Research finds that 92 percent of people weigh the opinions of family and friends when making their purchasing decisions. It’s a striking number that illustrates how focusing solely on traditional and/or digital marketing efforts to generate leads isn’t the most efficient or effective strategy. Imagine you are out fishing and have only gotten a couple of bites on the line. If someone came along and plopped a few lake perch in your cooler on their way by, you’d probably be pretty happy! Your day’s haul just improved significantly, and some of those “catches” were brought right to you.
In the business world, the fish brought right to your bucket are referrals. Long considered a staple of success, their benefits include lowering a business’ customer acquisition costs and giving staff a natural conversation starter when interacting with the referred person for the first time. But, the most important benefit is that those prospects are already “on the hook” in one way or another and are ready to be reeled in.
Building an effective referral program can take time, but it’s an investment that can pay exponential dividends. In this article, we’re sharing proven tips for boosting customer referrals while solidifying your relationship with existing customers. Let’s dive in.
1.) Stand Out to Get a Shoutout: When was the last time you told someone in your life about that average experience you had at a restaurant? Even if the meal didn’t let you down, you’re unlikely to mention it in conversation unless something about your visit stood out. The same applies to your visitors, and you can make your mark in a number of areas. Most often, an interaction of some kind with your staff offers the easiest opportunity: front desk friendliness, gregarious store greeters, willing waiting room attendants, or checkout line competence are all examples of “wow moments” that can leave an indelible mark on someone.
2.) Make It Worth Their While: Make the benefit of referring, or trying, your business tangible, and you’re more likely to motivate someone into action. Think of it as laying out the welcome mat while also mailing thank-you cards. For example, offering a discount or free consultation is a substantial “welcome mat” for anyone who approaches you through a referral. Likewise, a discounted or free product/service is a generous “thank you” that communicates appreciation to the customer who made the referral and encourages them to keep sending leads your way.
3.) Remind Them You’re Great: It’s easy to be forgetful in this modern and hectic world, so even stellar service doesn’t guarantee a customer’s referral. They may leave with a satisfied smile, but once they’re out the door, whether physical or digital, they’ve mentally moved on to something else. According to a study conducted by Texas Tech University, “83% of consumers are willing to refer after a positive experience—yet only 29% actually do.” Find those folks who simply forgot how great you are by reminding them: on your website, in social media posts, and in email marketing campaigns. Sometimes you simply have to ask directly for what you want.
4.) Make Referrals Festive: You can organize events for your business that build the outreach aspect right in! Many yoga and fitness clubs, for example, host weekly “Happy Hours” or “Free-Friend Fridays” which encourage members to bring a guest. Special events and parties can also be planned for customers with a “plus-one” on their invitation. One of the most effective ways to convert a new lead into a long-term customer is to have a happy customer make the introduction.
5.) Produce Valuable Digital Content: What travels faster these days than word of mouth? Anything in the world of digital media that gets people clicking! Provide your customers with useful, enjoyable content that’s easy for them to share, and you can quickly become positioned as an industry expert. This includes a mix of blogs, eblasts, and video.
6.) Quid Pro Quo: Our lexicon describes it in several ways, but the idea is the same and deeply rooted in human behavior. A favor performed for you is likely to earn me one in return. It’s the same for referrals! Providing referrals for others is one of the easiest ways to receive them in return.
The Bottom Line
Building a powerful referral program is all about creating and nurturing new relationships. The success of relationships, whether in business or elsewhere in life, requires a few universal characteristics. Attentiveness, effective communication, and a willingness for altruism are all hallmarks of a promising partnership.
To learn more about how to provide excellent customer service, check out our blog post, 5 Common Misconceptions About Customer Service.