How to Grow Your Business Through Referrals

Courtesy Lucia Cullinane

By Carolyn Edlund

Would you like to have appreciative customers telling their friends and associates about your work, and suggesting that they patronize you also? Referrals are like gold. They are the best advertising you can get, and one of the most effective.

Cultivating referral business is not that difficult, but many artists and other entrepreneurs don’t pursue them as often as they should. Knowing that referrals are so valuable, you should make them a priority in your arsenal of marketing tools. Here are some types of referrals, how to ask for them and how to use them to grow your business:

Word of Mouth Referrals

Have you received word-of-mouth referrals without asking for them? If so, then you know that you are referral-ready and your work is outstanding enough to have earned this accolade. Conducting your business in a completely professional manner, being thorough, following up and giving great customer service will put you in a position to ask your customers to refer others to you.

Set the stage for business referrals during every interaction with customers. Point out in your promotional literature and in conversations that referrals are an important part of your business.

After you have delivered and a client is especially satisfied, mention to them that you would appreciate any referrals they could give you. At that time, you should also let your client know how you will handle contacting those referrals, so that they feel more comfortable in sending friends and associates your way. Assuring them that you don’t use hard sell tactics, or explaining that you make a phone call and send one letter, for example, will put them more at ease in giving you a recommendation.

Soliciting referrals can be uncomfortable especially if you haven’t done it before or are nervous about the response you might get, but keep in mind that the worst you can hear from your customer is “No.” You should ask if they have had any bad experiences in the past, and if so, assure them again that you are completely professional when approaching new prospects. If they still decline, thank them for their consideration and don’t pursue it further.

Practice smoothly asking for referrals from your customers so that you are prepared to speak clearly when you have an opportunity to discuss the subject.

When you ask for referrals regularly during the course of your business dealings, you may be surprised that quite a few customers are happy to oblige. Keep a positive attitude and be persistent.

As you see more referral business come your way, you will develop an attitude of expecting to receive more business this way. Your confidence will translate into even more referrals, and you will be able to make this type of request into a natural part of business.

After receiving a referral, be sure to thank your client for this favor. Whether or not you close the referred sale, show your appreciation with a personal written thank you note or even a small gift. Some businesses actively solicit referrals by offering gift cards or other items in exchange for referral leads. One artist included gift certificates with her orders, to be used by a friend of the customer. Take a look at your business plan and make a decision whether this type of strategy is right for you.

Written Referrals

Written referrals are another stellar way to get new business. One type of written referral is an endorsed mailing, in which a client or strategic business partner, writes a letter or email recommending you and sends it to their contact list. This is a very powerful way to get introduced to many prospective customers. The recipients will recognize and trust the sender of the letter, and thereby be much more open to consider doing business with you.

You can also solicit testimonials, which are written recommendations from satisfied customers. Use them to drive business by posting them on your website home page and also in advertising. Effective testimonials use the first and last name of the person quoted, and even a thumbnail photo of them.

Having another party write about you and your work in an article or on a blog post can be an excellent way of being recommended to prospective customers.

Networking

Networking is a smart way to seek referral business from contacts. You can network with just about anyone. Seek out complementary businesses that have a similar client base as yours. You can each refer business to each other – by creating strategic alliances.

What’s the very best way to get referrals? By giving referrals.  People who extend the effort to connect others with business opportunities are the ones who are referred the most often. Focus on how you can give word-of-mouth referrals and you will see the benefits returned to you.



Comments

  1. Some good points here, referrals are the best way of getting new business IMHO. Have retweeted to our followers.

    I’d add that making sure that all your clients and networking contacts have your card, or a flyer is an absolute must. Sometimes referals will come from the most obscure contacts, so to make sure you get every chance always be giving out your card/ contact info.

  2. I agree! You never know when a contact will be able to make a great referral, so make the most of every opportunity. Thanks for the suggestion!

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