1. an act of referring someone or something for consultation, review, or further action.

There are certain professions (e.g. realtors, attorneys, tax professionals, etc.) who source a majority of their “new” business from referrals.  However, ALL businesses can benefit by asking for them.  The key is to make sure you have a program in place to do so and that you actively utilize it.  This post will tell you how to create such a program and set it up so that the probability of you reaping the rewards are maximized.

Create your customer database.  The first place to start when creating a referral program is your database or “house list.”  Don’t have one?  Well, this is where you start!  Create a list of anyone and everyone that you have ever done business with.  “But I’ve been in business for 10 years.  Do you seriously expect me to go back and find everyone who’s ever paid me during that time?”  Well, you certainly don’t have to, but it’s to your advantage to so.  It’s often said that it cost 5-7 times more to obtain a new customer than it does to keep (or sell to again) an existing one.  Thus, the more existing clients you can identify, the better your referral program will work.

Mine your customer database. The next step is to review your database and identify those who match your IDEAL profile.  Who are those clients?

  • The ones who you like to work with.
  • The ones who you have a good relationship with.
  • Those who pay their bills in a reasonable amount of time.
  • Those whom you have helped with a particular challenge.
  • Those whom you saved money.

The list goes on and on.  But essentially what you are looking for are those clients whom you would like more of in your portfolio AND those whom are most likely to recommend you.  Those who you have helped in the past are already predisposed to mentioning you to others.  But why not just ask all the clients whom you’ve worked with?  Well, clients tend to refer those who are similar to themselves.  So if you want more problem clients, then ask the ones you hate working with to send you business and you’ll wind up with more of the same!

Create a touch program. Now that you have your list, you need to stay in regular contact with them.  You’ll understand why in the next step.  You can do this in a number of ways, but essentially you want to create what is referred to as a touch program.  A touch is considered an interaction and can materialize in many forms.  These include monthly newsletters, email blast, blog posts, holiday cards, birthday/anniversary cards, client promo gifts, client appreciation events, phone calls, emails, etc.  The exact mechanism that you use to “touch” your customer is pretty irrelevant.  The key is that you simply do it.  How often should you contact your customers?  The numbers vary depending on who you talk to but most agree that monthly is a minimum.

Maintain top of mind awareness. The real point of the touch program is so that you create Top Of Mind Awareness (TOMA).  What exactly is this?  Well, it’s when you are the first person (i.e. top of mind) your client thinks of when either they OR a friend have a problem that needs to be solved.  You want them to call you first, not the competitor.  You want them to tell their friends about you, not that store down the street.  Chances are, if they hear from you every month, you will be the one that they think of.  But what if they throw your monthly communication straight into the trash?  Doesn’t matter. The fact of the matter is that they knew that it came from YOU before they threw it into the trash!

Ask for the referral.   Okay, so now that you’ve done all of the above, it’s time to do the following:

  • Ask your client for referrals. Yes, ASK them.  The number one reason sales folks fail to get business is because they never explicitly ask for the sale.  The same can be said for referrals.  When you complete a sale or a job, ask your client if there is anyone else they know whom you could help.  If the client seems squeamish, hand them a stack of business cards and tell them to just pass them on if they think of someone.  If they are willing to give you a name and phone number, that’s even better!
  • Have a letter made describing how to refer to you. If you can tell your client who your ideal client is, how to spot them and how to send them to you, it makes the process run that much smoother.  We no longer use this exact document, but it is one that we would give our clients who visited our office and picked up hard copies of their returns.
  • Incentivize your clients to refer you. Some clients will be motivated by monetary compensation.  Some will be happy if you mention their referral action in your newsletter.  Some don’t want anything and just want to make sure their friends are sent to someone they trust and know will do good work.  But no matter how you incentivize the act of making a referral, make sure that you have a way to say “thank you” to your clients.

If you need help with a business matter (like how to get more clients), why not give us a call for your FREE 30 minute business brainstorming bout.  This session (valued at $250) is yours for FREE if you mention this post (or BBB).  In it, we’ll evaluate one challenge facing your business and give you an actionable way to address it.  To schedule your BBB, simply give us a call at 773-239-8850 or shoot us an email via the link in the footer of this page.