According to a survey by Dimensional Research, a whopping 90% of consumers admit they base their decisions on online reviews and 92% of consumers trust peer recommendations over advertising.
You might have also sought recommendations from family, friends, and acquaintances before trying a new restaurant, product or service. Referrals are one of the most valuable assets of any business.
Still, very few businesses are making the most of their referral potential. Getting more business opportunities through referrals doesn’t require a lot of long, drawn-out complicated plans. Start small, and use the following 5 tips to impress customers and get more referral business.
1. Offer a Great Product or Service
While this one seems like a no brainer, not all of your customers or clients are happy about having to use your product or service. A percentage of your customers will choose your business because it‘s the most convenient, the only option or all they can afford.
Such a business model is sustainable as long as you don‘t get a competitor who values their customers, so it’s best not to even try going down that road. If your clients and customers aren’t happy about having to use your products or services in the first place, they won‘t recommend you to anyone.
If you want referral business, you need to be the business they would patronize even if they had plenty of other options. Your product or service is actually the outcome of several different factors, but they also have the same origin – your company culture.
Your company culture is the root from which all customer experience will flow. If you treat your employees with fairness and respect, they will do the same for your customers. If you go above and beyond for your employees, they will go above and beyond for your customers.
That is the kind of company that makes people want to get all their family and friends on board.
2. Communicate On a Regular Basis & Not Just About Your Business
Most social media sites give us the opportunity to hide or unfollow people while remaining connected to them. If you think about the online behaviors of people that you hide or unfollow, that will give you some clues to what businesses should avoid doing.
Some of the biggest offenders are those who harp on and on about the same cause or issue, people who never post unless they want something or people that are constantly posting about their wonderful or glamorous life.
No one likes a bragger, a Johnny-one-note or the person who only shows up when they want something.
If you want people to recommend your products and services to others, you need to create a strong relationship with them. That includes checking in on a regular basis but not too often – and not just when you want them to buy something.
One of the best ways to do this is to send out a weekly newsletter full of hints, tips, tricks and even teasers about your latest products. When you create sharable content, you significantly increase the chances of your clients, customers, fans, and followers doing just that.
3. Ask Your Customers to Recommend You
It is shocking how rare it is for businesses to ask their clients and consumers to tell their family, friends, and acquaintances about their business. You can ask customers to like and share posts, leave comments and feedback or even hand out coupons or business cards.
Keep in mind that the line between asking and being pushy is not always easy to see, which is why many businesses don’t even ask.
Here’s an example:
If you have a customer who is commending you for the amazing experience they had while talking to your service reps, ask them if they would share that positive experience online. To get a good recommendation, be detailed about it, but not overly pushy.
Instead of the generic “We’d be happy if you’d rate this experience,” go for something along the lines of “We’re so happy to hear about the positive experience. Would you like to share it with others so that they also know our service reps are this awesome?” Such a lighthearted inquiry will often result in a higher response rate.
4. Create Hashtag Campaigns
You don’t have to be a corporate giant to create a great hashtag campaign or get plenty of responses. You need to create a campaign that is fun or serves a specific purpose if you want to get buy-in.
For instance, you can offer a free item to the person who posts the best photo of your business or product to social media using your hashtag.
You can also use your hashtag to promote a local cause by donating a certain amount every time someone uses your hashtag.
The great thing about hashtags is you can create individual hashtags for each one of your campaigns to see which ones are the best motivators or drivers. Keep in mind, people will do what they see others doing. There’s nothing wrong with “seeding” your contest by getting family and friends to post first. The more people share your hashtags, the more others will want to join in the fun.
5. Offer Incentives
You may not think incentives as small as $10 would motivate people, but it might surprise you. The size of your incentive should also depend on the price of your product or service or what you are asking them to do.
An even better incentive is to offer discounts or benefits to both your client and their referral. Keep in mind, you want the incentive to keep both customers coming back, so it’s better to offer a discount on services than a cash incentive, but cash incentives can be powerful motivators.
Another way to keep both customers coming back is to stack the incentive. So, for instance, you might offer $5 off on their first visit or purchase, $10 off on their second and $20 off on their third.
You can also switch it up and offer $20 off on the first, $10 on the second and $5 on the third or offer the same amount off on their first three or more visits.
Getting referrals is not difficult, but it requires perseverance. If your clients and consumers are raving about your product or service, there is nothing wrong with asking them to tell their family, friends, acquaintances and social media circles about it.
If your clients and consumers do not rave about your product or service, however, then you may need to work on upping your game before asking for referrals. When you offer a product or service that people love, it’s not that hard to get them to tell others about it, but it requires focus and attention.
One of the best things you can do to facilitate referrals is to create plenty of opportunities and outlets for your customers to do so. The more ways you find for them to reach out to family and friends, the more likely they are to do so.
Editor’s Note: This article is part of the startup tools blog series Grow Your Business brought to you by the marketing team at UniTel Voice, the virtual phone system priced and designed for startups and small business owners.