Published on by Joel Milne
If your new to business you might really resent the catch-22 that this seems to bring up which is that the best way to get clients is to have clients. But it really is true. Over the long-term, in most service-based businesses, especially in a B2B business, referrals tend to surpass all other methods. In fact it is difficult to avoid this happening, even if you put most of your effort in other areas, all those other efforts will simply lead to more referrals. Which is great, so why fight it? Why not really make a strategy around referrals?
Building a referral-based business is not as difficult as you might think. After all, people love to share good results with others. And people love to follow recommendations from other people they trust and respect. And when your any form of website building or internet marketing business, you have the advantage of being able to use online tools to facilitate referrals more easily.
Generating referrals does not have to be a passive marketing method. Sure it's great when a referral comes out of the blue. For instance I once had someone I had only spoken to twice and who never even purchased from us, give us a referral to a fortune 500 firm where he happened to have a contact. How is that for making someone's day! But you don't have to standby and wait, here are my top tips for what you can do to increase your referral rate:
- Always ask for referrals. Rarely in life or business do you get what you don't ask for. You have to ask. It is that simple. Find ways and means to ask that question, and ask it over and over again. Remember the ABC of sales (Always Be Closing)? Well consider this the ABA of referrals, Always Be Asking. If you ask often enough, and in enough different ways, you will get results. Remember all your customers know at least a few other potential customers, so if your not getting referrals it is usually due to a lack of asking.
- Make your service worthy of referring. Consider your delivery to existing clients marketing on two-levels. First you are positioning yourself to retain the current client you are serving, and secondly you are earning access to any future referrals and other goodwill they might offer after receiving good results.
- Offer referral incentives. Consider offering an affiliate, reseller or other form of paid referral program. What this does is increase the motivation of the person involved in the program. Now instead of a casual mention of your service, you might get free advertising, prominent mention in an article/post/speech and so on. Plus this type of program tends to appeal to a different type of referrer, allowing you to expand your reach.
- Make referrals easy. Have clear descriptions of your service available online with easy to share links to specific information. Offer PDF downloads that can be shared, or presentations, videos, podcasts. Make sure potential referrers know where and what your sales information is so that they can quickly and easily access and share it. Don't ever let a client say "I would have told James about your services, but I wasn't sure which page of your website cover XYZ service?".
- Prioritize care of referrals. When a new referral comes in you must respond swiftly and professionally. If you don't you are not only missing out on the opportunity but word will get back to the referrer as well. Be cautious also about turning away referrals. Say for instance you are too busy to take on a new project, you might have to turn a referral away. However if you do that, make handle it carefully. Bottom-line here is that if you mess up a referral, chances are you will never get another one from that particular client again.