Referrals are golden. And when you are a service professional, referrals can mean the difference between thriving and dog paddling.
About a year ago I went to a workshop given by David Frey on how to get more referral business. The presentation was pretty much a big sales pitch to join Send Out Cards under him, but there were some really good points he made along the way.
Make referrals an integral part of your sales process.
David recommended putting a sentence or two in your client contract that states if the client is happy with the service you provide, he or she will recommend two to three others who might also benefit from your service. This technique has two main effects:
- It puts the idea in the client’s head to think of people to refer to you.
- It makes it easier for you to bring it up later and ask for the referral.
Offer incentives for referring business to you.
There are lots of ways you can do this. You can give clients a discount on future services for each referral. You can offer a cash or in kind prize for referrals. But the idea I really liked was this: Hold a client appreciation event. It doesn’t have to be big. It can be a simple dinner or lunch party. Then, during the event, highlight the client who had referred the most business to you. Thank that client publicly and even plug their business. This is a great incentive for the others at the event, because now they’ll want to be the person being plugged a your next client appreciation party!
Make it easy for clients to refer business to you.
Tell your clients exactly what you’re looking for in a client. When you ask for a referral, ask them in a way that leads them to think of someone that would be a good fit. Give them referral cards that they can hand out to their friends and colleagues. This card should offer some sort of incentive for the new client so that the person making the referral will feel like they are giving something of value.
Send out referral reminders.
Every once in awhile, send out a reminder that you are always looking for referrals. One idea I liked was the half-birthday card. Basically, on your clients’ half-birthays (6 months before their next birthday) send them a special card celebrating their half-birthday. In the card, remind them to send referrals. You might also call your clients once or twice a year to see how they are doing and ask for the referral during that conversation.
Partner with related businesses for co-referrals.
Let’s say you offer a dog walking service. You could partner with a vet or dog washing service and do a reciprocal referral promotion where they refer their clients to you and you refer your clients to them. Sometimes you can do this sort of arrangement with businesses that aren’t related to you, but are close in proximity. I once saw a pizza parlor promoting the chiropractor next door!