It is no secret that word-of-mouth sales referrals are a driving factor for most people today. That is because most people don’t trust advertisements but they trust a recommendation from a friend or family member. Chances are, if you needed to go buy a new car today, after you turned to Google — you would then seek out your closest network for their suggestions.
Many businesses will make the mistake of overlooking referrals but the truth is, referrals are often the most effective way to grow your business, especially in the beginning. That’s because your happy customers are the best references you have. A 2016 Nielson study shows that word-of-mouth marketing has a far bigger impact on customers than traditional advertising methods.
When you offer a great product or service that is backed up by exceptional customer service people almost can’t help but talk about it. Of course, while all of this sounds great, you may be wondering how you can apply this to your business in a practical way. Here are six ways you can create powerful word-of-mouth referrals:
1. Timing is everything
Often, the key to getting a customer referral is to simply know when to ask. Most businesses wait to ask for a referral after they have delivered the product or service. In my opinion, it’s a better idea to build it in as an expectation right from the start.
As soon as you sign up a new client send them a personalized message telling them that you are going to deliver outstanding service and that in return, you would really appreciate their referral. By setting the expectation right from the start your client will be far more likely to follow through.
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2. Make it worth their while
Many people intend to leave you a referral but they simply get busy and forget. If you want your customers to take time out of their day to do something to help your business, you need to make it worth their while. Offer a time-sensitive referral bonus. For instance, if they give you a referral within a week they will receive a special gift in the mail.
This should really go without saying but if you want someone to give you a positive referral then you have to over-deliver every time. It isn’t enough to merely meet a customer’s expectations, you have to exceed them.
This doesn’t have to be anything over the top, there are a number of small ways you can exceed a customer’s expectations. If you provide a service then you could give them a free 20-minute consultation to thank them for their business. Or if you are a product-based business, send them an inexpensive product that you have found is popular with most of your customers.
4. Have a built-in referral process
One of the worst things a business can do is make it hard for customers to leave them positive reviews and referrals. If it is overly complicated most people will simply give up and move on to something else.
It is also a bad idea to leave the referral process too open-ended. Most customers can’t think of what to say at first so make it easy for them. Have a referral form with plenty of prompts that they can easily fill out and submit on your website. That way they won’t have to rack their brain trying to think of what to write.
5. Use social media
Social media platforms are key for businesses looking to gain new customers and expand their reach. The fact is, most people would rather visit your Facebook page then look through your website. Set up a social media page where customers can leave you referrals and share how much they enjoy your products or services with their friends and family.
Make sure to regularly engage with your customers on social media as well. Maritz Research found that 85 percent of customers were excited when companies responded publicly to their comments on social media. It’s a great way to keep your customers engaged and make them feel valued.
6. Be genuinely grateful
This may sound obvious but you should express your gratitude every time a customer gives you a referral. Everyone enjoys feeling appreciated and a simple thank you can go a long way. And make sure that when you do say thank you, you add some sort of personal touch and don’t just send an auto-generated email.
Once you have received a referral from your customer, your work doesn’t end there. You must continue to stay in communication with that person and continue to build the relationship even if they stop buying from you. Consistency is important when you are interacting with your customers because, at the end of the day, your goal is to provide more value not just make more sales.