Acquiring customers is necessary in order to grow your business, but can be costly and time-consuming. Business owners have many competing demands and carving out time to focus on customer acquisition is often a low priority. One of the easiest, and most effective, ways to land new clients is through word-of-mouth. But many people are uncomfortable asking for referrals, or simply don’t know how to go about it. Relax; it’s easier than you think!
Why is referral marketing so important? Because experts agree it’s the most effective and least expensive way to generate new business. The power of a referral cannot be denied; customers are four times more likely to make a purchase when referred by a friend, and a Nielsen survey found that referrals are considered more trustworthy than all other forms of advertising and editorial content. 85 percent of Millennials and 83 percent of both Gen X and Gen Z consumers trust referrals. Furthermore, word-of-mouth is responsible for anywhere from 20 to 50 percent of all purchasing decisions. Referred customers have a 16 percent higher lifetime value than non-referred customers.
If these statistics are enough to convince you of the power of referrals, it’s time to put a plan into action and start collecting referrals! Here’s how to do so.
1. Provide value
This is an obvious but often-overlooked step in the referral process. You won’t gain fans without providing exceptional service and value, so focus on building a solid brand reputation first. Share information with your clients they are likely to find useful and and keep them abreast of new products or services they are likely to find beneficial.
2. Determine who your loyal customers are
Happy customers are more likely to become brand advocates willing to share their positive experiences with others. Look for clients who consistently praise you, people you have worked with directly for some time, and repeat customers. If you’re unsure who to ask, scour online review sites or send out brief questionnaires or customer satisfaction surveys to learn who your biggest supporters are.
3. Ask them directly
Rather than waiting for referrals to fall into your lap (they won’t), be direct and ask for them! Don’t worry about being perceived as too pushy; your loyal customers have already demonstrated they like your product or service and trust your company. If you aren’t comfortable asking in person, it’s perfectly acceptable to contact them via email, phone call, or social media post. Some companies even print referral requests at the bottom of their invoices. Be sure to personalize your message regardless of the format.
4. Be specific
Obtaining a referral should be an effortless process for the person you are reaching out to. Simplify matters by letting them know exactly what you’re looking for and who you are trying to reach. Provide as much information as possible; if you’re a copywriter, for example, rather than ask an open-ended question such as “do you know anybody who needs a writer?”, get specific. “Do you know anybody who could use help updating website content?” will generate a better response.
5. Offer an incentive
Your customers love your product or service—that’s great! But sometimes, they still need a little nudge. Provide an incentive such as a gift card, discount on a future purchase, or donation to a charity of their choice. Your gift needn’t be expensive; even a handwritten thank-you note is a great way to show your appreciation.
6. Pay it forward
Develop a referral system by sharing your client’s work within your network, promoting them on your website and social media platforms, and providing referrals for them, as well. It’s easier to ask for referrals when you’re already providing your clients with the same!
One tip to keep in mind: don’t accept any and every referral. You want people who are in the market for your product or service rather than blanket recommendations from everybody. A random list of names is useless if those people aren’t likely to become customers themselves. Focus on the above strategies and you should be able to generate quality referrals who will help your business grow.