Word of mouth remains the strongest form of advertising. In a recent Experian study, 54 percent of consumers said their purchase decisions are influenced by recommendations from someone they know. So, how do you encourage your customers to make referrals?
Try these strategies:
- Take advantage of LinkedIn. Connect with customers on LinkedIn and you can see who else they’re connected to. If a customer has a contact you’d love to work with, send a polite email requesting an introduction and stating your rationale. For example, you could mention that you’d like to talk with a university PR contact because you’ve done significant marketing work for other colleges. Be polite and give your contact an easy out — chances are, he’ll say “yes.”
- Offer a referral bonus. Do your clients use your services (or buy your products) on an ongoing basis? Consider offering a referral bonus or an online affiliate discount for every new customer they send your way. This may make some people more likely to refer you. However, keep in mind that new customers may be a bit wary when they realize the recommendation wasn’t completely unbiased. Tread cautiously, and make sure you’re transparent about your marketing approach.
- Be generous. Openly share your business knowledge and contacts with colleagues, clients, and even competitors. By creating positive, trust-based relationships, they’ll be far more likely to give your name to people who want to pay for your expertise.
- Be direct. Whenever you complete a business transaction, tell your customer — if she’s happy with your product or service — that you’d really appreciate a few referrals. Give her a handful of business cards to pass along to others who might be interested in what you offer. Ask her to consider singing your praises on a review-focused site like Angie’s List or Yelp, too.
- Be gracious. Even if a referral turns out to be a dud, take the time to thank the person who recommended your services. Send a note — or better yet, a small gift — to that person, so you’ll be at the top of his mind next time a referral opportunity comes up.