Wednesday, August 28, 2013

How to win customer referrals?

Hands down, the most profitable way to find new customers is to motivate your customers to refer others to your business. Most companies don't pour enough energy into harvesting this low-hanging fruit.
Here are eight ways to get started, but I'm confident you can think of even more - if you invest time and energy into this fruitful activity.

1. Be bold - ask for referrals: Most companies make the most fundamental mistake; they fail to even ask for a referral, or they settle for just one. Ask your customers for referrals, and when they give you one, ask for another.

2. Practice win/win/win: Offer customers a chance to do something nice for their friends, in a visible way, and also benefit themselves. For example, give your customer a discount in return for a referral, but then send their friend a gift card in the name of their friend. The friend, customer and your firm all win.

3. Engage in not-so random acts of kindness: For your best customers, surprise them with kindness. I know one gregarious business development guy who sometimes walks into a client's office with a tray of oversized cupcakes, gives them a big smile, and yells, "Have a great day!" as he runs out the door. This isn't wasteful, it's wise. When you give people something of value, they feel an obligation to you. (That something can't be too valuable, or you'll make others uncomfortable.) What matters most is that your customer perceives genuine gratitude on your part, so much so that they want to tell others about your act of kindness.

4. Celebrate: Life is short; find excuses to celebrate, and when you do, invite your customers and suggest they bring their friends. Such celebrations aren't the place to engage in hard sells, but rather to build relationships and to show your customers' friends how good it must feel to be one of your customers.

5. Support what your customers support: Raise meaningful amounts of money for charities, schools and other causes about which your customers care. Invest 95% of your time and efforts in providing support to those organizations; don't make the mistake of spending more money bragging about your generosity than in actually being generous.

6. Make your references easy to access: A friend of mine wants to renovate his kitchen, and has been meeting with contractors. He was especially impressed by one, simply because the man had all his references organized by year and type of job, and he was open to having my friend call anyone he wished. This sort of open, frictionless approach to references provides prospective customers with tremendous amounts of reassurance.

7. Show your pride: When the media or a customer glows about something special your company did, tell other customers about it and make it easy for them to pass along your success story. For example, you could share this news as a "lesson learned", and write it up in a manner so that others can learn from it, too.

8. Say thanks: After a customer's order has been delivered, be sure to write or call to say thank you. Don't forget to ask if there is anyone else they know whom you could have the honor of serving. And when you say "honor of serving," you better mean it. If you feel that way, it will show, and if it shows, you'll be rewarded with more referrals than you ever dreamed possible.

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