Getting those oh-so elusive business referrals can be challenging, uncomfortable and even downright difficult at times. But, referrals are a vital aspect to growing a successful business. So, we have asked the incredible CarolRoth.com contributor network of business owners, experts, advisors and entrepreneurs to share their best tips for getting business referrals. Their answers are presented below in no particular order.
You may notice some similar ideas listed, but I kept them separate, as something in the way one is framed may resonate differently with you.
1. Givers Gain
My favorite way to get business referrals is to first give them! Continuous, effective networking is the key, but it often isn't fruitful if you approach it with selfish motives. It has to be about "we", not "me". Take the time to genuinely listen and understand what the other person does, then establish ways that you both can benefit from having one another as a contact. There should also be consistent follow-up to continue building a mutually-benefiting business relationships.
2. Referrals Are In the Request
The proven method for securing referrals is to provide an outstanding service experience first. As a client exclaims, “Thank you for the fabulous service!” seize the moment.
Express appreciation for the kind words and opportunity to work together. Then ask, “Do you know of others who could benefit from a similar service?"
And then, add that you will greatly appreciate an introduction. Usually caught off guard, people ask to give it some thought to deliver the better referrals.
3. Take Initiative
Connect your influential clients with a solid referral - before asking for one.
This win/win approach helps your key clients improve their bottom line, while keeping your company top of mind and keeping a positive dialogue open. This also allows you to ask for a referral when the timing is right and the client views you in the best light.
4. Building Relationships
Over the last 15 years, 90% of my new clients have been referrals. I believe this is because I am very intentional about building relationships with my clients. One fun way that I do this is with an annual client appreciation picnic. Each year, I rent a pavilion at the local park, cook up lots of tasty food, and invite my clients to bring the entire family out for a great time. One year, we recorded a music video to Pharrell's song "Happy". That was a very memorable event.
5. Word of Mouth
Tapping into the power of your existing customers to get referrals to their friends and families is very effective. You are asking your current, satisfied customers to help in promoting your business, which they will be happy to do, as long as they like your products and services. Your job is to enable them to provide the referral.
6. Blog, Blog, Blog!
Not blah, blah, blah! Blogging is THE best means of obtaining referrals for my business. More than 90% of my prospects and clients are searching for information about how to organize their stuff and manage their time. Establishing myself as an experienced and knowledgeable expert in the field of productivity through blogging and an optimized website is the key to being found and getting qualified referrals. Blogging allows me to reach a wider audience and my ideal client.
7. Don't Just Sit There. Network!
It's easy to sit behind a computer and make cold calls, but nothing is more effective than face-to-face communications. Networking events are the perfect way to go beyond giving your elevator speech. It's the time to get to know your potential client, his or her company's needs and any objections that person may have to the type of services or products you are promoting. Networking also is a chance to brand yourself with your demeanor, knowledge and sincerity. So get up. Get out. Get networking!
8. Commit to Clients' Success
Provide stellar service for your current customers. Commit to their success as much as you are committed to your own. Give your clients your time and attention. Over-deliver. Never waste their time or money. And, make connections for them that support them in achieving their highest good.
9. Provide Experience Not Product
In GREAT WINE's experience, leads come from clients who want to share their experiences with their business partners. We insist inviting clients to come to our tasting room for the total experience, because this is also gives us a chance to talk about the ideas behind the wine labels. We discover that clients introduce business partners to us because they would like to share their enjoyable moments with others.
10. Do Unto Others and...
After 25 years and in a totally different industry, I still use this best practice on how to get business referrals. Into our tradeshow booth walked Jeanie, this smart sales dynamo and food broker. We had just launched our new food line and she knew we were too small to be her client. So, she introduced us to 3 of her best clients so that we could sell to them directly! Not only did she rep us, but we referred her often. Jeanie knew how to build business with integrity and trust. World class broker!
