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Building Referral Business Takes More than Hope

How do most of your new customers find out about you? If you are like most partners, you will answer, "From referrals." So why is it that so few partners include referral programs in their marketing plans?

For some reason -- whether it's because you are humble or it seems presumptive or defies the manners that your mother taught you -- asking for referral business makes most partners uncomfortable. Maybe some creative ideas will help you overcome your reticence. Here are a couple:

Sources of Referrals
Customers are an obvious place to start. The very best way to get referrals from customers is to do something extraordinary that is worth talking about. When you provide over-the-top service, your clients are going to tell their friends about it.

To augment your "wow" factor, you can also help clients remember you without overtly asking for referrals. For instance:

  • Send a hand-written thank-you note when you complete each project.
  • Send a congratulatory e-mail when you see an announcement about the company.
  • Find out when the next company meeting will be held and offer to provide lunch.

Partners can also be rich sources of referral business. Some of the ways that you can help partners remember you for referrals include:

  • Inviting your partner to speak at an event or co-sponsor an event.
  • Offering to provide content to your partner's newsletter or blog.
  • Sponsoring a networking event for your partner's sales team.

Friends and family are often overlooked as sources for referral business. Give multiple business cards to your inner circle so that they can hand them out when an opportunity arises.

Be a Connector
During networking -- or any conversation, for that matter -- do you listen for opportunities to connect people to your customers or partners? When someone mentions a problem that one of your customers can fix, ask if you can send an introductory e-mail. Your customer will know you are thinking of them and be more likely to repay the favor.

Community Service
A preface to the following suggestion: Be sincere in whatever you do. You won't get referrals from all the good things that you do, but if you genuinely want to contribute to the community, there is no reason that it can't help your business as well. A few ideas include:

  • Promoting or making an unsolicited contribution to a customer-sponsored fundraising event.
  • Volunteering for a board position with a community organization that is meaningful to you.
  • Donating in-kind services to a school or organization that serves your community.

Your customers, partners, friends and family are probably happy to refer business your way. By keeping your name in front of them in positive ways, you will give them more reasons to think of you when an opportunity presents. Even Mom would approve.

Do you have a favorite referral method? Tell me about it and let's share the knowledge.

Posted by Barb Levisay on May 12, 2011


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