Earning Referrals Takes More Than Luck

With the madness of the annual NCAA tournament upon us and St. Patrick’s Day behind us, there’s a lot of talk about luck. The luck of the Irish or that team was lucky to pull off the upset. Some of you may be thinking you could use some of that luck in your business for turning your current customer base into a steady stream of referrals.

The bad news is that whether or not you believe in it, luck it is hard to create. You also can’t just go to a store and buy a bottle of luck or a program to make yourself and your business lucky.

The good news is that you don’t need luck to get more referrals, what you need is just a bit of hard work and focus on your customers.

Referrals are the culmination of your customer’s experience with your business. They are the reward for completing the customer journey, and doing it in a way that surprises and impresses them to the point that they recommend that experience to their family and friends.

But here’s what is most important about referrals: people want to refer you. They want to be wowed by your company, and they can’t wait to tell everyone about it. It is your job to take advantage of this by meeting and exceeding their expectations.

Here are some ways you can increase referrals for your business:

1) Take Time to Educate Potential Customers

In order to meet and exceed your customers’ expectations, you must first make sure they are reasonable. Take the time to educate your customers about your product or service, and don’t rush them into buying it. If your customer knows exactly what they are buying, their expectations of what you will deliver are realistic.

2) Surprise Your Customers and Show Gratitude

Now that your customers have a clear expectation of your product or service, you can now take an opportunity to surprise them. Give them something extra, whether it be a promotion or a gift, which they aren’t expecting. It can be something as simple as a short personal letter to your customers or, as Sara describes here, you can send them a loaded new customer kit.

It is also important to make sure your customers know you appreciate their patronage. Go out of your way to thank your customers, and try to add as much of a personal touch as possible. The “Thank you!” at the end of an invoice is expected, but a Holiday card from you or your whole team still carries a lot of weight.

3) Resolve Issues and Welcome Feedback

In college, I spent a fair amount of time waiting tables, as I’m sure many of us have. One of the main lessons I will take away from that time is that people are willing to recognize that things don’t always go as planned. Whenever there was an issue with food or the environment or the wait times, I worked hard to resolve those issues as quickly as possible. Customers in those situations often tipped better than most, because they recognized and rewarded those efforts.

To bring that same principle to business, work with your customers to resolve any issues that may arise during the customer journey, and ask for feedback on how to improve. If you take their feedback seriously, they are more likely to refer your business. Just because something goes wrong doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve lost their referral.

4) Ask for a Referral

Too few businesses ask for referrals at the end of their customer journey. I don’t know if businesses feel like they are asking too much, or if asking somehow cheapens the referral. But because we know people want to refer your business, you should give them an opportunity to do so. Digital media has made this so much easier because your customers no longer need to be in the same room as their friends and family to refer you.

You’ll want to make this as easy as possible, or even give them an added benefit. Offer a gift or discount for a positive Yelp review or Facebook post, or use a tool like Get Five Stars to increase your reviews.

Just remember: you have to be constantly working to earn referrals. Luck has nothing to do with it.

Alex-Boyer-Photo-150x150-e1420769709443Alex Boyer is a Community Manager and Content Ninja for Duct Tape Marketing. You can connect with him on Twitter @AlexBoyerKC

Is Networking a Waste of Time?

Marketing podcast with Derek Coburn

The simple answer to the question posed in the title of this post is – maybe.

always be connecting

photo credit: dgray_xplane via photopin cc

Networking is actually one of the most powerful strategic activities you can engage in if you do it right. In fact, when people ask me what they should do to market their business when they are just getting started I tell them to start networking.

However, I don’t simply mean print off a bunch of business cards and head out to the next wine and cheese Chamber event and start passing out your new cards.

Effective networking today has taken on a vastly different look but one thing has not changed – networking is not about selling, it’s about connecting people.

Technology, social networks and our propensity to turn online for every need have greatly expanded the elements of networking but connecting is, and I suggest always will be, at the core.

Today networking is the richest source of organic backlinks that still drive SEO. Today networking is building stakeholder maps as a way to shorten sales cycles. Today networking is how you make yourself more valuable to your existing clients.

My guest for this week’s episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is Derek Coburn. He and his wife Melanie have created a unique network in Washington DC called cadre. The network is based on the idea of people connecting people rather than people promoting themselves.

[Tweet “The ironic thing about focusing on connecting rather than selling is that it’s a crazy powerful way to sell.”]

You know of course the ironic thing about this idea of focusing on connecting and adding value rather than selling is that it’s a crazy powerful way to sell.

Derek is also the author of Networking Is Not Working: Stop Collecting Business Cards and Start Making Meaningful Connections, the best book I’ve read on the idea of connecting.

As he shares in our interview this book and his Cadre community were born out of frustration with having spent thousands of fruitless hours attending traditional networking events. Coburn’s book offers fresh, effective, unconventional strategies for growing and nurturing a powerful network. These strategies grew Coburn’s revenue by 300% in just 18 months and can have a major impact on your business.

Some of the most ideas contained in the book include:

  • How to become the Ultimate Connector
  • How to become the Ultimate Resource
  • How to identify and develop relationships with world-class professionals
  • How to enhance the value you deliver for your best clients
  • How to position yourself for more quality introductions to ideal prospective clients

Connecting is the master skill no matter if you are a salesperson, business owner or someone starting a career.

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