11. Do Good Work- They Will Come
I have found that my business referrals come most often out of relationships that I have established with current clients/colleagues. If you operate with the value of doing things with excellence and being responsive, over time, quality clients will come your way due to word of mouth from the ones who already see what you're made of.
12. Have a BBQ!
One of the best ways I've seen to get referrals is to throw a client appreciation event (like a BBQ, ice cream social, murder mystery, etc.) and tell your clients to invite a friend. Not only will this make your client more comfortable, but it will give them an opportunity to introduce you to someone that is likely to be a good prospect.
13. Management Change is Good!
My #1 way to get business referrals is choosing to work with owners of successful companies that like to change their executive management teams on a regular basis. It's key to have the executive team members realize that they can trust me, serve as a reference as they are searching for their next position, help them be successful in setting and achieving realistic goals and accomplishments in their new position and help them ultimately increase profitability and shareholder value.
14. The Old Fashioned Way
Referrals are my second best way to get new clients. They come in two ways. One is through incredibly satisfied customers. Yes, customer satisfaction is worth its weight in marketing budget. They also come through networking in mastermind groups and marketing communities. Colleagues need writers, they see my work all the time... and they refer people to me.
15. Building Mutual Respect
I have found that being authentic and transparent in my work has afforded me the opportunity to work with my clients' network based on the mutual respect we built while working together. Each client I work with gets my full attention to detail coupled with open communication. I treat each project like I am still earning their business even after they have paid. Maintaining a focus on them throughout the process will always garner trust and, more importantly, ensure the project is a success.
Stephanie Larson of AmpliPhi
16. Just Ask!
The best way to get referrals is to ask for them. When a client compliments your work, mention that you would love for them to spread the word, or ask if they know of anyone else who would benefit from your services.
“I'm so pleased you're happy with my work. Do you know anyone else who can benefit from my services?"
If that person is an ideal client, chances are good that they know other ideal clients. Make sure that your current clients know that you have room and referrals are appreciated.
17. Trust and Reliability
Trust and reliability must be the cornerstones of business moving forward. There's so much noise in the world and so many people making promises that they cannot deliver on. Only those who build a reputation of taking care of their client's interests, day in and day out, will set themselves apart.
It is not enough to say that you are trustworthy and reliable, your clients need to know that you are and understand your value. Perception matters and it equates to referrals... and that is GOLD!
18. Ask For Them!
Seriously. Stop being a wuss and just ask for them! It's that simple. The only caution is be sure the person you ask is actually someone with a positive public reputation. And, make your request as sincere as you would like your referral to be. The best methods in order of likely success:
1. In person
2. Personalized snail mail
5. Text message
6. Carrier pigeon
7. Smoke signals
It's best to "sleep on", triple-check and edit whatever you write before hitting "send" or mailing.
19. Make it Easy
One easy way to get referrals is by simply engaging with your customers on Twitter and once you have them in a conversation, ask them specifically.
Sometimes, it not that people don't want to give you a referral (if they truly enjoy your service) but that they just don't take the time to do so. That’s why it’s imperative that you make referring a customer or lead to your business as easy as possible.
Doing this will get you more Twitter followers and more referrals.
20. Oil the Referral Machine
There is a lot to be said for educating your referral partners, but we all know that sometimes you need to give to get. Becoming a great connector is part of the process. You need to be willing to share your contacts and clients with people who have a similar client base. Educate them on who your ideal clients are and what to say on your behalf. Give them some of your business cards to share in a multi-pocket holder. A handwritten thank you and a gift card when they refer you go a long way, too.
21. Your Book About You
I have used my book as a marketing tool to get more business referrals. My book was published a month ago and has booked 5 speaking engagements. It has been getting rave reviews and 5 star ratings in the topic of Senior Health. My book has catapulted me to a new level of confidence and is opening doors everywhere. One of the best ways to get referrals is to write a book on your subject; it gives you enormous credibility.
