Archive for September 13th, 2010

10 Tips for Harnessing the Power of Referrals

One of the ways you will get new clients in your business is through simple word-of-mouth. What’s wonderful about referral-based business is that when you are referred by a happy client or business associate, they are giving you an automatic seal of approval.

People trust the recommendations of their friends and business associates. You can’t buy better advertising than that!

Here’s how you can help nurture your referral-based business along…

1. Create a hardcopy referral kit. If you do an in-person business of some kind, create a referral kit that you can provide to clients and associates. Collateral you might include are:

  • Ideal referral profile
  • Business cards
  • Brochures
  • CDs
  • Mailers
  • Sign-up forms (to capture email addresses)
  • Case studies
  • White papers
  • Promo items

2. Create an online referral kit. It’s a virtual world anymore so make things even easier by creating an online referral kit (similar to an online media room). Items you might include are:

  • Ideal referral profile PDF
  • Case study or two PDF
  • Brochure PDF
  • White papers in PDF
  • Ad graphic that referrers can place on their site
  • Links to specific pages you want prospects directed to
  • Links to your social media profiles

3. Solicit feedback from clients on a regular basis. Always ask clients for their feedback at the end of every project. Don’t be afraid to hear anything negative. You can’t grow unless you know exactly where your blindspots are. If you work with retained clients, get their feedback every six months to see how you are doing.

4. Include testimonials on your site. Besides clients actively referring to you, you can also use their testimonials to refer business to yourself. Ask happy clients for testimonials. If they’ve provided a glowing review on a feedback form, ask if you can use it in your marketing.

5. Provide full client profiles. Testimonials have more meaning when the visitor sees they are from real people. Provide the full name and business of the client with a link to their website. Better yet, include a photo.

6. When you make it clear, you make it easy. You notice I mention “ideal referral profile” up in #1 and 2. Here’s what that means: You can’t work for anyone and everyone, and you can’t be in business to do anything and everything. The more narrow and specific you are about who your target market is and how you help them, the easier you make it for others to refer to you. And they’ll do so more often.

7. Buddy up. Become referral partners with several other colleagues, vendors and professionals. That way, when you each have clients you can’t work with or work you can’t or don’t do in your business, you can refer to those people and vice versa.

8. Join forces. Sort of like co-branded advertising and marketing, you get referrals at the same time someone is referring you.

9. Say thank you. It really is important! People like to be acknowledged for their help and they like to keep helping those who remember their manners. Make it job #1 to let the person who referred that recent new client know how much you appreciate them.

10.  A quick word about paid referral programs: don’t. When it comes to professional services, my advice is don’t pay for referrals. Not with money, not with free time, not with free services. You don’t need to and it really casts the referral in a less than authentic light and makes it suspect. You don’t want prospective clients to think the only reason someone is referring you to them is because they’re getting paid in some way. On top of that, you just create more administration in your business and work and accounting you have to keep track of. It’s an unnecessary headache you don’t need.

People like to help. They like to help their friends, clients and colleagues. They love it when they can be a resource and font of information. Help them be a resource to others by providing them with fabulous service and work and giving them the tools to spread the word about you—and they will!

RESOURCE: What are clients really thinking about your work and service? How well are you meeting their needs and expectations? The Client Feedback Form gives you the tool to really find out with a combination of quantifiable measurements and free-form responses. The client sentiment information this tool collects is like gold and will help you create before and after case studies and turn feedback into testimonials while capturing referrals at the same time.