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9 The 5 Fastest Ways to Get More Referrals for Your Small Business

Thursday is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is from Andy Sernovitz – Enjoy!

Thank you

photo credit: woodleywonderworks via photopin cc

Most small businesses will tell you their new customers come through word of mouth, but very few can tell you how those referrals happen or where they come from.

But, it’s not magic and it’s not an accident. Great word of mouth is the result of a planned, well-executed strategy focused on earning raving fans and helping them talk about you.

The good news: It’s easy (and a whole lot of fun) to get started. Here’s how to do it:

1. Just ask

Wait, hold on. Before we go any further, have you done the most obvious, most straightforward, and most effective word of mouth strategy of all? Have you asked your happy customers to tell their friends about you?

Remind them on their way out the door. Add a note to your receipts. Send follow-up emails that include a request for a review. Include simple sharing links on your checkout confirmation pages.

Really, just ask. It’s that simple. Happy customers would be glad to talk about you.

2. Focus on the first-timers

As much as a longtime customer may love you, they’re not as likely to talk as the new one that just walked out the door.

Think about it this way: You may go to a local spot two or three times a week for lunch, but you talk a whole lot more about that exciting new place you tried for dinner last week.

When we’re used to how great something is, what else is there to say?

So, go out of your way to blow the minds of the newbies: Treat them like VIPs, celebrate their arrival, let them taste everything on the menu, give them a tour, and make sure they leave with something that helps them tell friends about the incredible experience they just had.

You only get one chance to meet each new customer. Make sure it’s amazing.

3. …and do something fantastic for the old-timers

While the new folks might be easier to get talking, your loyal customers still represent a huge and worthy word of mouth opportunity.

Give them something great to share — things like a special discount code, beta access to new products, badges and status, a reunion, or a spot on a special advisory board.

Sure, it may take a little more to get this group talking — but their experience and loyalty to you makes their referrals more credible and effective.

4. Always, always ask for feedback

Not asking for feedback is sort of like cupping your hands over your ears — customers are still complaining, but instead of doing it directly to you, they do it publicly on review sites, blogs, and social networks.

It’s not only a great way to find opportunities for improvement, it’s also a great excuse to remind happy customers to leave a review.

Start your feedback requests with a sincere focus on getting the customer’s opinion. Don’t waste this opportunity to hear about where you could do better. Ask them to rate your stuff, to share ideas for what would make things better, and to give open feedback.

Then, at the end of everything — here’s where you can add a coupon for a friend, a link to relevant review sites, and a simple checkbox saying, “Yes, I give [company name] permission to use my feedback in their marketing materials.”

For inspiration, check out how the folks at use their feedback forms to earn referrals.

5. Learn to be great at saying “thank you”

Saying thank you to your talkers isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s also a fantastic way to generate more referrals.

But, how do you find the talkers who deserve thanking? Easy, ask every customer how they heard about you. Leave room to share the referrer’s contact information and use it to send these talkers something nice.

Some businesses go so far as to send small perks (this dentist surprises his talkers with $20 Starbucks gift cards), but a friendly thank you note can work just as well.

The key here: Don’t try to buy referrals (it’s icky and often backfires), focus on thanking your existing talkers as a way to encourage even more word of mouth.

What about you? How are you earning referrals for your business? 

About Andy

Andy SernovitzAndy Sernovitz teaches word of mouth marketing. He is the New York Times bestselling author of Word of Mouth Marketing: How Smart Companies Get People Talking and CEO of and

18 How To Build a Business People Want To Refer

Thursday is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is from Don Campbell – Enjoy!

What if – instead of relying on expensive paid ad campaigns and direct sales, your business thrived on referrals from happy customers?

That’s the promise of a book I read a few months ago that profoundly changed my business – The Referral Engine.

Customer service has always been important for my company Expand2Web. But reading this book made me realize something very important. Although we were getting referrals from our customers naturally, we weren’t really leveraging our heavy – and expensive – investment in customer service.

We weren’t setting expectations about referrals early in the sales process, we weren’t making it easy for people to refer us to others, and we weren’t ASKING for referrals, even though most of our customers are happy to give them!

The Referral Engine gave us a structure to leverage that investment in customer service and provide more value to our customers at the same time.

Following one of the exercises in the book, we mapped out every customer interaction to see how we could offer a truly exceptional experience, and build it in a way that customer referrals would flow naturally.

For our business, here’s what it looks like:

Customer Interaction Touchpoints

Customer Interaction Touchpoints for Expand2Web

As you can see from the map above, there are many ways we interact with our customers. Even more than we realized at first.

When you think about it, you start interacting with potential customer the first time they experience your brand, or land on your website. These interactions continue into pre-sales questions, the purchase process, support, and even beyond.

Our Referral Action Plan for Expand2Web:

Based on our map, here are a few of the things we did to improve our customer experience and encourage referrals:

1) We started setting expectations with potential customers early.

Before a customer even buys our product, we started setting expectations that we would ask them for a referral (when we deliver on our promise).

On the sales pages and other pages about our products, we explain that our mission is to make them so happy and successful they will want to tell their friends and co-workers about us.

