“News of bad customer service reaches more than twice as many ears as praise for a good service experience.”*
Most of the time when we reference that statistic, it’s to remind ourselves to take care and pay a lot of attention to our more ornery customers. Keep them happy and keep them from flapping their gums about you. (Make ‘em happy and un-flappy?)
But today I want to use that stat as a jumping off point to talk about your already-happy customers. The ones who would gladly provide you a great reference.
The problem is, like that stat says, it’s harder to get those people to talk.
You have to put a little effort into encouraging them to refer business to you. Unlike those “grumpy flappers,” you might need to gently prod your happy customers to spread the word about you.
Here are just a few ways you can do just that.
7 Ways to Get Your Customers To Sing Your Praises
Referral Tip #1 – Thank You Note
The most obvious way to make a lasting, impressive impression on your client is to send them a thank you note. Immediately. As close as possible to the delivery date of your product or service.
You want to strike while the iron is hot, so to speak. Get in front of them while their satisfaction with your business is still fresh and strong.
Whenever possible, write them a handwritten note.
Mention something specific about their particular need so they feel special. In the note, tuck in a coupon or card that doesn’t just ask them to refer you, but actually incentivizes them to do so.
Offer 10% or 25% off their next order if they refer a new customer to you. Make the cards easy and simple to tuck into their wallet.
That way there is a constant reminder of you and their potential savings, every time they open their wallet.
Referral Tip #2 – Educate Them on Variety of Services
Let’s say Customer #1 bought Widget A from you. And he loved it! He loves the product, the customer service, your website, all of it.
Now, while he may be the only person he knows who could use a Widget A (highly specialized widget, that one) he does know many people who could use your other widgets: Widgets B through Widget Z.
But unfortunately Customer #1 has no idea you even sell other widgets? He thinks you are a Widget A provider only.
Don’t let this happen!
Make sure that you subtly educate your customers on your entire product line, even if they themselves aren’t currently in the market for the other goods and services.
A simple “Did You Know…” sidebar on your website or in your emails can do the trick.
A few simple words about your entire catalog can spark a “Oh wow, my neighbor is actually trying to find a good Widget C vendor. I’m going to tell him about this guy.”
Referral Tip #3 – Be Specific
If you want a written reference letter, you need to be forthright about it. Crossing your fingers and silently wishing won’t work. People are busy, even super happy customers. You must ask them clearly to do so. Don’t be embarrassed and don’t beat around the bush.
Be short, sincere and to the point.
Once you have confirmed that they are indeed happy with your business, shoot out a simple email that says something like “My business is built on referrals from happy clients.
If you are happy with my product and think you might know a friend who would benefit from an introduction to my business, please do pass my information on to them. I’d really appreciate it!”
Just put the notion in their head and move on.
Referral Tip #4 – Thank You Pages and Signature
Once you get the idea to gently remind them to refer you, you’d be surprised how many opportunities – touch points if you will – you have at your disposal. Offline, you should post subtle signage.
If you have a brick and mortar presence, put a sticker on your front door. Post a simple sign in your lobby. (This is especially great if they are sitting there waiting for an appointment and looking for something to do while they wait.
What better activity to suggest than asking them to email friends and colleagues to recommend you?
Digitally, there are at least three places you can gently remind them to refer people to you:
- On your website, in an ever present sidebar or splash image.
- On the thank you/confirmation page after they purchase.
- In your signature or P.S. of every email you send out. That’s right, on each every email you send to your clients, you should gently, briefly remind them to refer friends to you.
Again, you don’t have to go on and on.
In fact you definitely should not go on and on, anywhere. About anything! All you need is a quick “And remember! I am proud to have built my business on references from wonderful clients like you. If you think a friend or colleague could use my services as well, please pass my name on. Thank you in advance!”
Or something. Just happy, proud and quick.
The idea is to just plant the seed in their mind.
Referral Tip #5 – Helpful, Shareable Newsletters
I’m going to go ahead and assume that you are currently, regularly collecting email addresses and that you are sending out quality information.
(If you’re not doing this, you are missing out on one of the best, most affordable ways to market yourself. Read my article here about the power of email marketing.)
Sending these newsletters is a great way to build reference traffic.
Make sure that every customer receives your newsletter (make sure you get their opt-in permission first, in the fine print.)
Then make sure that you send them such useful, fascinating content that they just won’t be able to help themselves when they see your call to action encouraging them to “Share This With a Friend!”
Referral Tip #6 – Free, Fun Events
Following the newsletter method, think of events you can host that both your current clients (and their friends) will find valuable.
Host a monthly breakfast where your clients (and their friends) can pop by for free Danishes and coffee and watch a presentation or seminar on something of great interest to their businesses.
It need not be exactly related to what you do, but should at least be tangentially so. If you sell SEO services, have a social media expert come in and speak. If you provide paper goods to businesses, host a presentation on protecting the environment.
Creating an interesting free event month after month can really give your current clients something to talk about (to their friends.)
Referral Tip #7 – Create a Networking/Referral Group
This is an even bolder, but potentially lucrative move. Take the ‘event method’ one step further and create a Referral Group.
That’s right; invite a group of clients and local business owners to lunch for the sole purpose of getting to know each other well enough to refer people to each other.
Be forthright that networking and referring business to each other is the intention of the group. Most importantly – be willing to actually, truly refer business to these other businesses.
The very best way to get a great referral is to give one! So choose your top 5 local customers and 5 other related (but of course not directly competitive) business owners and host a lunch.
It can be something as simple as catered sandwiches in your own meeting room, or you can throw a little more money at it and rent out the party room of a local restaurant.
Be willing to foot the bill for the first one or two.
Hopefully, once the group sees the value of networking and meeting together, each business can take turns hosting the group in the months to come.
So tell me – are you getting enough referrals?
Do you overtly ask for them or do they just naturally flow in? If you just seem to get them without asking, why do you think that is? Is there a certain kind of customer seems more willing to refer you?
What works for you and what doesn’t seem to be working at all? Tell us in the comments below!
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