Ahhh… job referrals. That forbidden segment of a job application that draws into question every single relationship you ever made at your last place of employment. How loyal is my allegiance to my former boss? Did they actually like me, or will they choose to blindside me at the tribal council if I list them as a reference?
I mean, who among us hasn’t, in a downward spiral of anxiety, begged their closest friend to pretend they’re your boss so that you can secure a glowing review over your past work performance to future employers? Anyone?
…no? Just us?
Ahem… well, although faking professional references may be a reasonably simple art form, the same doesn’t hold true when it comes to garnering professional client referrals. This, my dear friends, is something you’ll have to work at if you want to gain legitimate headway in your business.
So while yes, you can and should still rely on word of mouth from friends to help your business grow, you’re also going to have to be way more proactive in convincing former clients to throw in some good references about your company. If you ever want your prospective client base to expand, plan to network like you’re a low-level production assistant making coffee runs in Hollywood, baby!
What is a Business Referral?
A business referral is when a former client recommends your business to a prospective client either organically in conversation or purposefully in an attempt to market your company. Organic referrals tend to be the most effective type of referral and are an extremely powerful tool to tap into other social networks that may be outside your targeted advertising range.
Referrals happen as a direct result of your efforts to cultivate a positive relationship with a client. The more effort you invest into client relationships, the more likely those clients will recommend your services to friends. So don’t be afraid to ask a client to refer your business to others if they had a positive experience!
We totally understand that figuring out how to effectively increase your client referrals can be overwhelming and stress-inducing, especially for fellow introverts like ourselves. Ergo, we’ve compiled a few of the best ways you can easily boost your referrals without having to schmooze it up at your local “Empowered Entrepreneurial Boss Boys and Babes Under 29 and over 5’9” group.
1. Go Above and Beyond
While it may sound obvious, this is by far the most crucial step you need to take to generate powerful word of mouth. The goal is to make your client feel like the prettiest princess at the ball— we’re talking princess of Genovia pretty here, folks, so get that hair straightener ready.
The more special you make your client feel, the more likely they are to recommend your services to others. So while providing excellent service is undoubtedly one aspect of the equation, consider other ways of making your client feel unique, such as posting about them on your social media or blog pages (which they’re likely to share with their audience), giving them a special shout-out on your website, or anything else that is certain to make them feel like the belle of the ball.
2. Give Back
We dare you to name one person on this planet who doesn’t like free stuff. Like, maybe James Corden because he seems to fervently ridicule anyone who makes less money than him, but other than that, we virtually guarantee you that no client is going to turn away a free gift card, free subscription to your services, or cash back in exchange for a positive client referral.
And while we’d all certainly like to believe that all Amazon reviews are genuine, the truth of the matter is that companies are utilizing powerful incentives to increase their ratings and outreach, including discounts on future purchases in exchange for positive feedback. So while we’re not saying that’s necessarily the right approach for everyone, it’s still important to consider the referral strategy that makes the most financial sense for your company and to harness that power to increase your client base.
3. Make it Personal
Get to know your client on more than just a first-name basis. This doesn’t mean you need to make every client your new BFF like you’re an adult in their 30s who suddenly is having trouble making any new friends because adulting is, like, really hard. No one warns you about how impossible it is to maintain friendships when you get older… but um, you should at least try to learn a few details about your clients so that you can fully understand how best to customize your services to fit their needs.
And if they tell you about personal events going on in their life? Remember those details and find ways of showing them you were paying attention, like sending flowers after the loss of a pet, sending them a Starbucks gift card on their birthday, or any other personal touches you can think of to make your services memorable.
4. Respond Appropriately to Feedback
Whether good or bad, feedback is an extremely valuable metric in determining how effectively you communicate with your clients. And before you think we’re about to spout that “customer is always right” line at you, think again because the customer is often insanely wrong.
However, in the eyes of other potential clients who didn’t see them banging on your glass doors after your store was closed, screaming, “Mr. Tinkles will literally die from pesticides if he can’t have his 100% organic veal custard pate cans! If you don’t open these doors, I swear to sweet baby Jesus I will Yelp about this!”, your response to their unhinged Yelp review will shape their feelings on how you negotiate with difficult situations.
So even if it feels incredible to clap back at someone’s negative review, just remember that it will deter potential clients. Respond to feedback publicly in a civil, empathetic manner, and offer private solutions to resolve the problem. If clients feel like you are on their side, then even those who put you on public blast may feel compelled to refer you to friends for how you handled the conflict.
5. Keep It Simple
It’s not that clients don’t want to refer you; it’s just that sometimes it takes too long to do it. Simplify the process by utilizing customer feedback tools such as SurveyMonkey or HubSpot and incorporating a referral link.
You may also consider creating a sample email template for clients who wish to refer you, which ultimately simplifies the process and impediments to that action happening.
Other ways of alleviating the obstacles between your clients and potential referrals include creating shareable content for social media, such as giveaways encouraging people to tag their friends. Plus, with a giveaway, you won’t even have to ask your client for a referral because you’ll have already incepted the idea into their head.
Referral marketing is one of the most potent ways to increase the scope of your client reach. And while there isn’t one correct way of doing it, the best choice is to see what strategies work best for your business. Don’t be afraid to adapt your approach as you go along, and remember that there is no one right way to do it!