22. Publish a Book!
I find the best way to get new business referrals is to publish a book- not an e-book, but a physical book. What happens when you hand someone a business card? As soon as you turn your back, they throw it away! Nobody throws away a book. It is the best form of a business card/resume. Also, it sets you apart from others in your industry, while boosting your credibility.
23. Provide Quality Service
For us at Nathan DeMetz Personal Training, the best way to receive referrals is to provide quality services. There is nothing creative or unusual about this, nor should there be.
Quality customer care goes a long way, as well. A person can be dissatisfied with a product or service, yet receive first place assistance and walk away happy.
As long as services are of high quality and our customer care is top-notch, clients will be happy, and that will lead to referrals.
24. Steal This From Rock Concerts
Think of the last time you went to a concert. After what was probably an outstanding experience, you and everyone else there were funneled through a small area where overpriced merchandise was being sold.
Because you just experienced something awesome and because your enthusiasm was so high, you purchase something right then on the spot.
Use the same technique when asking for referrals. After you do something great and while enthusiasm is at its highest, ask for referrals immediately.
Spencer Smith of Virtelo
25. Set Expectations
The best way to get business referrals is to first ask and set clear expectations. If you service your clients well and then ask them for referrals, you will get them. Setting expectations is crucial. If you let your clients know that you will be asking them for referrals before you start working for them, you set the expectation that referrals are a part of your business process. If you follow these steps, you will absolutely build your business by developing a solid referral network.
26. Referrals Through Results
A large part of our business is built on referrals. This comes from simply providing best in class customer service to our clients. We are a Disney travel agency & treat each vacation as if it is our own, paying special attention to every little detail. This enables us to have happy client after happy client and they are excited to refer their friends and family 1. so they can have the experience & 2. because they are comfortable knowing the people that they are referring will get top notch service.
27. Ask and You Shall Receive
The absolute best referrals happen spontaneously. Unfortunately, the busy world we live in does not always allow time for customers to acclaim our outstanding products and services. At Oeveo, we have found the best way to get a referral is to ask personally, and the best persons to do the asking are our awesome staff. So, we incentivize our team to get our customers to speak out about the goodness of our company and to obtain referrals through social and professional networking.
Scott Toal of Oeveo
28. Blogging & Podcasts
Blogging, guest-blogging and being a guest on a podcast make great opportunities happen.
Almost every professional likes to share great content; it's an easy way to be helpful.
Hence, if you email valuable content to your business partners, they'll share it with theirs. Additionally, sharing content via email posting on LinkedIn works also very well.
29. Get Referrals to a GROUP
I built my business on doing great work for people and having them share their happiness in Internet communities where we were both active. This helped me scale nationally and internationally and expand to a literally world-changing mission: helping business turn hunger and poverty into sufficiency, war into peace, and catastrophic climate change into planetary balance.
30. Add Value to Get Referrals
People care about themselves. To get referrals, you need to help them out before they will help you. Here is a tactical tip on how you can do it, if you cannot think of anything. Hire a digital marketer to review a website of someone you want to help. Everyone has areas they can improve on their site. It may be broken links or new content ideas. Approach that person with the ideas on how the website can be improved. Don't worry about step 2 until you cover step one - bring value!
31. Product Referral Capabilities
Our business customers use our ‘Easy Invite’ feature to send out personalized conference call invites to their attendees. These invites are typically co-branded, thus we receive exposure and spread virally with no cost to us.
It’s not just about the brand exposure we receive. More importantly, we can impress our customers' attendees with a first-hand experience of our product. Thus, our product is our best referral engine.
32. Give a Talk, Get Business
A great way to get business referrals is to take initiative and do an in-service at a company you would like to receive referrals from. Ideally, this company is one of your power partners and both would benefit from the cross-referrals. Start by contacting the company and offer to do a short presentation during their lunch break. Lead with how your talk with benefit them. I have found in-services to be very effective at building business referral relationships.