This has the dual purpose of setting expectations that we are committed to their success and happiness, and that we will ask them for a referral once we’ve delivered on that promise.

2) We created a “Customer Welcome Kit” that welcomes every new customer, and helps them succeed.

Another excellent suggestion from the book was to create a customer welcome kit. We followed this advice and created a customer download area so that each customer could log in and get 24/7 access to the latest version of our software, our support, and step-by-step training guides.

3) We added some unexpected bonuses for our customers in the customer welcome area.

For example, we found that the biggest issue for many of our small business customers was learning how to do things in WordPress. So we licensed a series of 20 short WordPress tutorial videos and included them free to our customers.

We are also experimenting with other “surprises” for our customers, like written thank you notes and gifts, and other fun ways to let them know we care about them and their success.

4) We now ASK for referrals at key points in the customer relationship, and make it safe and easy for customers to refer us to their friends and family.

We’re learning the crucial points to ask for referrals, and how to do that in a way that our customers feel safe and want to refer us.

For example, in the book, John points out that there are key times in your customer interactions that are best for asking for referrals. Strangely, right after a support request is one of them. That wasn’t obvious to me at first. Now we’re working on ways to politely ask for referrals from our customers in a risk free way, and to make it easy for them.

Benefits For Us *And* Our Customers

This is a process that we are continually refining and improving. But already it has helped our business tremendously in four ways:

  1. An improved customer experience. Our new customer checkout experience and welcome kit has led to more happy customers, and lots of nice comments from them.
  2. A better product. By reaching out to customers in this way, we get better feedback that goes right back into making our product better. We’ve had several new releases based on insights and feedback from customers, and have another one coming out shortly that has some fantastic new capabilities driven by customer feedback.
  3. Better relationships. Not being a natural salesperson, it was hard for me to ASK customers for a referral. But asking for their help has led to deeper relationships with many customers that I never would have had before. It turns out many people welcome the discussion, and are very willing to help. They feel more vested in what we do and want us to succeed!
  4. Increased referrals. All of this has already increased sales for us in a significant way. I can see how continuing to improve and refine this process will lead to even more sales and help our customers get more value from our products and training.

Our mission now is to continue improving this process by creating an ever more compelling customer experience, from pre-sales through support, and making it easier for our customers to refer us to their family and friends.

Whenever we have to make a decision on where to spend our marketing dollars, this takes precedence. Referrals are now the primary marketing vehicle for us, and best way to grow our business.

What about you – do you have a system for asking your customers for referrals? If so, what has worked for you? If not, what are you waiting for?

Don CampbellDon Campbell lives with his family in San Jose California and is President of Expand2Web. His company provides tools and training to help businesses succeed online.

14 Design and Operate a Referral System

This is part one of a two part post – today is Design the System – next is Operate the System.

For most, referrals happen accidentally as a result of doing good work or being in the right place at the right time. What if those valuable referrals could happen intentionally, as a result of doing work and putting yourself in the right place, with the right source, always at the right time.

Marketing is the most important system in any business and referral generation is simply one component of the lead generation cog, and as such, needs its own documented system as well.

I could write an entire book on this subject, oh wait, I am writing an entire book on this subject, and for my money, here are the referral generation system parts that must go into your design.

  • Become more referable – before you pass go you must analyze every way that your business interacts with customers and prospects – marketing related or not – and inject positive, brand supporting elements into the each interaction – many referrals are lost because shipping or finance roughed up the relationship.
  • Target your sources – 1) look at your customers under a microscope – what’s the profile of a customer that’s already referring business? Find that out and focus most of your attention on that kind of customer by making it easier for them to refer. 2) who else has your ideal customer as a target? Strategic partners should be a major focus of attention. This is the place where you need to look long and hard at your ability to make referrals to others – give and you shall receive!* In a recent survey I conducted on referrals respondents felt that less than 30% of their referrals came from strategic partners – I think that should be more like 60%
  • Educate your sources – ever get a bad referral? It was probably your fault. We can’t or shouldn’t ask for referrals until we tell our referral sources in great detail – how they would spot our ideal customers, the kinds of things our ideal customer might say to signal them as a lead, and the exact way/words to use when telling a prospect about us.
  • Motivate your sources – money for referrals is usually a crummy motivation, but a creative, on message kind of offer that turns referring business to you into a game is a great way to motivate your referral sources and shine a light on the subject of referrals for all. Of course, saying thank you never hurts either.
  • Follow-up with all – a referred lead is different, you’ve got to be prepared to follow-up in a different manner – in all likelihood the sales cycle will be different as well, plan on it. Follow-up also includes your referral sources. Build feedback loops so that your referral sources get to know how much good that are doing by referring your business. Create key indicators of referral success and make them part of your marketing measurement dashboard.

Each of these parts needs to be thought out, documented and baked into your day to day marketing efforts. Plan to change, expand and moderate your system parts as you take them out into the real world.

Now that you have a system, you’re almost half way there – a system design is an academic exercise until you put the process into action – tomorrow I’ll delve into operation your referral generation system.