Let's start from the very beginning by considering who will give you a referral and why.
Your best referrals will generally come from the people you know, your satisfied clients, the organizations you belong to, and the business owners with whom you form a strategic alliance. These people aren't really concerned about helping you promote your business. Generally, these people refer people to you because they want to help their friends or customers solve a problem. If you want referral, your objective is to demonstrate to potential referrers that your business will perform as expected, which is in the best interests of the persons being referred.
So, instead of thinking up ways to convince people to refer their friends, family and customers to you, concentrate on making yourself referable. You must earn the right to receive a referral. And, that's about creating a business that uniquely and reliably delivers results that people need and want.
Here are 10 ways for you to consistently generate free referrals.
1. Offer a service that solves a specific immediate problem(s) for the people in your marketplace. Concentrate on becoming known as the specialist (expert) in your marketplace. Convey that message in everything you do; with your tag line, unique selling proposition, elevator speech, and even your business name.
2. Help potential referrers to completely understand your market position so they will be aware of the very specific problems that you solve. Even prospects who decide not to buy from you will refer those who have needs that fit your company's offerings.
3. Build relationships with businesses and organizations who frequently have contact with your targeted audience and will make referrals. Remember, networking for referrals is not just about meeting your needs. Your goal is not just to get referrals, it is to build relationships so others will want to give you names and the contact information of people who could use your products or services. Make referrals a two-way street. When you receive referrals from other people, you need to give back in return so that the referrals keep coming. By helping others get what they need, you will also be helping yourself in the long run.
4. Be easy to find and contact. Have business cards handy for customers, run a search-engine-friendly Web site, and engage in social media. List contact information prominently, making it simple and fast for customers to get in touch with your business.
5. Interact with your clients consistently. Let your clients know what to expect, and then meet and exceed those expectations. Instill professionalism and kindness in your employees so that they will display these characteristics in their communications with customers.
6. Pay attention to each customer's needs. Delivering a great product or superior service is important, but assessing needs, giving sound advice, and selling the right product or service is critical.
7. Be an approachable expert. Stay on top of industry trends, but spend just as much effort talking with people, learning about their needs, and gaining new insights from others. Your knowledge will grow exponentially, and you'll continue to refine and expand your business in a way that matches demand, even in changing conditions.
8. Cultivate centers of influence — people who are well-known and respected in your community. Spend time with each individual to learn more about them. Make them the center of the conversation, rather than focusing on what you want.
9. You want the referred prospect to be so impressed with the treatment you give them that they can't wait to tell their referrer about it. The better you can make the experience for the referred prospect, the more likely he is to thank the referrer for referring him to you. And, because people love to be appreciated, the more likely the referrer is to give you more referrals.
10. Thank everyone who attempts to make referrals (not just the ones who produce them), and let them know how much their referral means to the success of your business. Showing sincere gratitude will encourage referrers to keep spreading the word.