One of the most important things I have learned in my law practice over the past 19 years is that if I take good care of my clients they will either return if they need my services again, or, they will refer someone who also needs the same kind of representation. Without question, the #1 way that I have obtained new clients is through referrals from current or past clients. How simple is that?
I have seen the same kind of return on investment of excellent customer service in my voiceover business, as my two most recent jobs came to me by referral…from current clients.
As I was contemplating a new blog post about this very topic, I received this week’s regular Tuesday email newsletter from Maxine Dunn – The Creative Business Advisor. Maxine is a highly-regarded voice talent, on-camera spokesperson, and very savvy solopreneuer. This week’s issue of Maxine’s newsletter was so timely, it meant I didn’t need to write a blog about referrals, because I wouldn’t have done it justice like she did. So, with Maxine’s full consent, and my appreciation, I am republishing her latest article. Thank you for the advice Maxine.
Want Referrals? Let Me Show You How
by Maxine Dunn
Let’s start by stating a sales industry fact: (And yes, if you’re in business to make a profit – whether you’re a voice actor, a dog groomer, or a copyeditor – you’re in sales.) Your easiest sale will be to a customer or client who is already doing business with you. And your next easiest sale will be to a person who was referred to you by one of your existing customers.
Word of mouth is key.
Another way of saying this is that the most effective advertising for your business is word-of-mouth advertising. Having another person who knows you, trusts you, and likes you, recommend you to others is more powerful than just about any other form of advertising you can do.
Think for a moment about how you research a product or business or service. Do you ask friends or colleagues for their recommendations when looking for a new hair dresser, contractor, or copywriter? And don’t you already have a sense of trust towards who or what they’re recommending, simply because they recommended it?
Don’t hesitate to ask!
Now we can all hope or assume that our clients will recommend us to others, but the most effective way to actually enlist their help (and not just hope for it) is to ASK. Yes, I mean actually asking for the referral.
You see, although your clients may love doing business with you, it may not immediately pop into their heads to recommend you when conversing with their business colleagues. They may not even be aware that you would like them to pass your name along. There could be opportunities for them to bring up your name that slip by, all because you haven’t asked them to!
If you make a point of directly requesting that they refer you to others, they will not only feel flattered that you have asked for their help (yes, people enjoy helping others) there’s a much greater chance you’ll expand your business and client base from trusted sources.
If you’re uncomfortable asking for referrals, feel that you shouldn’t have to ask, or think you’re being pushy, stop worrying! It is one of the best possible things you can do for your business as well as your client relationships. Regularly asking your clients for referrals will not only improve your personal standards and business code-of-conduct and increase your client base significantly, it will further cement your positive relationships with your existing clients.
(Important note: I’m referring to actively reaching out to clients and asking them directly for a referral. I’m not referring to just the inclusion of suggesting a referral in your email signature.)
Following are my guidelines for asking for referrals. I’ve broken them up into three categories:
“Before, during, and after” asking for referrals.
I – BEFORE
- Make sure you have a top quality product or service. What you provide to your existing client must be 100 percent consistently outstanding quality. If your client refers you it will reflect directly on them as well, so make sure your product or service is top notch.
- Make sure you maintain top quality, high-level, customer service. Responsive, professional, personalized, customer-comes-first, customer service.
- Make sure you’ve taken time to develop a trusting and personalized relationship with your clients. One of the reasons they’ll refer you is because they know you are a person of integrity who cares about others. Make building successful relationships the cornerstone of your business from Day One.
II – DURING
Make it easy for your clients to help you. Let them know that your business grows by word-of-mouth and you’d love it if they’d consider passing your name along. Don’t be shy. ASK! Send a letter stating simply that you’ve enjoyed doing business with them and would love for them to share your contact information if they hear of others needing the type of services or products you provide.
Important points to include in your letter:
- A brief recap or short bullet list of what you provide so they can easily describe what you do or provide to others.
- Include 2-3 business cards for them to pass on to others.
- Give a brief description of who you’d like to work with. (Your target market or preferred client.)
- Tell them the best way for referrals to contact you: e-mail, telephone, etc. Be sure to include all your contact information in your letter as well.
- Sincere gratitude and thanks for their time and be sure to include a personal comment: “Thanks so much for everything and I’m really looking forward to working with you again.”
III – AFTER
- Refer your clients to others as well! If you see a very good match, be sure to pass their contact information on and remember to send your client a note saying you’ve referred them and give details of the contact. Give referrals, as well as ask for them.
- Always send a thank you note and/or gift when your client’s referral results in a good contact for you and of course keep in touch with your clients throughout the year.
1. The best time to ask for a referral is after a very positive experience with your client when they’re expressing their appreciation for the work you’ve done for them.
2. You can ask for a referral whether it’s the first time you’re working with a client or the twentieth time.
3. You can ask for a referral whether you’re a solopreneur or a multi-employee business.
4. All your clients can potentially refer you so maintain consistently high standards with everyone you work with.
5. Word-of-mouth referrals are a powerful, POWERFUL, form of advertising and can result in many rewarding, prosperous, new client relationships.
6. Ask for referrals on a regular basis. Make it a systematized part of your marketing strategy. How many clients have you contacted recently to ask for a referral? Do it today.
Again, a genuine, authentic, request for a referral is a respected, expected, and customary practice in the business world. Make sure you employ this synergistic strategy in your creative marketing efforts.