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Step 8 The Art of Referrals

Networking has become a bit of a buzzword over the last few years. It’s not just for information technology experts anymore. It's a critical part of the Lifecycle Marketing process.

When we attend a business conference we might talk about networking with colleagues and like-minded entrepreneurs. When we add friends on Facebook or other social media, we’re still networking after a fashion. 

For many small businesses, referrals are the most reliable source of new customers. New contacts lead to new leads, which in turn can lead to new sales opportunities. In essence, gaining referrals is networking for your business.

There are many ways to gain referrals, but they all start with a simple premise: asking. For a business to take advantage of customer referrals, they need to not only ask, but make asking an ingrained habit. Your customer already knows you and likes your product. Why wouldn’t they want they want to share that product with the people they know?

Let your customers know when you first meet them that you will be asking for referrals and follow up on that request during the conversation. If they complement you on your work or your product, use it as an opportunity to ask if they know someone else that might benefit from it. You don't need to limit your requests to prospective clients either. You can also ask business associates, acquaintances and prospects. Remember to be specific about what type of referrals you’re looking for. This will help you avoid empty leads and make your referral system more efficient. 

Make gaining referrals a part of all your marketing and customer interactions. Include it on your webpages and in your correspondence. Add a link to a form on your website for referral submissions. If you have employees or sales people, make sure they understand the importance of asking for referrals.  

You can also offer incentives for referrals such as a discount or a coupon if they ‘refer a friend.’ One business we know successfully offered referring customers their choice of three gifts. Or perhaps you can offer special content such as in invitation to a business seminar or premium articles to those who refer others. Make it something special for them!

Referrals work both ways. Take every opportunity to return the favor to those who refer you. As the old saying goes, you only get out of it what you put into it. 

In the final part of our series, we’ll take a look back at the steps of Lifecycle Marketing and review how they can help you expand your business.