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Referrals bring you the best new clients and customers. John refers Marie and she walks in your door or she calls for more information. Marie is ready to hear your proposal or give your products a favorable browse.
So, how do you keep the word going around the community you are targeting? Referring other people to a business you've dealt with is a natural thing.
You want to tell others where you bought those new shoes. When your neighbor compliments you on your well-kept yard, you launch into a conversation that refers your landscaper. And when your friend hurts her back, you know the chiropractor who can help.
There are many ways to enhance this natural referral process. Here are three possibilities for you and your business.
Example: Sue runs a women's clothing and accessories shop. Every day Sue snaps pictures of items in her place. She selects one and posts it on her Facebook page and other social media. This continuing stream of pictures captures the attention of Sue's regular customers, and they frequently pass the pictures on to their friends and acquaintances. This process has greatly expanded the reach of Sue's shop. She now regularly attracts new customers from an area much larger than before. Her referral network is growing--and it costs her little in terms of money and time.
Example: An ice cream store uses an older, but no less effective, method of extending its referral network. Here, picture post cards are used. One side of the card shows a colorful picture of a scrumptious ice cream concoction. On the other side is the name and address of the recipient, a stamp, and a simple message: "Bring this card in and get a dollar off anything you want. Or pass it along to a friend." The owner mails these cards to a customer list. Many cards are returned to the store, by both existing customers and new ones. The advantage of a post card over Facebook is clear. Facebook gets a two-second viewing and might be passed on to a friend. The post card is kept--taped to the refrigerator or tacked to the bulletin board or passed on. That one dollar off makes the card feel like money. Type the "$1.00 off" in big, bold type.
Example: A method I have used is more direct. Get in touch with your existing clients/customers and ask them for referrals. This can be done personally when you see them, or it can be through emails or phone calls. Simply ask them for three referrals and follow through by contacting each one they give you. This new person doesn't know you, but both of you know the person who gave you the referral. You already have your opening line: "Mary mentioned that you might be interested in what I do." Be very brief. Follow up by sending them an email, or, at the very least, point them to your website or your Facebook page.
Social media has opened up many possibilities that didn't exist before. It is changing everything. Even that post card can now be turned into a coupon that attracts attention all over the net.
Every small business is different. What works at one might not work at another. And what works today might not work tomorrow. Think through your own situation and get busy. Go after those referrals.