How do small businesses grow their customer base? Any sales or marketing professional will tell you that getting new customers interested in your product or service can be expensive. Is there a less expensive, more effective way to do this? Yes! Tap into the great work you are already doing with your existing customers and build a referral marketing program.

Why is it a good strategy? According to the Wharton School of Business, a referred customer costs a lot less to acquire and has a higher potential for retention and loyalty. Simply put, business referrals make sense when you are finding ways to grow your small business.

But, if you find that your customer referrals are just trickling in, you may need to look at how you are asking for referrals. We have four tips that will help you improve the quantity (and quality) of your referrals.

Four Ways to Improve Business Referrals

Exceed Expectations

If you want people to talk about the amazing service you provide, you must start by providing exceptional service. When you ‘wow’ your customers, they will want to tell their networks about it and send their contacts, friends, and family your way. Don’t worry: you don’t need to employ an army of customer service professionals to raise the bar on the service you provide; just enable your employees to make the customer experience a positive, memorable one by taking extra measures to ensure the customers’ satisfaction.

Build Value First

 When you get in the practice of exceeding customer expectations, master the art of asking for a referral. When asking for a referral, timing is everything. You will want your customer to have a chance to use your product or service first and really see what value it adds to their business or their life. Keep in contact with them when they first implement your solution and go out of your way to answer any questions or troubleshoot any potential issues early. When you know they are fully satisfied, ask them if they have any friends or associates that could benefit from your product or service.  

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask

When you know they are fully satisfied, ask them if they have any friends or associates that could benefit from your product or service. Capture clients while they’re engaged with your business, such as during a client testimonial. If you get a stellar email from a client excited about how a project is shaping up, ask he or she to post a review online. If a customer mentions how many compliments they’ve received, ask if they’d consider referring you to a friend. Another good time? Consider sending out a call for referrals during a low period when you need help drumming up business.  

Make It Easy

Digital referrals make it a breeze to capture customer interest. Provide a link on your website, social media platforms, or your email signature, asking customers to refer a friend. The link needs to lead your customer to an easy form that they can fill out with the name and contact info of someone who might use your service. Remember, customers may be apprehensive about signing friends and colleagues up to receive mailings, so be sure to tell them exactly how you will use the information they provide. Your form should include language that indicates when you will reach out to the referral, and what they should look for.

Say a Sincere Thank You

Consider implementing a formal referral program so that your customers (and the people they refer) receive something – maybe store credit, a gift card, or a gift or service – to thank them for their referral. By providing an incentive to earn rewards with their referrals, you are giving your customers a feeling of exclusivity and earned privilege, and a way to save on their next purchase with you. (Hint: this also improves customer loyalty, which is a win-win for you!)

 

Easy Ways to Ask for Business Referrals

Being able to ask for referrals doesn’t come easily to a lot of people. To make it easier, we’ve included a few samples to make it easier for you to get started.

Sample 1: We appreciate the opportunity to serve you. If you were delighted by our service, the greatest compliment you can give us is to share our service with your friends. If you send someone our way, let us know — you will both receive 10% off your next order with us.

Sample 2: Do you have any friends that could use a new software tool? We would love to speak with them and help them grow their business, too!

Sample 3: You told me you're happy with the services you received. Have you told anybody about the great things we’ve been able to do together? Would you do me a favor and provide a warm introduction to your vendors that are trying to grow their business?

 

Referrals can be great for your small business, and help you capitalize on the great service you provide. Don’t wait for referrals to trickle in — set up a formal process for requesting referrals from your best customers, and watch your business grow.