Referral business is the greatest business of all. When a customer tells others to use your service, it is the best thing that can happen. Conversely, when a business tells the public to use their service, very few listen. Customers are conditioned to tune out messages from businesses. They simply don’t hear them anymore because they are overwhelmed. Even if they heard the message, it won’t produce results unless that person is ready to act- meaning that they are in the market for that product.
No wonder businesses are finding it difficult to reach new customers. After decades of being bombarded with messages, people have become immune to traditional marketing. That is exactly why referrals work so well. Because people no longer hear or trust messages from companies, they seek direction and act upon the suggestions from those they trust. When a trusted friend or relative recommends your company, it’s almost a sure thing you will get a chance to gain a new customer.
Just like any other part of your business, referrals must be planned and measured. They don’t just happen on their own, but building referrals is definitely worth it.
Is there any way custom framers can grow this most valuable marketing? Can you influence more referral business or do you just have to be lucky and hope people like you? Over the years I’ve found that luck has very little to do with any part of running a successful business. If you want to grow referrals, you can do it. Just like any other part of your business that contributes to its success, it must be planned and measured. It won’t just happen on its own.
Before starting a program to grow referrals, it’s important to find a way to measure if your program is working. It’s also important to know how much referral business you are currently receiving so that you can measure the program’s growth. The easiest way to do this is to begin asking each and every new client how they found your service. If you have a point of sale system, make sure it requires an answer to that question before it will accept any order. This will force you to start recording sales according to how customers found your business. One of the methods will be referrals. When a customer answers the question of how did they find your service by saying my friend Joe sent me, record the sale as a “referral”. Soon, you can produce a report showing how many new customers found you by referral and how much these “referrals” have spent with you. These statistics will give you an idea of your improvement as you develop your program.
Creating a program to grow referrals means figuring out what changes need to be implemented in your company. Just recognizing that referrals are valuable and asking team members to increase them will not be enough. New procedures, tools and training are vital to growing an effective program. Probably one of the most effective ways to grow referrals is to ask clients for them. It sounds too simplistic, but clients that love your service want you to succeed. Asking them for their help gives them a chance to contribute to something they want to support.
Even better, create a tool they can use when they refer. Business cards can work for this, but how about a special card they can give friends that allows a discount for first time visits. Doing something like this really makes your client feel special. They are given permission to offer discounts on your behalf. When you involve clients in this manner, they become emotionally invested in your business. Now you’ve really built some momentum to your referral program.
Make sure the cards you give clients to hand out also have a place for them to record their name, that way you will know who has referred the new client. Use this to send a thank you for the referral. Send some more referral cards with your thank you and consider enclosing a coupon for a discount.
Want something even better? Find a local business that caters to the same client base as yours (we’ve discussed ways of collecting this information is past articles). Approach this business and ask them if they would like some new customers. Explain that you can provide this by exchanging discount coupons to reward each others customers when they refer. For example, when your good client Jane refers her friend Joe to frame with you, send Jane a thank you in the form of a discount coupon from the business you have partnered with. It does two things. One, it rewards Jane for helping your business. Two, it helps your business partner find a new client in Jane. If the business partner begins rewarding his customers who refer new clients with your discount coupons, soon you can really help each other grow. Relationships with key businesses that share your client demographics are very valuable and all kinds of other ideas can be developed to help each other based on programs like this one.
As always, remember to track sales you get from the discount coupons your business partner is sending his clients on your behalf. Go even farther with those who are your best referral sources. Send them flowers or tickets to fun events. Let them know how much you appreciate their support. You can afford to go a little further for these clients because they have helped you market your business in a very valuable way and it cost you nothing to get the business. Yes, the most valuable and reliable form of marketing is also the most affordable! Why wouldn’t you do whatever it takes to reward those who provide it and encourage participation from as many clients as you can?
Don’t take referrals that happen for granted. Even if you don’t have a program to grow more referrals, or don’t want to take the time to partner with another business, DO take the time to thank those who send new clients your way. No response for this kind of help shouts indifference and almost assures that it will never happen again.
You don’t even have to send something- just pick up the phone or hand-write a note. Even the simplest types of acknowledgement are enough to encourage clients to help again. Rewarding those who refer and building programs that encourage referrals can really make a difference in the number of new clients that use your service. Ask your team to help build a program and have some fun catching clients doing something good for your business.