When I ask business owners how they find most of their clients, do you want the answer is?

Almost always ‘word-of-mouth’.

We all know that word-of-mouth is the sure-fire way to generate new business.  We know that a single referral can start a chain reaction of new business as positive word spreads.  We know that by building smart business relationships is one of the most effective ways for small businesses to gain efficiency and prosper.

But do you do it? 

Do you have any deliberate strategies to increase word-of-mouth in your business?

Does the thought of a ‘strategy’ for increasing word-of-mouth seems strange.

I bet you think it just supposed to happen because you do great work?

Well, the answer to that is both yes and no

Yes, word-of-mouth is a result of doing great work.

But No, there are many other things you can do to generate word-of-mouth.

But before I talk about that, there is something else that’s important you need to know:

People LIKE to refer business to you!

People who like you will feel that you can help their friends or associates.

People like to help people.  Why? Because it makes them look and feel good!

Am I being cynical?  Think about it… maybe you were sitting around a luncheon table with some friends when someone says they’re looking for a pool cleaner.  I bet all of a sudden everyone at the table starts to vie for who can give the best referral.  We want our friend to use our reference because we get an ego boost.  We win.  Someone noticed us and paid attention to us.  That feels good – yes?

So word-of-mouth marketing is happening all the time because it makes people feel good to make a contribution.  If we gave referrals and our friends didn’t use the people we referred, we wouldn’t feel so great.

So in order to increase referrals you need to remember a very simply truth:  Our referral sources want to both help their friends and us because it makes them feel good.  It reflects positively on them.

So it make sense that if you’re going to get a lot more referrals then you do everything possible to make your referral sources feel even better.

Yes, of course!

So let’s look at the some proven strategies for increasing the word of mouth and referrals in your business.

First one is Performance – building value and trust.  Let’s face it no one is going to refer business to you if they don’t trust and value you.  We judge ourselves by our intentions.  Clients judge us by our actions.  So if we promise something and build a certain expectation and then don’t deliver we end up with disappointed clients. And disappointed clients don’t give referrals.

So it’s the little things that count

a) Returning calls and emails promptly
b) Keeping your word – doing what you say you will do
c) Meeting your deadlines
d) Communicating when you run into problems
e) Apologising when you make a mistake
f) Doing a little extra or going the extra mile
g) Having a good sense of humour

And it also includes the big things

a) your passion and love for your work
b) your personal connection and commitment to clients
c) your knowledge and expertise
d) your insight and integrity
e) being professional, sincere and courteous

None of this stuff ‘just happens’ we all need to actively work at improving our performance.

Second is Visibility and Communication – marketing starts with being seen.  If you don’t have a visible presence than nothing is going to happen.  Once visible than you can communicate the value of what you offer.  So whether it’s a website, brochure copy, advertising, letter or sales presentation.  Just make sure that when you communicate about your services, people get it.

Third, Just Ask for Referrals – Clients are often more than willing to give you referrals so it never hurts to ask.

When you are discussing the results of your service and they are very enthusiastic about what you’ve done for them you can ask if they know anyone else who would like to receive similar benefits.

Fourth, Rewards and Thank-Yous – let them know by call, card or email that you sincerely appreciate the referral.  People like receiving cards or gifts.  What can you do?

Endorsements or Joint Ventures – endorsements are a very powerful way to connect with a new prospective client using the power of your existing relationships with people.  The key is finding associates who have clients who are just like your clients but there is no competition between you.  For example some benefits between a pool builder and landscape company maybe to create and promote a full service package to consumers.  Plus there are benefits between the two companies to share administration practices, tools resources and tips to save more time and money.

Relationship Building – Ultimately you will keep getting referrals if people feel good about you, if they value and trust you what you do and feel confident that you can provide a service for their friends and associations.  There is benefits from developing strong and lasting relationships with suppliers in your respective industries.  This is a win-win situation for product knowledge, discounts and more business.  And everyone loves more business right?

But how do you find people to build relationships who can refer more work to you?

Networking.  Networking for success

Now we know that people like to do business with people they know.  And one of the very best ways to get known is to network.  The more you network the more referrals you get.  It’s a simple matter of visibility, familiarity and trust.  People who see you, get to know you and have a better sense of what you do, are more likely to refer people to you than people who don’t know you and don’t know what you do.

I often ask people how their networking is working from them.  I had a photographer tell me that 85% of his business came from referrals within his networking group.  An insurance broker said that over 70% of his business came from his networking group.

Let’s dispel a number of myths associated with networking.

Myth – I’m just not the networking type.

Fact: Real networking is about getting to know people, about building relationships and about helping people.  The only requirements are that you be professional about what you do and be willing to contribute to others. 

Myth – I don’t have time or energy to keep in touch with all the people I meet through networking.

Fact: Keeping in touch doesn’t mean you need to call everyone all the time.  Ask people if they’d like to be on your enewsletter mailing list.

Myth – Everyone is selling, nobody is buying

Fact:  It may seem that way in your first meetings, but as you get to know people you’ll start getting business and referrals.

So when it comes to networking make your time and efforts worthwhile. 

Your Action Plan – Generating Referrals

Who

Who are the clients or other business contacts who are most likely to give you referrals?  What would motivate them to give you referrals – that is, what’s in it for them?

What

What systems and strategies will you use to generate more referrals?  Performance, Communication and Visibility, Just Asking, Rewards, Endorsements, Relationship Building

How

What letters, calls, mailings, networking groups, LinkedIn do you need to develop and implement a referral-generation process?

When

By when will you start?  How will you fit this marketing activity into your schedule?

If you’d like Deborah to help you determine your referral program email her at deborah@spotyellowdigital.com  or call her directly on 0438 443 646.

Related Tag: Business Marketing Strategies