The single most powerful selling tool for any small business can be summed up in one simple word: REFERRALS. People would rather do business with people they know (or know of) than strangers. That’s how it’s always been. Think about it from the other perspective. When you’re introduced to a new service or product by someone you know and trust, you’re more open to it than you would be if someone had cold called you and asked you to make a purchase. Referrals are an immensely powerful and underused tool for small business owners that can help their sales explode. Here are a few tips on soliciting referrals tactfully and using them to your advantage.
- Just ask. Yep, it’s that easy. Except that you can’t just park your social media links on the sidebar of your website and expect that your clients are going to jump on and share your brilliance. Instead, make it personal. If you’re in an email exchange with a client, write a note of genuine gratitude for their support or purchase. At the end, a simple statement of “I’d really appreciate an honest review about your experience on xyx site” can make all the difference. Make sure the timing is right when you ask though. It should be in the midst of delivering excellent customer service or shortly thereafter. Don’t be shy to ask a second time in a later follow-up email if the client said they would and then didn’t follow through.
- Make it easy. Most clients won’t jump through hoops to refer you, regardless of how much they love you. Your referral process should be incredibly painless, as in, the click of a button easy. Rather than saying “I’d appreciate if you would hop over to Facebook and leave me a review,” try hyperlinking the text within the email directly to your page.
- Set up a reward system. Rather than putting all of your focus on potential newcomers, reward your loyal clients. Give them access to new products, free trials, coupon codes, discounts, cash, or an entry for a large prize for their efforts in referring your business. They’re more likely to continue referring you to people they know.
- Give and Take. Don’t expect to receive hundreds of referrals if you aren’t doing your part, too. Put out a good word for the services and products you buy and recognize the hard work of the entrepreneurs behind those businesses as well.
- Make it a Habit. Don’t just ask for referrals on clients who are already expressing their love for your product. Make it a habit to solicit a review from every client. Your pitch doesn’t have to sound sales-y either; just make it a quick “hey, if you have a second, let’s connect over on xyz site!”
At the end of the day, referrals are about relationships and people supporting people. Don’t try to buy referrals and don’t get discouraged if you didn’t get a referral where you’d really like one. Slow and steady wins the race–and gets you a lot of great referrals, too!
Ben Sutton is the founder of Mazuma USA, an accounting firm providing tax, bookkeeping and payroll services to small businesses. Since founding Mazuma, Ben has established himself as an expert in the small business world. He’s still driven by that same desire to provide accounting help to all small businesses – from photographers, bloggers and creatives to lawyers, doctors, and dentists, everyone needs affordable accounting help. Ben is a Certified Public Accountant, and a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. But Ben considers his greatest achievement and credential to be his happy wife and four children.