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10 strategies for getting more referrals from existing clients

How to encourage your clients to recommend you to others

Client referrals

It's no surprise that hearing positive things about a product or service from someone you know has a significant impact. But the gamechanger is discovering how to tap into your network to harvest all that positive feedback to get more client referrals – and then using this to grow your business. It's time to step your referral strategy up a gear.

Never underestimate the power of referrals when generating new business and finding and retaining loyal clients. The stats are enough to stop anyone in their tracks. According to Nielsen, 83% of consumers trust recommendations from friends and family. It's also estimated that businesses using referrals as part of their regular marketing see conversion rates up to 70% higher.

What is a business referral?

A business referral is when someone in your network recommends your business to a new prospect. It may happen during a conversation or as a direct result of a referral marketing strategy. Essentially, referrals are all about using your existing clients to get more clients. And, as long as you're providing the best possible service, most will be happy to say good things and tell others about you.

Here’s how referral marketing works:

  1. You identify key individuals in your sphere of influence (existing customers, business contacts, friends, etc.)
  2. You cultivate and invest in those relationships, exceeding their expectations whenever you can
  3. You ask them to refer you to their customers, business contacts and friends

Point three is perhaps easier said than done. While some people may feel a little uncomfortable about asking for a review or a referral in case they appear desperate for work, it's essential to view this as a business strategy – and a very important one at that.

While relying on word-of-mouth referrals is fine, making a conscious effort to cultivate referrals will result in higher ROI from your network because:

  1. You're broadening your sphere of influence by tapping into your potential referrers' social circles
  2. Referral prospects are coming in warmer since they know and trust the referrer
  3. The referrer is providing a vote of confidence by making the recommendation

But before you start actively seeing out client referrals, make sure you have the right systems in place for managing new prospects, as well as a clear plan for sourcing and screening them. And, of course, to make referral marketing a proactive part of your lead generation activities, you need to actually be referable. That means ensuring that you always deliver what you promise when you promise. Your clients need to be able to speak about the quality of service and the value you provide.

10 tips for getting more business referrals

To help you move forward with your referral strategy, here are some top tips and tactics to try out to help generate referrals from existing clients for your business:

1.  Regularly remind clients why your company is special

There are thousands of adviser, brokers and accountants out there, so what makes you stand out from the crowd? You can remind clients that they made the right choice and they're part of an amazing family through a monthly e-newsletter or social media. Keep up the channel of communication, and you'll find it's a two-way thing.

2.  Keep your current clients informed about all the products and services you offer

Don't assume that just because you've helped a client with one thing, they know about all the other things you offer. This is a great excuse to stay in touch, particularly if you've just worked with them on something and they're really happy with the outcome and have told you so. Email them back to thank them for their feedback and add in something about other services you offer if they, or anyone they know, may need them.

3.  Harvest and harness the power of positive feedback

To ensure that you're meeting (and exceeding) your existing customers' needs and expectations, it's important to regularly collect and act on their feedback. Online survey software, such as SurveyMonkey, makes creating and distributing a client satisfaction survey pretty straightforward. Not only does this help you keep tabs and what you're doing right and where you can improve, but you'll also soon stack up some impressive customer satisfaction stats that will add a flourish to your website and email signature.

4.  Make things quick and easy

When asking for referrals, be mindful of how busy your clients are (which is why they hired you). Rather than just asking and hoping they'll have time to help you out, be more proactive in your approach and eliminate some heavy lifting for them. Create a template that's easy to fill in or add a link to a form on your website for referral submissions.

5.  Create different ways for people to be your advocate

If you ask for a customer referral and they don't respond, the first step is to back off and give them some space. You don't have to know the exact reason why they're saying no, and you want to respect your relationship. But once a little time has gone by, consider reaching out to them with a different offer to advocate for your company without having to actually refer someone. This could be by writing a review, being a case study, or submitting a testimonial, all things that will boost the appeal of your website and social channels.

6.  Pick the right time to ask

It's common practice to ask for a referral at the end of a job, along with the invoice. But this may not be the best time to ask. The client is thinking about the money they owe you and may just see your invoice email and forward it directly to the accounts department without a second glance. Instead, experiment asking for referrals at different times. Look for opportunities where a client is particularly pleased with the work you've done. Perhaps after you've arranged a particularly complex policy as part of an ongoing financial planning process.

7.  Create shareable content

According to Google's Zero Moments of Truth study, the average buyer now engages with more than 10 pieces of content before making a purchasing decision. This demonstrates the importance of strategically distributing content so that it lands in front of prospects. It can be as simple as adding a 'share this with a friend' on your emails or website. Provide valuable content (as suggested in tip five) that your referral sources can share with their network. This could be an invitation to a breakfast or lunch seminar or webinar on an industry topic, research briefs, an article about a regulatory change or industry trend, and insightful case study and so on. Make it something special for them to share.

8.  Partner up with complementary providers

Approach other companies who offer complementary services about combining forces to exchange referrals. For example, a financial adviser could partner up with a bookkeeper to cross-promote their respective services. To give a partnership the best chance of success, offer referral clients a discounted package on both services. Sell your package as a way for prospects to fulfil all their needs in one place. You could both set up a 'recommendations' page on your respective websites outlining different partners and the complementary services they offer. But be careful. Your relationship with your current customers is at stake whenever you refer them elsewhere. Be sure you only include providers that you'd be comfortable recommending to your best client.

9.  Treat everyone you do business with as partners

Ensure all the people you come into contact with, whether in person or online, are aware of who you are, what services you offer and how you help. You never know who’s connected – and it could result in some valuable leads.

10.  Keep your LinkedIn profile up to date

Stay in touch with your contacts, post regularly, and check out the LinkedIn profiles of businesses, people or groups you'd like to work with to see if you're connected in any way. If so, reach out to them via your network. LinkedIn's Advanced People Search feature makes it's easy to find qualified second-degree connections that your customers can introduce you to. To get started, click the search bar at the top of the page and select 'People' from the drop-down menu. You can then filter your search by second-degree connections and additional specifics such as industry, title, keywords, and location to reveal a list of potential referral opportunities. And finally, remember that giving a referral is one of the best ways to receive one in return.

Now that you've learnt the techniques to drive more client referrals, it's time to put it into action. An Unbiased plan can help you keep track of your referrals and convert more of them successfully. Just add them to your Pipeline and manage them alongside your Unbiased enquiries.

About the author
Nick Green
Nick Green
Nick Green is a financial journalist writing for Unbiased.co.uk, the site that has helped over 10 million people find financial, business and legal advice. Nick has been writing professionally on money and business topics for over 15 years, and has previously written for leading accountancy firms PKF and BDO.

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