If you’ve found that asking for referrals too early in the transaction puts relatively unfamiliar clients on the defensive, implement a more patient approach. Speaking of patience…
While asking for referrals in the early stages of the transaction may not yield the best results, that doesn’t mean you can’t drop a few hints along the way. As Paul Simon once said, “you don’t need to be coy, Roy.” After all, 85 percent of small businesses say word-of-mouth referrals are the number one way new prospects discover their businesses.
Let clients know that your business thrives on word-of-mouth and referral leads, and that means you’re willing to do everything within your power to make sure they’re satisfied with the transaction and willing to tell their friends about it. Planting this seed early will make the actual referral request that much easier later on.
It should go without saying, but everything we’re talking about hinges on a job well done. Anything less and you can kiss those referral leads goodbye! Pay close attention to the feedback you receive directly from customers or through online reviews and use that information to improve your services. By delivering the best experience possible, you’ll make your customers happy, and happy customers tell their friends!
Once the transaction is complete, many people pat themselves on the back and prepare to move on. This is a huge mistake. Consider the following:
A recent survey by AutoTrader.com found that 69 percent of consumers have experienced buyer’s remorse after purchasing a car.
The Washington Post reports that one in four homeowners experience buyer’s remorse after buying a new home.
Buyer’s remorse is very real, and it’s NOT industry specific. It doesn’t matter if you’re selling insurance, real estate or beauty products, your clients will likely experience a period of self doubt and regret just following their purchase.
Here’s a hot tip: It’s never a good idea to request referrals from a client in the throes of buyer’s remorse. You might not receive the response you were hoping for!
Instead of worrying about referrals at this stage, focus on keeping your client 100 percent satisfied and happy with the transaction. Following up with a customer shows them you care about their well-being and you’re available if they need you. This solidifies your relationship, builds customer loyalty and gently reinforces the client’s purchasing decision.
This is also a great time to request feedback and offer useful content such as how-to videos and articles that will further enhance the client’s experience with your product. By being there for your clients when they need you most, you increase your chances of receiving referral business later on.
Once you’ve delivered your client to their happy place, you can turn your attention to the business of asking for referrals. But don’t jump the gun! First, take the time to decide exactly what it is you’re looking for.
Traditional word-of-mouth and referral leads are a good place to start, especially when you consider that 92 percent of consumers trust recommendations from friends and family above all other forms of advertising.
Meanwhile, 88 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, making reviews on third-party sites such as Yelp, Facebook and Google invaluable.
Finally, 68 percent of consumers trust opinions posted online, which makes client testimonials valuable additions to your website and marketing campaigns.
Now that you’re in the sweet spot, it’s time to make your move. Stop dropping hints and cash in on the trust you’ve earned through hard work and dedication. Let them know how much you appreciate their business and how important they are to you. You’re happy to see them happy and you’d like to spread that same joy to their friends, family and business colleagues. Just remember to be direct, polite and humble.
Once your client agrees to help you out, it’s impolite to leave them hanging – and the longer you wait, the more likely they are to lose interest. Have a process in place to accommodate eager clients. Have business cards at the ready for face-to-face interactions. If you’re asking for an online testimonial or review, make the process easy. Send them interview questions or links to sites like Yelp, LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+. Anything you can do to make the referral or review process simple and convenient will improve your chances of success.
So you’ve gotten what you want and it’s time to move on, right? Wrong! You’re in this for the long haul. You never know when and where a referral opportunity will occur, so it’s important that you nurture client relationships to maintain trust, encourage customer loyalty and earn ongoing referral business.
This is where content marketing is critical to the referral process. Instead of simply promoting yourself, focus on providing content that will be valuable to your clients. For example, a client who’s just purchased a home doesn’t want to be inundated with new listings and mortgage rates.
Instead, send something of interest, such as helpful home maintenance tips or information on DIY upgrades that will enhance their home’s value. This type of content not only shows you’re interested in maintaining a relationship, but it also paints you as an industry expert and trusted professional.
Building your reputation through great content is only half the battle. You also need to remain top of mind so that clients will remember your name months or years down the road and continue to recommend your services. This is where email marketing and social media come into play. The numbers speak for themselves:
- 91 percent of consumers report checking their email at least once a day, and 70 percent say they always open emails from their favorite companies.
- 92 percent of small businesses say that social media is an effective marketing tool.
- 52 percent of online adults now use two or more social media sites.
- Social media drove 31 percent of overall traffic to websites in December of 2014.
By giving past clients multiple opportunities to engage with your brand and content in their inboxes and social feeds, you stay top of mind when referral opportunities arise.
Quality business referrals are born out of customer loyalty, which has to be earned over time. By maintaining contact with past clients and continuing to provide them with valuable content, you strengthen your relationship and build a solid, mutual sense of trust. This earns you the right to occasionally ask for a favor, and ensures your clients will be happy to oblige!