Customer referrals are one of the best ways to get new business. They require no advertising on your part, lowering your cost per customer. They validate that you are providing value to your customers and leaving them satisfied. And referrals are hot prospects; the fact that someone they know, who is an unbiased third party, would recommend your products or services is often all the "selling" they need.
Every customer, whether new or returning, is a potential source of referrals. It usually takes more than a great product, though, to convince someone to back your brand with their own name. Below are five things you can do to turn your current customers into a referral-driven sales force.
- Focus on the customer's transaction experience. It is one thing to get referrals from a long-time customer with whom you have built a personal relationship. But a brand-new, first-time buyer can immediately become a referral source if they have a good buying experience. So optimize the transaction process to make it pleasant and convenient for them, even if that makes it less convenient for you. For example, having a live person they can talk to when shopping online provides a personal touch that will cause your company to stand out of the crowd.
- Over-deliver. Give customers something extra that they didn't expect. Getting more than what you paid for, and more than what was promised, can instantly turn a customer into an enthusiastic fan. This is less about under-promising and more about adding something new and unexpected.
- Get feedback. Find out how you are doing and how you can improve upon it. Ask customers what would make them willing to refer you to a friend, or what it is about your business that makes them reluctant to do so. You can do this through online surveys, but an actual interpersonal conversation would have a bigger impact on the person being interviewed. It demonstrates that their business, and their referrals, are important to you.
- Give thanks. Another way to stand out of the crowd is to simply thank them for their business. The more personal the thank you is, the better. People appreciate being appreciated and are more likely to recommend a company that they have regular personal contact with. And especially thank them for referrals, possibly by rewarding them with future discounts or gifts.
- Ask them for referrals. Someone might be perfectly willing to recommend your business to others, but not think to do so unless you specifically ask for it. Asking for referrals is effective; some old-school direct sellers spend nothing on advertising and simply network their way from customer to customer by requesting referrals at the end of the sales process. Having an established customer referral program, which may or may not include incentives, will help ensure you get the most referrals possible.
Besides becoming new customers, each referral is another person who can recommend you to others. That's a business benefit worth telling people about.
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