33. Making the Shift From Zero
As a business owner, the number of business referrals you get depends on the quality of your business relationships. I focus on developing deep and meaningful relationships with people. I believe that it is much easier to get business referrals if people trust and like you as an individual. Hence, I start by first connecting and creating genuine relationships with every single person I meet. Never approach someone with the ulterior motive of getting a referral out of them.
34. Your Video Testimonials
I find a video testimonial to be the best form of referral. Ask a series of questions such as, "Where are you in your journey? What prompted you to…? What is it you want to achieve? What is your biggest ‘road block’? What tips/insights can you give to others embarking on this journey? What have you found that has been of assistance to you? What has been the biggest take away from working with me? Would you recommend my business to others? Where were you beforehand? What is different now?"
35. Be Generous!
The best way to get business referrals is to approach your ideal referrer with something they want or need. I own 2 massage studios and I've approached several personal trainers with offers for free massages (or trades for training), knowing that their training clients are my ideal clients (they are health conscious, wealthy enough to afford my services, and sore). Be generous with people and it will come back to you!
36. Word of Mouth Marketing
Ironically enough, even though I assist my clients with increasing leads across digital channels, I've found that word-of-mouth marketing is one of the most effective ways to acquire new business. To increase the number of these types of leads, I joined a highly structured local business networking group whose foundation is based on the power of "relationship sales". My membership has not only helped expand my professional network, but also led to referrals that have generated new business.
37. Get Out and Talk to People
Professional organizations like BNI or Meetup groups are free to join or visit and are great ways of connecting with influential people to deliver word-of-mouth marketing. Look for groups that are dense with your target population and have a system for working your new connections.
Most of our businesses are in local communities, but the owners don't think to attend the local civic league or community meetings. If you live in a quiet community, the group may really want to hear from you.
38. Customers Are Key
Many customers will be happy to refer your business, but they don't know how to present your business and service. If you provide your clients a simple template cheat sheet, they would be more proactive in referring your business. Eliminate the heavy lifting and it will make it a lot less painful for your customers to refer your business. Using your customers to refer your business will provide you the best conversion results.
39. Reward Your Customers
We offer a $50 Amazon gift card for each referral. We track it by giving our customers a personalized referral link they can send out and if someone signs up through that link, they get the gift card. And there is no limit on the number of gift cards they can get!
This is a very effective and successful strategy for us to get valuable business referrals. We work closely with our customers to make them really successful and happy with our product and because of that, they spread the word!
40. Generating Business Referrals
Don't be selfish and put your referral agent's interests before your own. Think of ways you can help them first, offer that help and follow through with whatever promises you make. Once you make it rain for them, to get their referrals, all you have to do is ask.
Ryan Corcoran of Brolik
41. The Best Way to Get Referrals
The best way to get referrals is to give one!
Yep! When you are in an environment either at a networking function, a board meeting or even a client meeting, ask how you can help them. Here are the questions I ask:
1) What do you do (may or may not be relevant, depends on which situation)?
2) How long have you been doing that?
3) How did you get into that field?
4) If I were to meet someone that would be a good client/referral for you, who would that be?
Yes, ask about them first!
42. Use Your Email Sig Line!
I have added an italicized message on the sig line of all my email messages: “Know anybody that could use our services? We'd be grateful for an introduction.” My average client is probably exposed to that message twenty to thirty times during the course of a typical engagement. It’s certainly not a replacement for asking for a referral, but I do think it primes clients in an almost subliminal way to think about what they might do to thank you for your service to them.
43. Nurture Customer Relationships
One of the best ways to earn additional referrals is to send a thank you letter to individuals who referred you to other customers. It's a small token of appreciation that helps your business establish strong relationships with its clients and increase the likelihood that they will recommend you to other people in their personal network.
