The Art Form of Attaining Referrals for Your Small Business


When you’re operating a small business, referrals are like gold. It starts with a very happy customer recommending you to a friend, making that friend another valued customer, and repeating the process. Creating referral programs is an excellent way to bring in more business. Here are just a few suggestions for raking in more referrals.

Small Business

Create rewards programs

Customers love rewards, so give them opportunities to earn some! Depending on your business, your rewards programs can look several different ways. Start by offering some kind of discount or other benefit anytime a customer refers a friend-turned-customer. Create a form on this free form builder for your website that allows customers to make referrals.Create a form for your website that allows customers to make referrals. HubSpot offers 45 customer referral templates that are free after providing basic information about yourself. Tell your customer that you’re happy they’re happy with your services or product and wonder if they know of any other person or company that may benefit from your services. Describe the reward they’ll receive if the referral works out, and remind them that they can refer as many people as they like. Give the referral reward to your existing customer as many times as they give you a new buyer.

If you sell a product, offer customers a discount during their birthday month. They’ll love coming into the store to reap their benefits and will probably bring a friend along. While the birthday customer sings your praises, the friend will also be able to see all the savings and your wonderful products.

Partner with local non-profit organizations

Joining forces with a local community organization can benefit both parties in multiple ways. You can create promotions where a portion of the proceeds benefits your charity, giving both groups visibility. On the other side of it, you can attend their events with your own booth that offers information about your company and, if you sell products, opportunities to sample and buy. Be sure that at these events, you’re keeping most of the focus on the non-profit. You’re there as a supporter of their mission, and that’s something that people will respond to.

These kinds of partnerships allow you to start with one program, then keep adding more. Ideally, soon you’ll have referrals coming from each event.

Stay engaged with your existing customers

Nothing pleases a customer more than being entertained. The best part is, you have all sorts of options to promote your business in a fun way. Some companies create their own games with cash prizes for attaining certain goals. Others might make a video that states the company’s mission and processes in an amusing way, perhaps even bringing in a celebrity. Customers will enjoy the added fun and are likely to forward it to friends and family.

Never underestimate the power of social media. Make sure your company is visible on all major platforms: LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. This will give your company eons of exposure, and it can even lead to completely random referrals. For instance, if someone has used your service or product before, they may comment on one (or more) of these platforms and entice new customers. However, there could also be negative comments. Respond to them. By doing this, potential customers will see that you truly care about their experience and sincerely want to correct any errors. There should be a designated person to handle and monitor these accounts, with know-how and experience in customer service and in controlling a company’s social media accounts.

Though it’s important to keep in touch with your customer base, there’s a fine line between keeping in touch and bombarding them with outreach. Instead of daily emails, switch to weekly. If you have a follow-up system asking for feedback, send one email and then only one reminder. This is a great way to stay in your customers’ heads without annoying them and risking unsubscriptions and even loss of business.

Ensure clients, current and potential, know about all of your services or products

If your customers are already settled into a comfortable spot with your product or service, they might not even think to look at your other options. You might have something they didn’t even know they needed, prompting them to try it and recommend it to a friend. Or, if they don’t need that particular product, they may know someone (or several people) who does. If you’ve provided good service up to that point, your customers will be more likely to refer you for other services even if they haven’t used them.

Outline all of your services on your website, social media, charity booths, and other marketing. If you’ve got a new product or service on the way, let your customers know. It will be a great addition to your weekly emails. Call attention to the fact that it isn’t just a normal weekly email, but you have NEW products on the way. This may increase their chances of actually opening and reading the email, as well as prompt them to forward the email to a friend, family member, or even their own clients.

A referral strategy that is often overlooked is personal outreach; in other words, promoting to friends and family on a regular basis. If you can get even one customer from this group, the referrals are likely to pour in. Potential customers prefer referrals from those they know and trust; your recommendation isn’t enough because they know you’re biased. Talk to your neighbors, people at parties, and even fellow church members about your business; you never know who will become a new customer and bring others along with them.

Provide exceptional customer service

Never neglect customer service. At every level, your business should offer superior service. Not only is it a great way to retain existing customers, it will increase the chances of them referring you to others. Many clients are willing to pay a little more for superb customer service.

If your business is a retail store, train employees on both sales and customer service. Discuss how to handle easy and difficult customers; both should receive fantastic service, but the route to the register will differ for each.

If your business is more on the corporate side, customer service is still a vital part of your business. Salespeople and customer support representatives should both be trained extensively. As Help Scout details, they’ll need fantastic communication skills, patience, a proactive attitude, and so much more. If there’s a problem, your staff should have the skills to think on their feet for a solution. If there’s a problem beneath you — in sales, for instance — reach out personally to the affected customer. Even if their issue has already been solved, reaching out to ensure they are completely satisfied shows them you truly care about their experience. That’s the kind of customer service that brings referrals.

Earning referrals is a vital part of growing your business. It entails a lot of hard work and bases to cover but making referrals a constant priority will pay off in the end.


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