– John Rampton- VIP Contributor – Entrepreneur and Connector (Edited to fit our profession)
Everyone agrees: referrals are the most effective, and cost-effective, way to generate new business, yet asking for referrals can feel awkward. You really could use some more clients but you don’t want to come across as desperate or pushy.
Over the past year, I’ve been focusing my business on getting referrals. We’ve found that when a person is referred over to our business, they are 3x more likely to use us than someone who wasn’t referred.
Here are 25 ways that we’ve found to be effective to ask for referrals that don’t make our business look like we’re desperate for new customers:
1. Directly ask.
Want to know the best way to ask for a referral? Be direct and just ask your clients or customers through an email, online, in-person or at the bottom of your invoices. It’s not pushy or awkward if you’ve earned it by going above and beyond. Here are some of the top tips to help you get started.
2. Focus on your “best best” clients.
Instead of targeting all of your clients or customers, focus on the ones that you already have a relationship with, those that offer complementary products and services, like furniture or appliances.
They’ll be more likely to refer your services to others since they trust you, can vouch for your work, and have a chance to work with you side-by-side.
3. Provide value.
Did you just read an article that a client would find entertaining? Did you just publish a case study useful to your clients? Did you just release a new service that could complement your solutions for clients’ needs? (Like Stanford Mortgage’s “Seller Guarantee”)
If so, send them a link or an attachment in an email. It’s a simple and effective way to show them that you’ve kept them in mind.
4. Recognize and thank your referral sources.
Whether it is a phone call, email, handwritten note or holiday card, encourages clients to refer others by showing you appreciate the chance to earn and keep their business. When they send a new client your way, thank them with a handwritten letter whenever possible.
5. Start asking before the escrow is closed.
There’s a misconception that you have to wait until a project is over for you to start asking for referrals. That couldn’t be further from the truth. If you and your client are excited, then share that infection with others.
If they sent you some feedback halfway through, thank them for the input and remind them that if there is anyone else like them that could use your services to send them your way.
6. Make it personal.
Instead of sending a broad and generic referral request to all of your contacts, send direct emails or phone calls that have a personalized message.
7. Get your contact information on their phones.
If you clients don’t have your contact information, don’t expect any new referrals from them you. Make sure that your email address and phone number are everywhere. Begin with your email signature and social channels, then make sure that you get that information on their phones. For instance, if you’re at a conference, ask for their number and send them a text so that you can each program each other’s numbers into your phones.
If you’re in a business like ours you also want to make sure that every member of the household has your contact information stored on their phones so that they can easily contact you – and refer you to their contacts.
8. Don’t always be direct.
Some clients are uncomfortable or not allowed by their employers to refer. In that case, you need to think outside of the box. Can they leave a review or testimonial on your website or review site? Those are ways that they’re endorsing and recommending you without giving a direct referral.
9. Offer incentives.
Even though your work has to speak for itself, everyone enjoys a gift. Incentives like a gift card, a small gift or charitable donation in their name are powerful for building a bond.
10. Be specific.
When asking for a referral, don’t simply ask, “Do you know anyone that could use a great Realtor?” That’s too broad. However, if you asked clients who have hired you as their Realtor, if they know a couple of people that could use a Realtor to help them, you have a better chance to spark their memory.
11. Create referral marketing materials.
This could be anything from a business card, pamphlet, email templates or referral cards that include your logo and contact that “Referred by _________”. This makes it easier for clients to refer you since they only have to hand out or forward these marketing materials.
12. Recommend-a-friend functionality on your website.
You could create a page, link form, or add a box to your website that allows visitors to add the email of their contacts or send them a personalized referral link. ReferralCandy, InviteBox, and SaaSquatch are a couple of tools to get you started with this approach.
13. Referral fees and commission.
One of the more common referral techniques is to pay others for referring your business. For example, you could leave referral cards at a local cafe or salon and offer the owner and their employees a buck or two for every card they hand out.
14. Give them a little something extra.
As a rule, Realtors should not work for free but there are a couple of exceptions. If you have a couple of minutes to help them out with a question or need, it could be beneficial in the long-term.
15. Make it easy for them to refer.
Respect your client’s time by make it as easy as possible for them to refer you. Write them an email script for referrals where they just need to add their name, a mobile-friendly form where they can share links, encouraging them tag friends on social channels, or a card where they can add the names and contact information of their friends or family and mail it back to you.
16. Use your email signature.
Your email signature is prime real estate to ask for referrals where you can write “Forward My Contact Information” as a call to action to remind the recipient to recommend you.
17. Give a referral.
Do you know anyone that could use the products or services that you client provides? If so, refer them to your client. Even if someone hasn’t you specifically, you could still recommend your client on Facebook or Twitter.
18. Follow-up and stay-in-touch.
Schedule reminders on your calendar to email your clients every three, six or 12 months to ask how they’re doing and how you can assist them in new ways.
19. Be active on LinkedIn.
LinkedIn is an invaluable tool for referrals and getting introduced to potential clients. For instance, LinkedIn gives you the ability to reach out to your connection’s connections. Before reaching out to prospective clients, make sure that your LinkedIn profile is updated and optimized. Be an active member by creating and sharing relevant content.
20. Ask clients to like your Facebook page.
Keep in mind that half of all Facebook users have more than 200 friends. That’s a lot of potential clients at your fingertips!
Encourage your clients to like your Facebook page by developing share-worthy content, such as infographics.
21. Join a referral networking group.
Business networking groups are where local business owners gather once a week or so to practice their elevator pitch, socialize, learn a new skill, and give each other referrals. It can be time-consuming, but it’s one of the best ways to get new referrals without really having to ask. Use Meetup to find a group near you.
22. Make clients your first priority.
Take great care of them and they will take care of you.
23. Build symbiotic relationships.
Referrals are not limited to past or current clients. For example, you could have partnered with another company in the past, you can refer them when you have a client they could help.
After building these symbiotic relationships, it’s not uncommon for send each other referrals all the time.
24. Engage in their work.
You can show your clients that you sincerely care about them by commenting on their Facebook status or blog, championing one of their causes or new products, mentioning problems that you notice (like their website not loading quickly enough), or backing their business or cause.
25. Give them a surprise.
Who doesn’t like a surprise?
When their birthday comes around, send them a birthday card or small present. It’s a powerful way to thank them and build loyalty.