You pour your heart and soul into every little bit of your business. You bust your butt thinking about how to get over-the-top happy clients. They ask, you do it. Even when you hate it, you do it with a smile. They love the pictures. Then nothing.
You see friend after friend in their Facebook feed who could use your services, but they never pass your name to a single soul. Now, mind you, sometimes, you’re referred. And sometimes you just never find out you were. But just as often, no one spreads the word. What gives?
Here are the three essential principles behind great referrals. Work on them, and start building more business now.
Ask for the referral
This sounds too ridiculous to say, but here’s the biggest thing you can do right now to up your referrals. Ask for them!
Never assume great work means great referrals. Yes, some people will refer you for doing a good job. But many won’t. Why? Well, who knows, really. But do you always pass along referrals? People get busy. They have other concerns. They have no idea it matters.
If you’ve done a good job and your clients love you, they’re usually willing to help, but a lot of times, it doesn’t even occur to them. I’ve even had good friends who didn’t refer me, and when I asked why, they said, “Oh! I didn’t know it was important to you!”
Asking lets people know. It makes people feel good. When you say “Hey, I’d really appreciate it if you shared my name,” they actually get to know they’re doing something helpful.
But above all, when people say “Yes” to something, they’re simply that much more likely to follow through. Commitment counts.
So ask. And if you really want to go for it, do it right after you follow up. Here’s how:
Check in with your clients, and see if they’re happy. They do it at restaurants. They do it with service calls. You should, too. Your clients will appreciate the care. In fact, just checking-in builds your relationship.
9 times out of 10, your clients should be more than happy with you. And you know what’s the perfect thing to do when people are happy with you?
Yep. Ask for referrals.
Don’t be coy. Don’t be passive or cute. Just keep it simple and direct and make sure you ask in a way, where they say “Yes.”
“So glad to hear that! Hey, would you pass our name along to people who need photography? It means a ton to me.” That will do. Depending on the type of photography you do, you can be even more direct and ask if there’s anyone else they know who needs your services.
Just don’t beat around the bush and be passive. “Oh, hey, well, if you ever happen to know anyone who might be interested, I’d love it if you helped.” No, no, no. If you’re worried you’ll get a negative response, well, first, you generally won’t. Most of the time, if things were really bad, you would have heard. Marshall Field, a brilliant business person who just about invented the idea of the department store, said:
“Those who enter to buy, support me. Those who come to flatter, please me. Those who complain, teach me how I may please others so that more will come. Those only hurt me who are displeased but do not complain. They refuse me permission to correct my errors and thus improve my service.”
If you don’t get a chance to ask in person, and really, you should, but if you can’t, then at very least, send a nice letter or email—something—and ask for a referral there. Again, be direct.
Referrals happen to those who ask, and it’s some of the easiest business you’ll get.
Create shock and awe
We live in a media-saturated society of high expectation and massive entitlement. That’s just a long way of saying that it’s hard to get people excited. But you have to get people excited, if you want referrals. Remember, doing a good job isn’t just meeting expectation. No one gushes about people who meet expectation. You have to go above and beyond.
For example, in the book The Referral Engine: Teaching Your Business to Market Itself by John Jantsch, he shares the story of Mike McDermott of Freshbooks. McDermott posted an article about a new flavor of Triscuits. Jonathan, one of his customers living in Fiji, jokingly replied that he wanted to be removed from all postings mentioning Triscuits, because he was dying to try them out, but they don’t have them in Fiji. Seizing the opportunity, McDermott shipped several boxes of Triscuits to Jonathan, which Jonathan shared which, in turn, exploded across the Internet.
Great things happen when you do great things. Ask yourself “How can I blow my clients away?” A custom USB drive or a pretty letter (affiliate) is well and good, but you have to make their jaws drop for referrals and sharing.
Ask yourself “Will this get people bubbly and giddy?” That’s the line you need to cross. Do you feel bubbly and giddy sending it to them?
Sometimes, you might even go viral like the Freshbooks team. But you don’t need to. Just getting people excited enough to share their experiences with friends and encourage referrals can get you all the business you need. And the great thing is you don’t have to go bigger and better and spend more on what you give people. You just need to more thoughtful.
For example, take notes during your meetings about what your clients want, and find a way to do something a little personal for them. Then, mention what they talked about it, and how you found a great solution. Or give a care kit, and fill it with things that are funny and playful. People love joy and delight. Just make it feel thoughtful.
Even though everyone expects great execution, most people are also treated like hunks of meat by most businesses, so you just need to show they’re not a hunk of meat. It does wonders.
If you’re really stuck, try searching exceptional customer service experiences, and you’ll get tons of examples and inspirations. Or look through Pinterest for promo ideas and focus on what’s clever and endearing and not what just looks impressive.
Make it easy for customers to refer you
It’s not always easy to give a referral.
Remember, when you pass someone’s name along, your reputation is on the line as well. And though clients might be happy with what you’ve done, they may not want to take responsibility for their friend’s experiences.
Here’s a quick and simple work around that’s incredibly powerful, if you do it well: create something worth sharing.
Create a killer PDF or a printed magazine that’s chock full of valuable advice. A preparation sheet or a checklist, or anything and everything that can make you essential. Good information gets shared.
Make sure it’s packed with thoughtful content. Make it substantial. Spend some time doing research. Make it look professional. Something like this should last you years and years, so putting in the time to make it over-the-top good will pay you back in spades.
Also, it changes the nature of the referral. Your clients don’t have to feel like they’re stumping for you. Sharing information can feel like you’re being indoctrinated. But sharing useful information doesn’t.
Instead, it turns people into a resource for their friends. So, by giving them information to pass along (and asking them to spread it around…remember to ask!), you’re empowering your clients to help others, and it feels a whole lot better than just pitching another person’s services.
Referral Secret Sauce Guide
So these are the strategies that have kept me in business for over a decade. I’ve applied all of these, and every year, I need to do less marketing, networking, and busy work. I want you to do the same, so I’ve done two things.
First, I’ve put together a guide: Referral Secret Sauce, where I’ll tell you the big thing that everyone should do, but very few businesses apply.
Second, one person reading this will also get a one-on-one mentoring session with me to help with your business.
To get all of the goodness, access the bonus by signing up here.