It’s Friday night.
Four friends are talking about their week. One says they are feeling overwhelmed with all the aspects of running their small business and what they really need is to outsource some tasks to a capable bookkeeper if they could only find one.
“But I don’t know where to find a reliable person who could understand my business,” she says.
There are 19 bookkeepers within a 30-mile radius of where she lives. Which one will she end up selecting? Read on.
Her friend says: “You really should use Susan Jones at 1-2-3 Business on George Street. When I started to grow my business, I had exactly the same issue and she was amazing. I’m still with her and I can’t say enough good about her. Call her and tell her I suggested that you get in touch. She’ll help you out.”
Guess what happened the next Monday morning? Susan Jones got a call from the overwhelmed entrepreneur and soon she had a new client.
When it comes to getting new clients in your business, nothing is more effective than a good word-of-mouth (WOM) referral.
In a study conducted by Google, TNS and Ogilvy, 74 percent of consumers polled said word of mouth referral from a friend was the most influential factor in them selecting one business or product over another.
If you can get people talking favourably about your business, it is absolutely the best promotion you can get.
Referrals don’t only come from your personal clients
The sphere of word of mouth referrals is much larger than a good word from one happy client. They have a cascading effect.
This is how it works.
In the example above, two other friends heard the exchange about Susan Jones being a great bookkeeper. Later that weekend, one of the friend’s brothers says his bookkeeper has gone out on maternity leave and he really needs someone to help him for a year. Fresh from the previous night’s conversation, the woman recommends Susan Jones, noting “one of my friends uses her and says she’s great.”
And so on Monday morning, Susan Jones gets a second phone call, and another client.
You can’t control what people say about your business, or can you?
Everything stems from that initial authentic recommendation of your business. How do you make that happen? You can’t put words in people’s mouths can you?
Not directly, but there is one sure way to keep them speaking well about you. And that is to be consistently effective in solving their problems.
Be available when they need you. Be efficient and effective in dealing with the issue at hand and bringing it to a satisfactory conclusion. Give them excellence and continual support and you will become such a valuable component of their business support system that you will keep creeping into their conversation in a highly positive way.
People who believe they have found a gem share your name like you are their most valuable secret. They want to do something nice for you, because you help them so much. So whenever they get a chance, they drop your name. Word of mouth referrals don’t get any more honest and believable than those of a genuinely happy client.
After service excellence, consider strategies
You can ask people to give you referrals but it has been my experience that many small business owners would rather opt for a root canal than ask a client to recommend them. If you can’t get past your humility, that’s okay. There are other strategies that work well.
For example, when a happy customer gives a referral, send them an appropriate bonus. If the person they sent you become a client, you can send them a gift card or a thoughtful present appropriate to their likes and personality.
If the person they send to you isn’t someone you can help, you should still take the time to send them a handwritten note that says you appreciate that they thought highly enough of you to recommend the friend. You can say something like “whether or not your colleague and I am end up doing business at this time, I am grateful that you took the opportunity to steer them my way.”
Some clients say that they just don’t have the means to support sending a gift to someone who made a successful referral. But you do have the means to write a thank-you card and invest in the price of a stamp. I know this is a little old school, but believe me when I tell you that it has much more impact than just another email. It shows that you deliberately thought of them, and it stands out from all the quick emailed “thanks” they will receive today.
Make sure referred clients can find you
As soon as you receive a good word of mouth referral, and you are interested in seeking out the person, what’s the first thing you always do?
You will go online and Google the person or company to learn more about them.
Make sure that they can find you easily by having a website domain that contains your name or your corporate name. If you go with your corporate name, make sure you have a complete profile on LinkedIn and Facebook.
On your website, aim to have at least seven to 11 great reviews from happy clients. You can gather these at the end of each job by composing a suitable review, sending it to the satisfied client with a little note that says you are trying to get some reviews for your website and would they be willing to furnish one that says these words or their own words?
The majority of people will quickly respond “yes, go ahead.” You have just helped them and most people will want to reciprocate.
Personalize your service
In addition to providing excellent work, do your best to build a personal relationship with each of your clients. Take the time to find out the names of any children they have, whether they have a special pet, and what sports teams or bands they love.
Knowing such things gives you a huge bank of ideas to stay in touch with them periodically so that you remain top of mind in their life.
Otherwise, a client may come in and see you to solve a crisis and then forget your name over the next few months.
But if you know more about them, and you see that their oldest child won a prestigious scholarship or they received a volunteer award, you have a reason to send them a quick “hello, congratulations about …” message.”
Empower your referral network
Find ways to make your referral network feel appreciated and respected. You can send them specialized promotions to thank them for continuing to support you or even create a networking event where invited guests receive a memorable gifts as they leave.
Or do something that makes them think of you each day. For example, a landscaper I know was trying to build his small business. He had done 25 home landscaping jobs in the first year of his business before the snow fell.
The next spring, he went to each home and brought the client a beautiful herb garden he created. It looked magnificent, but he was able to build it for a very small investment. In it was a card asking if the client would refer him to their friends this season.
When people thanked him, he asked if they might take the time to go send him a review that he could use on his website. He even included a sample that could use if they wanted (all of the samples were different.) Seventeen of the people responded yes and said they would use the sample.
He ignited his network of word of mouth referrals as all summer long his clients would respond to compliments about the herb garden by praising him, and he peppered his website with great referrals from local people.
You can get great word of mouth referrals when you respect their power and get creative about unleashing it.
And, remember one important thing….”If you don’t blow your own horn, there is no music”.
Thank you for reading. Until next time. Take care.
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