Last week, I met with a potential client who had never done any kind of marketing or advertising during the 13 years he has operated his construction and custom cabinetry business.
No flyers. No Yellow Page ads. No local newspaper ads.
All his business had come from referrals from other customers, who had been so pleased with the work done, they had happily recommended his services and work to friends and colleagues.
For any business – big or small – the ability to get referrals is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It means the products or services being offered are so highly thought of that customers have become evangelists and quasi-salespeople. This is a major step forward from simply having satisfied customers, who pay their bills and then quickly move on rather than extending the relationship.
The reality about creating a referral engine is something that can't be done quickly or easily. Referrals are a result of doing high-quality work or selling good products to customers on a consistent basis. They are the dividend that comes from providing reasonable prices, great customer service and meeting or exceeding expectations.
In time, the focus on these attributes start to build your credibility and reputation to the point where customers have little problem recommending you because they have faith that endorsement of your business will be validated. Keep in mind that when someone provides a referral, they are putting their credibility on the line, which is an important reminder to treat referrals with respect.
At the same time, you shouldn't be shy about asking for a referral. If a customer appears to be happy with your work, it is perfectly acceptable to ask them to refer you to other people. Often, all many customers need is a little encouragement to help them become referral engines.
Another technique to get more referrals is thanking customers for their business. This is not only good customer service but it offers them is healthy reminder about a hopefully positive experience.
Everyone in business loves referrals because it means business is coming through the door without having to pursue it. When referrals start to emerge, it is, in many ways, a reward for jobs well done.
Special to the Globe and Mail
Mark Evans is a principal with ME Consulting , a content and social media strategic and tactical consultancy that creates and delivers 'stories' for companies looking to capture the attention of customers, bloggers, the media, business partners, employees and investors. Mark has worked with three start-ups – Blanketware, b5Media and PlanetEye – so he understands how they operate and what they need to do to be successful. He was a technology reporter for more than a decade with The Globe and Mail, Bloomberg News and the Financial Post. Mark is also one of the co-organizers of the mesh, meshUniversity and meshmarketing conferences.