44. The Warm Referral is #1
The BEST way to get referrals is through friends, family, and clients that you have already added value to. They see what you are doing for them and are more inclined to naturally refer you to others who would value from your services. For that reason, I usually give out two business cards to each person; this way, when they refer me, they give out my business card. It works well, because I am being referred by someone who already has an established relationship with the potential client.
45. Cultivating Relationships
Take 10 of your best clients and develop deep relationships with them. These should be clients with common interests, a common outlook on life or some spark you share. Invite them to participate in activities that you both enjoy. Spend time with them. As you develop a deeper relationship, have honest conversations about what you could do better for them as clients, as well as who they know that might benefit from your company’s services.
This approach has served me well over the years.
46. Make Your Company a Sales Team
One way to get more referrals is by offering incentives to your employees for bringing in more business. This could be anything from a commission bonus, gift, free lunch or gym membership. This strategy will increase your sales efforts dramatically by encouraging your team members to take advantage of opportunities they have to promote the company brand.
47. Incentivize Your Customers
Due to advertising overload, consumers have learned to ignore traditional advertising channels. Our best way to get business referrals is by leveraging our target consumers’ own personal network to do our advertising for us via social media. We incentivize them to share our product on their personal accounts, which allows us to tap into their network of friends and family, effectively amplifying our advertising efforts and earning new business through these personal endorsements and referrals.
48. Pamper Your Strategic Partners
Identify who your strategic partners are and send them gifts once per year. Time it so they get the gift when they--not YOU--need it the most. For example, an investment firm sends "tax season survival kits" every March to a list of CPAs they know and respect, and who could refer leads their way. These kits include organic treats and coffee. Don't forget to include a nice handwritten letter, a stack of business cards, pamphlets, or product samples that can help them spread the word about you.
49. Give First
The best way to get a referral is to give a referral. When I make a referral, I make sure to perform the due diligence with the customer before I make the introduction. Then, I outline those key points in a separate email to my referral partner prior to sending the vetted and qualified lead. After that, I follow up with both parties to get feedback regarding how the referral went. And, if it wasn’t a fit, then I make another referral. The more referrals you send, the more you get back.
50. Up Your Customer Service Game
The best way to get business referrals is by providing your customers exemplary customer service. You may not always be able to beat prices, you may not always be able to compete with a prime location, but you can always, always provide better customer service. Start from the hiring process and hire good people who believe in your business and helping people. Then, create a culture around good customer service. Often, happy employees equate to happy customers.
51. Flip it Around!
You don't always have to ask for the referral. You can flip it and DO your customers a favor and create something valuable that they can give to their friends and family. Be sure that it's limited and unique and only available to your customer's associates because of their relationship with you.
52. Know Who You DON'T Want
I have found that the best way to get solid, qualified business referrals is to tell referral partners who I *don't* want. This lets them focus on my ideal referral, and results in a higher percentage of leads closed. Telling a partner I'd like to work with "any small business owner" is nowhere near as effective as, "I'd prefer to work with owners who have at least six figures in annual revenue, 3 full-time employees, and are within a 25-mile radius of my office."
53. It's Who Knows You
The best/easiest way that I get referrals is through strategic alliances. I look for executive coaches and management consultants who work with my target (senior executives) but who do not do speech coaching. Once there is a relationship developed, they are happy to refer me. They consider my services as added value to their clients.
54. Cash and Go Is a NO!
The best way to get business referrals is provide excellent customer service. Follow up is critical for feedback and comments about your service. Request a written or video testimonial from the client or organization. Share those testimonials with upcoming proposals and share in newsletters or articles. Be truthful of your expertise and experience. If you're an Executive or Expert Leader in Corporate, local government or military, it should be "googlable." Be your best self! Cash & Go is a No! Follow-up!
55. Easy Referrals
Offer a finder's-fee equal to % earned on-sale for leads from customers or prospects. Fee maxed at fee paid or to be paid by source. Call it SURE, "Satisfied User Refund Entitlement."
