Love them or hate them, referrals are one of the most crucial components of a successful inbound sales strategy, you may ask why? Because referrals are likelier to convert into more clients than leads generated through other marketing methods. In fact, there’s no more reliable way to grow any business than through sourcing referrals — but only if it’s done in a systematic, smart way.
There are two types of referrals and your marketing strategy should target both:
Experience referrals are a direct result of working with your business. A previous client is a prime example of an experience-based referral.
Reputation referrals come from people that have heard of your business. Someone who has previously seen your advertisement or engaged with your content online is an example of a reputation-based referral.
Here are seven marketing strategies to help generate more referrals for professional service providers.
Always be transparent
Now, more than anytime before, consumers are highly cautious about sharing their information – especially online. Make your customer referral program more attractive by being upfront and honest about the entire process. Let the members know how their information will be used, how they can keep track of the process and exactly what they’ll get in return. The more information you share about your program, the more at ease your customers will feel and the more likely they’ll be to sign on. Collecting and analyzing data from customer referrals is critical for optimizing future rollouts and campaign iterations.
You’re planning to enable your customers to share your brand with others, and in return, they’re going to enable you to better understand consumer behavior surrounding your products and services. The more you understand about your customer base and the leads they generate, the more efficiently you can improve your marketing strategies, gain customer insight, and grow revenue. Don’t let this data slip away without tapping into its full potential. Before you launch a program, decide how you will collect, store, and analyze the data you have collected.
Overcome your fear of asking
Even though referrals often happen naturally, it can be difficult to get people to think about you after they leave. That’s why you should always ask for a referral.
In general, customers are usually happiest post-purchase, so this is a good time to ask for referrals. For example, an e-commerce store typically asks for referrals their thank you or receipt pages. This process can be automated, making it easy for you.
You can also offer incentives to make referring even sweeter. For example, Booking.com sends an email after a customer has made a booking, encouraging the customer to share with a friend to receive $25 off.
Build relationships, as people refer people
Meeting a referral source in person is an excellent opportunity to learn more about his or her business and interests. Prepare questions in advance so that the conversation flows smoothly. Be ready to give an update on your business and to ask lots of questions about your source’s interests.
After you’ve met at least once, you may also consider inviting him or her to participate in some type of recreational activity, such as a golf outing, fishing trip, concert or play. This can be a good opportunity to let your referral source see a different side of you in an informal setting.
Even if you work for a large brand and aren’t able to interact with customers one-on-one, you can still build relationships through your digital marketing initiatives. For example, you can send personalized emails that highlight a customer’s individual interests, reminding them that you know them and care about who they are.
Personalize your interactions as much as you can
Personalizing customer interactions builds loyalty. If you are able to treat customers as individuals by personalizing their experiences, they will reward your dedication with loyalty of their own.
In today’s world, there is one simple reason for doing your utmost to deliver an exceptional experience to each and every individual customer – it will consistently lead to more loyal customers, and a more loyal customer base equates to higher revenues for your business.
Successful personalization is the foundation on which a good customer experience is built, and achieving this entails focusing on making every single customer feel valued. While a good first step in this process is to be able to greet the customer by name, it is imperative to understand that true personalization is about much more than this.
For example, if a customer purchases a new snowboard from your sporting goods website, it makes sense to send out material that’s relevant to that subscriber. You might send information on snow conditions, recommendations for more gear, or a promo code for a lift ticket at a local mountain. Alternatively, if someone purchases a basketball, they might receive different recommendations.
Show appreciation to those that refer you
Everyone wants to feel appreciated. For many, appreciation begins with saying thank you. It is important to show appreciation to those who send more customers your way. If someone refers you, not only are they giving you a compliment, but they are going out of their way to help you. You don’t necessarily have to write a poem or do some big gesture, but acknowledging their effort is important.
For example, if you have an e-commerce website and someone refers you to new potential customers, you can give him/her a discount or coupon code that can be used in their next purchase, you can also give gift cards.
Improve your customer support experience
Obviously, customer service plays a major role in every business. People like to be heard, and they like their problems to be solved. One of the best ways you can encourage referrals is to provide top-notch customer support.
Here are some easy ways to make sure your customer service is in tip-top shape:
- Empathy, patience and consistency: Some customers will be irate. Others will be full of questions. And others will just be chatty. You must know how to handle all of them and provide the same level of service every time.
- Adaptability: Every customer is different, and some may even seem to change week-to-week. You should be able to handle surprises, sense the customer’s mood and adapt accordingly. This also includes a willingness to learn– providing good customer service is a continuous learning process.
- Knowledge: Ultimately your customers rely on you for their knowledge of your product. Stay informed enough to respond to most inquiries and know where to turn if the questions become too detailed or technical for you to answer. But don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know” either. Customers will appreciate the honesty and your efforts to find the right answer.
- Be responsive: Make sure you’re staying on top of things. Don’t let customers comments and questions go unanswered for too long.
Focus on your specialty
You will attract more referrals if you focus more of your marketing and branding efforts on your specialty, rather than a wide range of services. When I first launched my marketing agency more than seven years ago, we did everything under the sun. With dozens of services, we were not known for one specialty over another.
No matter where you are in building your brand, referrals should be an essential part of your marketing program. Ultimately, recommendations are what propel businesses forward. With these tips, you should be able to create a more referable business that delights current customers and keeps new ones coming in.