The main source of new orders for many small businesses is referrals. The reason is clear. When people are happy with a service or product, they tell others about it and new orders result. Referrals are a strong form of advertising because they carry an independent assessment from a user that your product or service is worth buying.
As a result, referrals should occupy a prime place in your business plan. So many people share their thoughts online these days that we are neglecting a prime source of sales if we are not able to reach out to satisfied customers by asking for a referral.
But how to ask for a referral can be a challenge. How do we do so without embarrassing customers? Here’s how. Check out these examples of asking for referrals that can serve your business well.
Looking for solutions
A common form of referral occurs when a person asks friends or family members whether they have solutions for a problem or suggestions for a service they would like to use. Their friends and family respond by recommending certain products or services. Today many of these discussions occur in online chat rooms rather than directly person to person, which gives them a much wider reach.
You can suggest to your satisfied customers that they respond to these questions by mentioning your business where it is relevant. Drop the hint through an email or even a telephone call if you feel confident about asking customers for referrals in that way. Customers who are happy with your service will usually be prepared to provide a direct response; sometimes all it takes is to encourage them to do so.
Spreading the word
Another type of referral is a testimonial. Someone reviews your product or service, explaining why they like it so much. They are, in effect, referring you to other people who could be interested in your business. Potential clients can see the testimonials on the site on which the review appears, such as Yelp or Amazon, and they will be favorably disposed to buy the product or service.
We need not be afraid to ask for such testimonials. When someone lets you know they are happy with your product or service, you might tell them that others would like to know about it and suggest that they write a favorable review about your business.
Another way to encourage referrals is to provide an incentive for customers to refer your service or product to others. Let them know that if they refer two or three people to your service or product you will send them a coupon or a discount as a reward. Of course, make sure you track the referrals correctly and award them in a reasonable time to avoid disappointing your clients.
You can also make these referrals work harder for you. You can place extracts from these favorable reviews on your website or in your email messages. In that way the reviews will be seen by a wider audience than those who visit the site on which they originally appeared. Of course, extracts from two or three favorable reviews would work better than just one.
Add share buttons to your website so that people are able to refer others to your business simply by tapping or clicking on a link. Say something like, “Did you enjoy this service? Share your experience with others.” Invite them to enter the email address of friends or colleagues.
Should you have a blog on your website, you might want to have visitors to your website punch a “share” button to send the blog to others. That way, you increase your exposure and so are asking for referrals.
With so many people “liking” items on Facebook these days, it does not take much effort to turn your facebook fans into your customers. Soon all their friends will know about your product or service.
Expand reach of webinars and workshops
When you hold a webinar or online workshop ask those who register to forward the information to colleagues, friends or business associates who would also benefit from the information provided in the event.
When the event is over, send them an email and ask them to rate the workshop or webinar. If they give you a good rating, you will be able to publish that on your website as a testimonial.
Another way to encourage referrals is to ask at the end of your emails whether your clients know of anyone else who needs assistance with the problem that you solve. Provide them with a link to your website that they can use as a referral.
For example, at the end of an email newsletter, send a message that is similar to the following, “Thank you for subscribing! Do you know someone who would also benefit from this information? Please forward this link so they can sign up too.” Then, you can offer an incentive for referrals as a thank you.
Link with others
Consider including businesses that are complementary to yours to extend your reach. Customers of another business that is close to yours might like to know what you can offer their clients. Together you can reach more people than individually.
Take notice of complaints
Listen to what people say about your business. Even when your clients have complaints, check to see how you could have changed their experience into a pleasant one. Make those changes to avoid future complaints. Continue to do that until you start to receive those favorable referrals.
Check whether there are any places on your websites, in your emails or other communications where you are not asking for referrals from satisfied customers. When you find them, make sure you include a way to encourage referrals in a pleasant way.
Of course, the best way to obtain referrals is to earn them in the first place. When your business does something extraordinary the chances are that your clients will tell others about their experience. When they tell their friends and business associates online what you have done for them, your business is bound to benefit.
When that happens, extend those referrals into other avenues, and make sure you are asking customers for referrals in the ways we have outlined.
Now you know that asking for a referral does not have to be intimidating, there’s every reason to start doing so now.
If you liked this post, check out our Small Business Guide to Referrals.
Delan Cooper is a writer with years of experience in marketing communication. He enjoys meeting new people and reading more books to get inspired for his own book. Connect with him on on Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus.