Any of you who have had a look around my site may have noticed that I am fortunate enough to have a lot of work on at the moment. I currently work with a number of awesome clients who are keeping me busy, and almost all of these projects have originated from recommendations from previous satisfied customers. It is a process that has taken a lot of time to achieve and it certainly hasn’t always been this way, so I thought I’d share some tips on how to get and sustain a viable referral-based business…
Provide great customer service… always
The best way to keep your customers is to provide them with exceptional customer service. When they interact with your business for the first time make a point of making them feel special, and show that you appreciate them. You only get one chance to make a first impression – use it well. Do you have a plan or system in your business for providing awesome customer service every single time a customer interacts with you? It could be the most important system you ever create in your business. If it works and they keep coming back, then keep repeating the process for truly fantastic service. Good reputations spread, but not as quick as bad reputations. Strong referrals come from good reputations.
I do have standard (“canned”) responses to help speed up emails but I always personalize them and address any specific questions the potential client has asked.
Give customers a reason to keep coming back
How often do your customers have a reason to come back and use you again? Is it as long as once or twice a year? Or once or twice a week or even a day? The more they have the chance to use you the quicker your reputation will grow. If your sales are only once or twice a year then keeping in touch with customers via Birthday cards, Christmas cards, regular blogs or newsletters subscriptions keeps you in the forefront of their mind. If they can use your products or services more regularly then give them an incentive to come back through a voucher off their next purchase or a free gift as a loyal customer. Whatever you think will build that all important reputation.
After a while of your customers receiving great service from you the best possible thing you can do is to ask them to describe how they’ve been treated whilst dealing with your company. Customers love to tell other customers about the great decision they made using your company, a testimonial gives them the chance to say that in writing. It is an awesome reputation builder and will give new potential customers the confidence to use you as well.
I love my testimonials page, it’s my favorite page on my website. You should read it, it makes me proud!
Once you have created a great reputation for providing customers with awesome service and they are regulars in your business the final part of gaining referrals is to ASK for them. Many business owners can find this a tough thing to do but it is an opportunity for your customers to validate that they made a great choice in choosing your business by recommending you to other people. You can wait and wait expecting the referrals to come without asking and it may happen but it will be much quicker if you start by asking them.
Offer an incentive
How about giving them a reason to refer you to their friends by offering them an incentive to do so? It becomes a win:win:win scenario, you win as you get more business, they win as they get a gift for recommending and the new client wins because they get to experience what a great business you have and they can receive awesome customer service too.
Keep it up
Once you establish a referral-based cycle like the one described above, the way to keep it is to continue to do what you say you will do, really, really well. Remember that reputations can be trashed much quicker than they can be built, so keep sharp, stay focused and asking for referrals will lead to the holy grail of a referral based business and remove the need for expensive, untried marketing.
How do you generate leads for your business?