5 Steps to Gaining Referral Business

by Carolyn Edlund

Referrals from existing customers are just about the best prospects you can get, and many artists grow their business mainly through being referred. Here’s how to get started.


Speak with your customers about referrals


When you really think about it, you may realize that many of your current collectors and customers would be happy to recommend you and your work. And if you sell to a niche market, your customers are likely to know others who have the same interests, and could be potential clients as well.

How do you get referrals from your customer base? Ask for them. You may be pleasantly surprised at the very positive reaction you receive. After all, the worst they can say is “no.”

Make a regular practice of requesting referrals from your customers, using these 5 steps:

1.  In your brochure, and on your website, make a point to state that referrals are an important part of your business.

2.  In your email newsletters, mention that referrals are a mainstay of your business. You may want to start a “referral program,” and include a coupon offering a discount to anyone who refers a new customer. Some business people offer gift cards or other merchandise to existing clients who refer others who become customers.

3.  After shipping or completing a commission for a customer, follow up with a personal handwritten note or phone call. Let them know how much you appreciate their business. Ask if they know of anyone else who may be interested in your work, and for that person’s contact information. Assure them that you handle referrals in a low-key manner with no sales pressure, so that they feel more comfortable giving them – and if the referral isn’t interested, you will not contact them again.

4.  Practice asking for referrals, so that when you are requesting one in person, you’re ready to speak clearly and confidently. When you have thought through your language ahead of time, it will be easier to make the request.

5.  Give referrals. This is a great way to work with others who are in a position to send ongoing referral business. Make a point to send referral clients to them as well. This type of cooperative referral is called a strategic alliance.

Have you gotten referrals? Has it become a regular part of your business strategy?


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  1. Excellent advice Carolyn! Repeats from someone who is already “sold” on you is very cost effective and getting those people to do some basic selling for you is even better!

    You touched on some kind of reward and using coupons in email newsletters and I so agree. With a more sophisticated stand-alone email software program like Constant Contact or Aweber, etc., it’s easy to put together referral programs and have coupons and (this is the best part) even be able to track who forwarded your emails. I have even given incentives for people to simply forward emails. Seeing my emails go to people outside of my immediate circle at NO cost to me (unlike what is now going on with FaceBook) is so thrilling.

    Growing your business means growing your email list! Hard to do one without the other these days.

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