Using Referrals to Generate Clients

As a business owner, how often have you heard this statement: “This guy told me that you are a great company, so I’d like to try you out.”

If you have excellent products or services, people are bound to talk about their experience with your company. It is true that people are more likely to discuss negative experiences than positive ones, but if one of your customers is asked for a referral, and you’ve treated them well, then the name of your business is very likely to come up.

There are scores of different ways to market your business – advertisements, cold calling, sales letters and direct mailings are just a few of your options. Unfortunately, referrals are one of the most powerful methods of marketing, and this is often the most overlooked. Business owners assume that their clients will spread the word, but unless they are given an incentive to do so, it will happen much less frequently than you would have hoped.

If you would like to have more business than what you currently are doing, or if you are planning an expansion, here are some great ways to gain referrals from your customers.

1. Include a referral link on your website.

Many businesses skip this simple step, but it may be more lucrative than you would have thought. Often, customers don’t give referrals simply because they haven’t thought of it. Humans are, as a rule, extremely self-absorbed, and promoting your business isn’t first on your customers’ minds. By including a referral page on your website, into which a client can enter the contact information for people who might be interested in your services or products, you serve two purposes:

a. The page itself will plant the seed of referrals into the minds of your clients, and
b. You’ve made it very easy for them.

Your customers don’t want to spend half a day calling their friends and colleagues to inform them of this great company they’ve tried. People want to do the easiest thing possible, and if it poses too much of an inconvenience, they aren’t going to bother.

2. Give discounts.

People are always looking for ways to save money, and if you make referrals an opportunity for discounts on your products or services, many of your customers will jump at the chance. Let your existing clients know – by e-mail, snail mail or word of mouth – that you offer a 10% discount to anyone who provides you with three referrals. The people they refer don’t have to buy anything; their contact information is enough.

Extend this offer to anyone who contacts you about your services or products and mentions that they have been referred. Keep a log of each of your customers and the number of referrals they have given, thereby allowing you to track the success of your marketing scheme.

3. Include referral cards in your brochures.

Referrals don’t have to come from existing clients; sometimes they come from people who notice your company, and who know someone else who could use your products or services. Maybe your business can’t benefit them in any way, but they’ll be happy to pass along the information.

When you send out brochures to bussinesses or individuals, include 6-8 referral cards in the center. Make them easy to tear out, and include your business name, your services, and your contact information on each card so that potential clients can evaluate their need for your company.

4. Give away freebies.

I have seen this tactic used over and over, and it works great every time. Spend the money to have pens, magnets, rulers, buttons, or any other item manufactured with your name on them. Include your hours of operation and your contact information. Each time someone uses your company, give them one of these free items. You’ll be amazed at how quickly a ball point pen can travel! This puts your name in the hands of people all over your city, and can generate referrals where you’d least expect them.

5. Referrals from referrals.

Whatever you do, never let the chain stop! If someone contacts you and says that they were referred, find out if they know anyone else who would like to see your brochure or catalog. Often, these referral chains can extend down two, eight, even one hundred people, depending on how determined you are to obtain them. Often, when people are referred to an excellent business, they want to continue to “spread the wealth.” Take advantage of that compulsion and act on it as soon as possible.

6. Ask for them!

You’ll never know until you ask, and you never know who your customers are friends or colleagues with. When you have a customer on the phone, or when you are communicating electronically, let them know that you appreciate referrals. Be open and aggressive with referral marketing techniques, and you might be pleasantly surprised at the results.

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