Referrals are a large part of most successful businesses – for solo, small and large businesses alike. Referrals are especially invaluable because they can be a passive, indirect and inexpensive way to promote your business.
Why do referrals work?
Word of mouth marketing is pretty powerful. In fact, 78% of respondents in a global survey conducted by Nielsen Media Research in 2007, trust recommendations from existing users of products and services more than any other form of advertising. It makes sense, doesn’t it? We are more likely to trust our friends, colleagues and people who have personally experienced something, particularly when we are making some kind of investment or purchase.
While many referrals happen on their own (and this is part of the reason they can be so effective), there are actions you can take to help the process along. Here are some ways to get your clients talking about you in order to generate more business.
Make your clients look good.
There may be nothing more action-provoking from a client’s perspective than exemplary service and high-quality work. Plus, if a client is regularly asked, “Who designed your web site?” or complimented on other work you have done, they will consistently respond by pointing people in your direction.
Take time to form meaningful relationships.
Aside from the importance of doing great work and making your clients happy, people are typically more willing to refer those they trust and respect. And the easiest way to reach that level with a client is by taking the time to form real and meaningful relationships. Be honest, respectful and genuine, and don’t be afraid to share a little of your personal side.
Give an incentive for referring you.
While most referrals will happen naturally without the need for an incentive, it can certainly help when you remind a client that you are ready and willing to be recommended to others. Your incentives can be monetary ($XX for each qualified referral), service-based (free service hours), or tiered discounts (percentages off).
Make it easy to sing your praises.
You don’t want your clients to be in a situation where they are trying to refer you to a colleague, but they can’t remember your exact URL or e-mail address. You can avoid this by regularly sending them extra business cards, printed materials and e-mail messages that can be passed along to colleagues. Stay visible for more effective and frequent referrals.
The bottom line is that not only will happy clients be more willing to refer you to others, but they also have the ability to make the best kind of introductions – to people like themselves, the people you want to work with.
How much of your current business comes from referrals? What do you do to encourage your clients to refer you?
Referrals: Getting Clients to WANT to Plug You
Image credit: Valerio Lo Bello
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