Gift Certificates: GCs can be designed to achieve ANY objective by ANY user. Low cost, distribution targeted. Typically glean $4 sales for each $1 redeemed. GC copy MUST be exact. GCs are like cash v. discount coupons!
56. Win-Win Referral Programs
Offering a referral program is a great way to grow your business. Happy customers are already your best non-paid marketers. If you give them additional reasons to tell their friends and family about your business, like a discount or free gift for every new client they refer, they're even more motivated. They'll continue to work with you to receive their incentive, and the leads they bring you are already pre-qualified - you don't have to invest time in selling them on what you do.
57. Acquire Affiliate Marketers
One of the best ways to encourage referrals is by incentivizing them through an affiliate program that offers a percentage of the purchase to the referrer. Affiliate links are big in online communities and can ensure that influencers are promoting your product or service because there is something in it for them. Affiliate programs turn already converted users into active supporters of your brand who give the coveted word of mouth referral to specific audiences who already trust the source.
58. From Wallflower to Limelight
In all honesty, I'd rather read a book than approach a stranger. But, that is NOT the best way to build my business. Thus, I needed to step outside of the shadows and expand my network.
What has put me at ease? Using my former reporter skills to get the OTHER person to open up and talk.
?s to ask -
What brings you to this event?
I'm new at networking, what are some of your favorite networking events?
I'm here to meet new people. Tell me what you do?
Tell me about your prospects?
59. Wow Your Customers!
The best way to get business referrals is to provide top-notch customer service. We win our customers over by providing excellent service in an industry that is often exclusively online. We "wow" our customers with service and, for that, our customers refer colleagues, friends and family!
60. Sharing Love for More Business
I don't call it business referrals, I call it the "Share the Love." We have worked hard to create a group of customers that practically do the work for us. Our brand ambassadors are always sending friends and family our way, so we decided to sweeten the pot. We offer up some free product samples to give away and then, give them ScrubzBody™ bucks to spend the next time they order. It is a way to say thank you to our customers and get a warm referral at the same time.
61. $75 for $75
The most successful referral program at My Body Couture is a client gift card program. We offer $75 professional gift cards (think: Starbucks card) to active clients to give to selected friends, co-workers, and/or family members who might be appropriate candidates for the studio's specialty services.
The cards have barcodes on them, so when a new client calls, we know exactly who referred them, and we reward the referee with a matching $75 credit to their account.
62. Use Incentives!
We've had huge success gaining business referrals using incentives. Someone has just purchased your product/service and providing their experience was good, they will be willing to tell their friends. The problem is, this is not going to be top of their list of priorities - unless you make it that way. Discount codes or cashback schemes for both the referee and referral have worked extremely well for us.
Bottom line: Don't be afraid to give something away in exchange for additional business.
63. Incentivize Your Customers
If you want to generate business referrals, you must incentivize your customers. Whenever a customer refers someone and that person converts into a customer, you actually have to reward that behavior by giving the referrer something tangible — money, credit, discount, whatever!
You’ll be amazed at how quickly a disinterested customer turns into a super engaged brand evangelist when you incentivize selling your business.
64. Focus on Your Customer Service
I find that word of mouth is extremely powerful when it comes to gaining business referrals. Especially with Facebook and Google reviews, as soon as you type your company name in online, all of this will automatically come up. It's vital for your company that the reviews are as positive as possible.
So, how do you gain good word of mouth? It's simple. Focus on your customer service. Ensure that the customer experience is flawless and gently encourage people to then share their experience.
65. Want Referrals? Build Loyalty!
A solid loyalty program can help spur referrals immediately. Use a loyalty app solution that allows customers to track their purchases and referrals. Assign points and let customers trade them for discounts and free products once they have reached a certain point level. A good program will build client enthusiasm and encourage them to alert their peers about your products and services!
Do you know any business referral tips that weren’t included? Please share your thoughts below. And as always, many thanks to everyone that contributed to this article!