Earlier in this series, I mentioned that we are all in the business of building trust—trust in our competencies, trust that we can deliver the results we promise and trust that the money our clients invest in our services is worth it.
Normally, for someone who just met you, stumbled upon your website, read your guest post or saw your tweet, the process of building trust is a long one. Marketing books say that it takes at least 7 interactions or “touches” for someone to develop the level of comfort necessary in order to buy something from you.
But this process can be drastically accelerated.
The interesting thing about building trust is that you don’t have to do all the heavy lifting yourself. You can actually piggyback on previously established trust.
Have you ever noticed how favorably you think of someone you just met if you discover you have a friend in common? Or that you read someone’s guest post more attentively if it’s on the blog of a person you admire? Or that you’ll check out a stranger’s website if her tweet was retweeted by someone whose opinion you value?
What you’re doing is transferring some of the trust you already have for one person onto another, even if you’ve never heard of them before.
This is why when you receive referrals, it’s often the case that all you need to close the deal is a conversation to ensure that you’re a good match. The trust building part has been done for you.
For service-oriented businesses, referrals are, by far, the most efficient way of getting new clients. But you, probably, already know that.
What you might not realize is that what stands between you and a steady flow of referrals is just one thing—the simple act of asking for them.
If you don’t feel comfortable asking for referrals, here are 6 ninja tactics to help you overcome your uneasiness.
6 Referral Tactics to Help you Build Your Business
1. PICK THE RIGHT TIME
When your clients express their satisfaction with your work, it is only natural to ask for a referral.
It can be as simple as “I’m thrilled you’re pleased with my work. I agree that the new site is so much easier to navigate. [Pause] I’m always looking for referrals… Do you happen to know anyone else who might be interested in an attractive and functional website?”
2. CHAMPION YOUR CLIENTS
Be very clear on the goals of your clients when they begin working with you and check in with them regularly to see what they have achieved.
As you acknowledge their wins, offer to produce the same results for their trusted contacts.
You could ask something like: “It’s amazing the new freebie we created together is generating twice as many sign-ups to your list! Do you know any other online business owners, who could use content editing services?”
3. KEEP IN TOUCH
Build relationships with your clients, don’t just collect money and deliver projects. We all like attention and our clients are no different. Nothing makes someone feel more cared for than if you send them a short e-mail, make a quick call or send a card.
Tell them how much you enjoyed working with them, ask how things are going or share a funny situation that made you think of them. Keep it light and short. You don’t even need to ask for more business. Following up with clients will keep you in their minds, so you’ll be the first person they mention whenever they learn about projects that could benefit from your awesome work.
4. BE STRATEGIC
Create a VIP club for your existing and past clients. Keep in touch with them by sending them useful or just entertaining information. From time to time, gently remind them that you appreciate referrals. At the same time, offer them a little incentive.
Try this: “In two weeks, I am launching another detox program. I’d love you to join me. Of course, since we’ve already worked together, you can take this program at half price. I’m also happy to offer a 10% discount (or 10% referral fee) to any of your friends who join us.”
5. BE GENEROUS
Keep a list of people who regularly refer new clients to you. You may notice that a small percentage of people are referring a big chunk of business to you. Generously reward them for it. These people might be past clients or professionals offering complementary services who you’ve invited to become your referral partners.
Get to know them and learn how you can give back. You may refer a client to them or give them a monetary reward, but you don’t have to. A thoughtful gift like a book they mentioned they wanted to read or dinner at their favorite restaurant will show that you truly care and fuel them to support you even more.
6. MAKE IT EASY
The easier you make it for your raving fans to refer you clients, the better.
Don’t rely on people to accurately describe your business. Take the matter in your hands. Create an information package or a webpage that talks about what you do, why you do it and the kind of results you create for your clients.
Offer to take the name of the referral, so you can reach out yourself and follow up with them if necessary.
Now, that the internal resistance to ask for a referral has subsided, think about how you can make the above tactics repeatable.
Here are the questions that will help you to do that:
- WHO do I want to ask for a referral? Past clients, current clients, professionals offering complementary services, friends?
- WHEN do I want to ask for a referral? During a promotion? When a client reaches a certain milestone? After I follow up with a past client?
- HOW am I going to ask for a referral? Bringing it up during a one-on-one session? With an email template? By including a referral card with a follow-up gift?
In addition to getting clear about your answers to the above questions:
- Keep track of the people sending you referrals. You need to acknowledge them for these gracious acts! If you ask your referrals to send their contacts to a specific webpage, provide them with personal links (for this purpose you may use bit.ly or create an official affiliate program. E-junkie is a good place to start). Collect the names of your referral partners by including a “referred by” field in your entry questionnaire or, during initial conversations with new clients, ask them how they heard about you.
- Create a follow-up schedule and stick to it.
- Think of creative, feel-good ways of thanking the people who send you referrals
Here is the referral tracking logthat will help you systematize your efforts.
SO WHAT’S YOUR PLAN?
Do me a favor. Tell me which of these tips you think will bring in more business. Also, commit to implementing 1 ninja tactic this week. In the comments below, let me know what it is and how it went!