How referable are you?
Word of mouth is a fantastic form of personal marketing – it’s free, it’s credible and it’s very effective. So how do you make sure you’re referable?
Start by ensuring that you deliver exceptional customer service without fail. If you just skimmed over that bit, let me say it again: unless you put in the effort to make sure your clients’ experiences of you and your business are absolutely mind-blowing every time they interact with you, you will not get the referrals you desire.
In fact, I’d recommend spending 80% of your time on making your customer experience better. Yes, 80%.
Let me give you an example. My daughter’s orthodontist is someone I have referred time and time again because of the way he treats his patients. As he’s talking to my daughter, he engages with her and educates her about what’s being done. In this way he builds her trust (and mine). He never rushes us. He has his diary streamlined so there’s never a long wait when we arrive for an appointment.
The day after my daughter wore her braces for the first time he even called to find out how she was feeling. Because he takes his service to the next level, I have recommended him to multiple people.
Do you, like this orthodontist, make sure you stand out from everyone targeting the same market as you? You need to ensure that you become seen as an expert at what you do – someone who offers unique value. If you’re nothing special, you won’t be referred. Start by looking at how much of your business is coming from referrals. Could it be more? What are you going to change to become more referable?
ASK NICELY AND BE SYSTEMATIC
Once you’ve ensured you’re referable, you need to learn to ask for what you want. Often clients haven’t referred you because they think you’re too busy to take on new clients, or haven’t thought to recommend your services to. Ask and you shall receive.
You need to ensure that you become seen as an expert at what you do – someone who offers unique value
Referrals are a good way of building new business, so develop a systematic referrals procedure. Start by asking your client politely whether he or she can think of anyone else who might benefit from your services (and only ask clients who are 100% happy with you).
Then arm your client with helpful information. Explain the types of clients you’re looking for, and why you think you can help them. You can even point them to useful references they can use when referring you, such as your website or portfolio.
If the client says they have someone in mind, ask for that person’s contact details, but also ask your client to help you by calling the person before you do, to explain why you’ll be getting in touch. This way you won’t be making a cold call.
Now, this bit is important: don’t lose momentum. Make sure you follow up with your client to see if they’ve called the prospect, and then make sure you make contact too. If your client has made an introduction, remember to thank them personally, whether something comes of it or not.
It’s critical that while you’re looking for referrals, you’re also giving referrals. Often the referral process is a two-way street. Look for people whose skills complement yours and refer clients to each other, thereby building a strategic partnership. Remember: people like to help helpful people.