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Something I’m focusing on more in my business lately is driving referrals from current and past clients. For the past year or so, I’ve been relying on inbound referrals – essentially when friends, family, and customers refer me to other people because they enjoyed what I was able to accomplish for them, or knew someone that would benefit from working with me.
But, there is a much better way to go about this than just sitting around and waiting for referrals to come in.
Why Referrals are Gold for a Business
Getting client referrals is incredible for a few different reasons:
1. Sales are so much easier
Hey introverts, how much do you love selling to people? Right, same here.
When you get a referral, your sales cycle can literally be cut by 90%. I’ve honestly been on sales calls that lasted 2 minutes, because the person just got on the phone, said that XYZ person referred them and they want to work with me but needed to know how to pay and what I need access to.
Well hello dream client! How are you today??
If someone you’ve worked with in the past, or even just someone you know refers a client to you, it’s practically a shoe-in to be able to work with them.
Business owners don’t have time to weed through 100 companies or consultants to find the best one. So they ask their friends who they work with and just take the leap from there.
2. Low acquisition cost
While getting referrals might take some work on your end, they come at a price of FREE99.
You can’t say that for some of the other ways you get clients. Other types of marketing require at least some initial upfront cost. But word-of-mouth marketing is literally free.
3. You know they aren’t crazy
This might be the most important reason to go after more referrals. If you’ve ever had a bad client, you’ll know why I added this in here.
People who hang out together generally have similar personalities and morals or ways of looking at the world. This is great when you get referrals from your favorite clients, because their friends are probably pretty similar to them. They are more likely to send you quality leads that turn into successful referrals because you’ll be on the same page from the start.
If you get a referral from a client you hated in the past, run the other direction.
I really enjoy 95% of my clients, so why wouldn’t I want more people just like them?! 🙂
4. Referrals compound on each other
As you get more referrals and clients, your network grows, and so does the opportunity to get even more referrals.
I recently had a situation where a newer customer of mine referred another “big name” person to me, and within the week that big named person referred their friend to me too.
It was pretty incredible, and also proof that these things compound on each other. Do good work and people will keep referring you new clients.
Now that I’ve convinced you to start mining for referral gold, here are some ways you can start getting those extra referrals.
How to Get More Referrals
1. Let People Know That You Have a Referral Program
Duh! This seems so brainless, but probably 5% of my clients know that I want and encourage (and will even pay for) referrals.
Here are some places I’m letting people know that I will offer an incentive for them sending clients my way:
- At the bottom of client invoices
- In my email signature
- On social media
- Business cards
- Where ever else makes sense!
Why not keep this option front and center so clients remember the referral offer when they happen to find themselves in conversations with friends and business owners?
2. Actually Be a Part of the Communities You’re In
Are you a Facebook or social media creeper? Yea, I can be too sometimes.
I’ve been known to consume a lot of content in those places, but rarely am I commenting and adding my two cents.
Recently, I started making it a goal of mine to comment on 3-5 posts in at least 3 of the more important groups every day. When I say “more important” I mean groups that have people who I’d love to connect with or work with eventually. Which arguably could be 20 of them, but I chose three to start with.
It’s been going well so far, and I think with a few months of this engagement, offering my help on the things I know well, people will start to associate me with those services – which is exactly what I’m going for with this strategy. 🙂
The key to this, I think, is to actually be helpful – if I can’t provide value I’m not going to comment just so I can check it off my list for the day. But I’m striving for 3 a day in each group.
3. Thank People for Referring Clients to You
It seems simple right, and it is. It’s also an easy thing – THANK someone for sending people your way.
You can send a hand written card, a bottle of wine, or other gifts – or you can simply just write an email thanking them for the referral.
4. Offer Multiple Ways for People to Send Clients Your Way
Make it easy for people to send clients your way. Sure, most people will just email someone and copy you letting them know you can help.
But some people are more shy about doing that, so add a form on your site for referrals, or let them know they can email you directly and tell you to reach out to someone on their behalf.
5. Make Sure Clients and Your Network Know About All of Your Services
Even if you offer one service to your client, make sure they understand that you offer the other 3 as well. Maybe they don’t know anyone who needs the service they’re getting, but everyone need s a website, so make it know you offer that.
Include some services in your website footer, in your website navigation, or even on your invoices. Not only will you potentially gain more referrals, but if your existing clients don’t know they can work with you in other ways, you might be able to upsell them and increase their lifetime value as well.
6. Offer an Incentive or Referral Commission
I kind of mentioned this above, but I do offer people incentives to send referrals my way. It’s kind of like affiliate marketing for service businesses.
Some people are very busy and don’t have time to refer folks to you. But if you pay them for their time and effort, that may change.
If you offer a decent enough commission for referrals that end up signing up with you, you might just increase your odds of people sending you a successful referral.
7. Offer Content People Can Share, i.e. Case Studies
This goes along with making it easy for people to refer clients to you. If you give them case studies and info to share about your services, it’s going to be much easier to throw a link in an email to their friend or coworker and send it off. They won’t have to explain your services, or what you do for people, it’s easy for them.
8. Build More Business Partnerships
If you’re a web developer, you should be working with marketing specialists and email marketing experts.
If someone pays for a new website, they’re probably looking to get more customers. How can they get more customers? Email marketing is a good place to start, or running Facebook ads to their new website.
And vice versa, if someone wants to run paid ads but their site is a little, ummm, under the weather(?), I’ll try and send them to someone who can help spruce it up to make the Facebook ads more successful.
9. Stay Active on LinkedIn
Have you heard the story of how I got my first client from a LinkedIn update? The referral came from me posting that I had started a new job (i.e. started my own business) and that person tagged me in a Facebook group post where someone asked about a Google ads specialist.
Staying active on LinkedIn keeps your network up to date on things you’re working on, skills you add, and when you post about client success stories.
10. Ask for Referrals
I think I’ve been hinting at it, but I wanted to call it out directly as well. Ask people for referrals! Reach out to your network, on social media, existing customers, people you worked with at your last company, anyone you think can possibly help.
Actually scratch that – the people you think can help are often the people who can’t. Reach out to
11. Give a Referral to Someone You Want to Send Business Your Way
Remember those “Leave a penny, take a penny” jars they used to have at restaurants and stores? Ahh the good old days, back when almost everyone used cash.
Well, the same thing can apply to your referral program.
If you are able to help other people with their referrals (i.e. giving a penny), more than likely you’re going to be first in line when someone mentions they need help with something you can assist with. And you’ll eventually be able to cash in and take that penny.
People naturally feel the need to return the favor when someone gets them new business, so being the “connector” between people in your network is just going to help grow your list of referrals.
If you want someone to send you customer referrals, you’re going to have to prove yourself and build that relationship. There’s no better way than providing value first and sending them a referral.
As entrepreneurs, especially newer ones, we need to make sure we are showcasing and promoting ourselves whenever we can (where it makes sense, of course!).
Taking advantage of this opportunity to offer your clients a discount or some incentive to refer others to you just makes sense in my mind.