First of all you have to understand that it’s important that you create a culture within your business to be able to secure referrals on a regular basis, it is especially important that your employees understand that this is an important part of your business.  One of the best ways they can affect getting a referral is through GREAT customer service.  They need to understand that these are the best customers that you can have.  An added component today is that they make sure you clients have a WOW experience when dealing with your company.  It’s much easier to get a referral when you client has a reason to talk about you!

It is also important that your customers/clients are aware that you want and encourage referrals for your business.  In many ways, this can be done very subtly.  As you will see, we will give you ideas to make sure this is the case.

You’d be surprised at how many people won’t refer someone to you for various reasons, some being selfish reasons. For example, if the perceive you to be busy, they may thing you/your business can’t handle more business; they assume you’re always very busy and may feel you’re so busy you don’t want referrals.

Some clients won’t refer you because they feel that there will be less for them to go around.  They may have a more difficult time getting an appointment with you or your company.  This happens a lot with a good restaurant, people don’t want to tell everyone because they already have a hard time getting a reservation.  This is also true in many other businesses.

Some people won’t refer because they’re concerned about the backlash if the person they refer has a bad experience.  For many people there’s nothing worse than hearing about a bad experience from an in-law at every holiday.  Let them know what the person they refer will experience. Go back to the first paragraph – if they had a WOW experience, they can expect the person they refer to have the same WOW experience.

Another reason your clients might not automatically refer someone to you is Out of Sight, Out of Mind – they aren’t thinking about you at the right time.  You must frequently remind them, help them to keep front of mind consciousness.  When business is great we can afford to let a few opportunities slip by, but it’s not that way anymore!

What I’m going to share with you is what I consider two of my best strategies for getting quality referrals and getting them in bunches.  The first is

“In the Business Event: Have a “Social Event”

Create an event for your business especially for your clients to attend and bring people with them.  For example -Wine Tasting, Customer Appreciation Day, Business Anniversary, etc.  You can combine this with a sales event as long as other things are going on like free giveaways, drawings, caricature drawings, etc.  You may have a factory representative (expert) there, giveaway food; even have a celebrity on site.

Encourage people to bring a friend; include “and guest” or “bring a friend” on the invite.  This is important, many won’t feel it’s appropriate to bring someone to take advantage of everything you’re giving away.  Be sure to make it a “WOW” experience.
Just the exposure of doing something “different” and “special” will generate more business; it will provide exposure for the business.  Try to make the event as festive as possible such as tent with vendors, factory reps, food, balloons, and giveaways.  It can be strictly social; a common example, in martial arts they will have a bowling night, putt-putt golf night that they host with no pitch given, just used to create interest in their business.

**Be sure to collect information from people attending and use for follow-up**
Offer something free to all guests. Some owners have a customer appreciation event as often as quarterly.

I know, I know but your business is different… You can also have a virtual event if necessary or if you don’t have a physical location to hold an event at find a restaurant or meeting place to do it.  Use a little creativity!

My other favorite strategy is to

Use contests to get people to refer

Everyone who refers has their name put in for a drawing each month/quarter for a large giveaway.  One client used a gas grill for this and displayed it for the entire month before the drawing; this was highly successful.  Important — The reward works best if it is not something that you offer.  People have a tendency to place more value on it if it comes from outside your business, such as a Spa Day for women, the grill, a certificate for a restaurant, etc.  You could tie some of the contests into holidays, such as the spa day into Mother’s Day or the grille for Father’s Day, there’s plenty to pick from.

Both of these strategies work well for bringing in large numbers of referrals quickly.  The thing to keep in mind is that you want to focus most of your attention on your best clients; people have a tendency to associate with like-minded people and people who are similar financially.  Millionaires don’t associate with people who make $20,000 a year.  Your best clients will bring in more just like them!

The other thing to keep in mind: people who come in via referral are more likely to refer people than people who come in via other means!!