A click to forward an email, an extra business card or a blog post worthy of sharing are all easy ways for your referral sources, whether they are clients, vendors, or family to make a quick introduction.
While it’s always better to ask for referrals in person or on the phone, it’s also important to make it easy for clients to send people your way.
The key here is to be always in referral mindset. Carry extra business cards and always give two or even three, never just one. Take a minute to email your referral source about that new blog post. She might not see it otherwise. Give your autoresponders a “forward to a friend” call to action.
These tactics are no substitute for personal interaction, of course, but when added to your overall referral plan, they can be just what your clients need to take action.
Money is Not the Best Referral Gift
Here’s another option to make it easy and fun, like a referral gift. Often people think of a small monetary gift, an affiliate program, a “refer a friend” incentive or just a finder’s fee.
Something important to remember though is this: not everyone is motivated by money!
Shocker, I know. There are actually six types of motivation. So when you’re creating a referral incentive program, remember to create a well-rounded program that is not just about money.
Maybe it’s a complimentary session, or an upgraded plan, or (for really prolific referral partners) a VIP weekend. Maybe it’s just a gift certificate to a local spa or homemade dinner at your home.
Whatever your incentive, referral rewards can be just what you want to compel your clients and the rest of your referral network to remember you next time someone asks, “Who do you know who’s a great ____?”
Make it part of your routine
Just as you’ve documented and systematized your marketing with automated scheduling, email marketing, and other hands-off routines, you can do the same for your referral generation.
Make the asking for and follow up a part of your regular marketing routine. Incorporate it into your checklists and create reminders for yourself or your team. One popular business coach follows a checklist with every client, and her sign-off includes not only a recap of the actionable items for her client to work on, but also a quick, “Do you know anyone I should reach out to who might benefit from the type of work we’re doing together?”
It’s a gentle reminder to keep an eye out for potential referrals, and it works. Her business is stronger than ever.
Remember to keep notes about whom you’ve talked to as well, so when you’re headed to an event or starting a session with a client, you can remember to follow-up quickly.
Once you’ve really incorporated asking for referrals into your daily or weekly marketing routine, it will become second nature.
Remember Gratitude is Appreciated
Getting a referral is not the end of this relationship, and the business owner who believes it is, will be far less successful for it.
Make no mistake about it, this is more than just “business,” and loyalty and gratitude are the keys to long-lasting, mutually beneficial business relationships.
Remember, too, that by offering a referral, your client is expressing a much higher level of trust in you than she does by paying you. Even if she’s in your highest-level program, spending thousands of dollars with you regularly, sharing you with her friends is much different. Now she’s telling others that she trusts you and that they can too.
She’s putting her reputation, and maybe even her personal relationships on the line, and that deserves plenty of appreciation on your part.
We’ve already talked about offering a referral incentive, and that’s important. Remember the personal touch too.
Send a handwritten thank you card.
Sadly, this is a lost art, but it can be so empowering. And resist the urge to send a “fake” handwritten note through a service such as Send Out Cards (link to my colleague, Jeniffer Huie).
Doing that just says you couldn’t be bothered to send a real thank you, so you outsourced it. It won’t make your client feel special, it will make her feel like a commodity.
Send a thoughtful gift.
This doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive. Have the gift fit their behavioral style.
Rather than sending off an impersonal—if delicious—box of chocolate covered strawberries, take the time to find a gift that will have meaning. For example, if your client has recently taken up journaling as a part of her self-improvement journey, a quality, personalized journal will be much more appreciated.
Keep an eye out for items that immediately make you think of your client—perhaps a pretty bracelet or a quirky T-shirt—and start a list. You don’t have to wait for a referral, though. Surprise gifts are fun to give—and receive—for any reason, and doing so will make your clients love you even more than they already do.
Make a charitable donation in their name.
For some people, giving back is a huge part of their lives. If that’s your client, chances are she would be truly moved by a donation to her favorite charity. You get to do a good deed, plus you can thank your client in a way that means the most to them.
I love how my friend, Brook Terhune, a Realtor in Sonoma County, donates to her client’s favorite charity. It’s a true win/win for everyone—including the charity.
Become a Referral Machine
Whether you prefer to think of it as karma, or just know that “what comes around, goes around,” referrals do have a tendency to multiply. The more you give, the more you’ll receive.
So make it a point to refer others back to your business colleagues as well. Perhaps one of your clients has an online store selling personalized planners, while another client struggles with time management. It’s a perfect match and one that both clients will benefit from.
Remember professionals in your industry too. We’ve already established that not everyone will be a great fit for you. Perhaps a potential client needs more time than you have available or faces a roadblock that’s not in your area of expertise. Send her to another coach that specializes in that.
Just be sure that the person you recommend is top in their game and has a rock-solid reputation for excellence. By referring a client to them, you’re essentially saying, “I trust this person to do right by you,” so make sure you mean it.
This is why it’s important to belong to organizations both off and online. You’ll get to know other business professionals and their areas of expertise, plus you’ll create your own referral network you can call on whenever you have an opening in your schedule.
Industry or market-specific associations are one type of network. If you’re a life coach, you ca join an organization dedicated to life coaches. General, diverse groups, such as BNI, can be helpful as well, especially if you often get inquiries from people in their business and personal lives. Plus, a network like BNI is trained and committed to giving referrals to each other.
Connect Others and They’ll Connect You
In his book, “Love is the Killer App,” Tim Sanders makes the point that if you connect enough people to one another, they’ll reciprocate by connecting you to those they know.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in the health and services industries. We’ve already talked about joining professional organizations and groups, but there are other ways to connect people as well.
Local Meetup groups offer a great opportunity to network with people who live and work in your area, and those face-to-face meetings are often more productive and form a more lasting bond than do online relationships. Look for groups in your area that cater to your ideal clients.
Business conferences and events are another place to meet and connect with others (and be connected). In fact, any time you attend an industry event, one of your goals should be to meet and establish a relationship with at least three people in your niche.
Build Your Relationships Intentionally and Consistently
Make it a point to follow up with everyone you meet. A quick note, a thank you card, or a phone call are all easy ways to stay in touch and remind people who you are and what you do.
Not only that, following up will even help you remember those you meet, so next time you’re chatting with someone who is looking for a web designer, you can easily say, “Oh, I met Debbie Designer at a conference just last month, and I think she’d be perfect for your project. Let me send you her contact info.
These types of connections are what fuel the referral machine, so take the time to spread the love, and it will come back to you in the form of more (and better) clients.
Keep the Client Pipeline Full
Keeping your client roster full is critical to your business success. While you don’t want it so packed that you have no time to think, you do want to have a steady stream of new and returning clients so that you can know without a doubt what your profits will look like from month to month.
By taking the time to establish routines, put systems in place for following up, and to practice spreading the love through referrals and connections, you’ll soon earn a reputation as the go-to coach in your market. And once you’ve accomplished that, you’ll never have open spots on your client roster again.
Gail Nott support holistic practitioners, coaches and consultants build a business they love with grace and ease. For more tips on how to get referrals now, download her free report at http://oakland.asentiv.com/7-tips-report/.