Who doesn’t love getting referrals? Comprising 65% of all new business, (according to the NY Times), they’re also 4 times more likely to buy than other leads. However, seeking and driving referrals continues to be an underutilized strategy by many businesses. In this three-part series, we’ll focus on refining your approach to asking for, getting and leveraging referrals to aid in your local marketing efforts. Check back each Tuesday for the latest insights!
Once you get accustomed to asking for referrals, you’ll find that there are steps you can take towards fostering a “referral mindset”. Being as the lifetime value of a new referral is 16% higher than other customers, it’s clearly worth a little extra effort to facilitate as many as possible. By implementing these seven tips, you can strengthen your strategy, and the increase likelihood of attracting more of these valuable customers.
1. Emails and Written Correspondence
This is the best place to start. By simply adding a line to your email signature with a link to your site or a referral form, you can be promoting a referral culture and mindset. It can be as easy as “Know someone looking for [your solution]? Have them check out our page [link]”.
On its own, this can serve to plant the seed in your customers’ heads about referring your business to friends. But, when combined with your referral strategy, this can be a gentle reminder to your customers who intended to refer you, and may have forgotten. It will surely keep your business top of mind the next time an acquaintance is describing a need they have or a product they’re in the market for.
If your business does direct mail, you can also incorporate a similar line into all correspondence. And, while you’re at it, include extra business cards and flyers so that recipients can easily share your contact info with friends and prospective customers.
2. Social Sharing
If your business has an ecommerce offering or online booking, give customers an option to share their purchase or experience during checkout. Use social sharing buttons that auto-populate preferred language. such as a tweet that says: “I’m eating healthier thanks to [company] and you can too! Check out www.company.com”. You can also create unique referral codes or links so that you can track your most effective customers, and reward them for spreading the word about your business. Be sure to include your social pages on receipts, in-store signage, your email signature and website as well so that customers know where to find your business no matter what their social preferences may be.
After you’ve started cultivating social referrals, be sure to engage with your customers that are participating. Respond to any questions they might have; retweet or share what they’ve posted about your business, and get involved in any discussions that follow among their followers and friends where appropriate. As social etiquette dictates, chime in only where you can assist or elevate the discussion — not simply to self-promote. That can seem more like barging in on a conversation where you’re not wanted.
3. Schedule Messages to Keep Referrals Top of Mind
With everything that goes into running a business, it’s easy to let one facet, like referral marketing, fall to the wayside. While developing good habits and a referral mindset help you stay focused for the longterm, scheduling messages when they’re top of mind, can prevent your referral program from deteriorating in the meantime. Schedule messages that serve to move the needle by asking for referrals at different intervals, whether once a quarter, twice a year, etc . As a reminder, Signpost does this for you, automatically, while also driving feedback, online reviews, testimonials and more.
4. Showcase Your Expertise
Don’t be afraid to share your knowledge by giving a talk, speaking on a panel or teaching a class. These are all great ways to get in front of an audience that is likely to need or know someone that is interested in your business. Whether it’s through local or town initiatives, continuing education or workshops at the Community Center, Library, Chamber of Commerce, etc., there are plenty of ways you can get your audience excited about what you do. If you have a cake shop, you could offer a free class in cake decorating for kids or adult beginners, in-store. Or, your florist shop could hold an introductory workshop on flower arrangement or gardening at your local Farmer’s Market each month.
If you’re stumped about where to hold such an event, try doing it online by hosting a webinar. You can use your site, email and social pages to ask customer to help spread the word before and drive signups, and then tape the session to make it available for customers to send to friends who might be interested, after.
5. Partner with Other Brands
Identify complementary brands that aim to solve other pain points typically experienced by your customers and partner with them to drive business to you both. If you own a gym, try to identify athletic clothing brands, equipment and accessories, or even nutritional bars and supplements that you can approach to be a marketing partner. This technique lends itself well in the medical field where general practice doctors are often asked to refer patients to specialists, but the same premise can be applied across most industries.
The specifics of the arrangement will vary on a case by case basis, but could range from simply displaying any promotional materials, flyers, or business cards at their location for customers to take, to staff referring customers, personally, or even providing an exclusive (and reciprocal) offer to the clients of one establishment to the other.
These partners do not necessarily need to be limited by industry, they could also be other local businesses serving the same community, or in the same shopping center. Join forces with these businesses to hold promotional events to raise awareness for both your businesses. Experiment with unlikely combinations to keep things interesting.
6. Network with a Referrals Mindset
You can keep focus by having a referrals mindset whenever you’re talking about your business. Whether at a networking event, or simply meeting new people and talking shop, you can set the precedent by steering the conversation towards your new acquaintance and what they do. Don’t be afraid to come right out and ask, “what does a good referral look like for you?” This can inspire them to reciprocate and allow you to identify the most valuable individuals or groups to your businesses. It could also open the door to them writing you a letter of introduction to friends who would make great customers.
7. Incorporate Referrals into your Wrap-Up
Every time you conclude business with a customer or client, you have one last chance to prompt them for a referral. Whether “wrap up” is defined as checkout, a summation and evaluation of services or hitting a goal benchmark, there is ample opportunity to reinforce the value you’ve created for your customer and channel this enthusiasm into referrals, either in person (if time permits) or through a follow up/thank you email.
If you use satisfaction or NPS surveys, most people are likely to respond positively, especially if it quickly follows their conclusion of business while the delight of the experience is still fresh. This builds on their already-positive experience and sets the stage for your ask. You can wait until the very end and either use a concluding line to express thanks for their business, and ask them to please share your site/info with anyone they know who might be looking for a similar service/product, or provide them with a form submission to enter in the contact info for any friends they think would benefit from your business.
Check out Part Three: How NOT To Ask For Referrals, next!