Getting referrals from existing customers is the most cost-efficient way to grow your business. This simple form of advertising has been used throughout time and usually requires very little effort from business owners to be effective because it relies on word of mouth. Today's techniques range from simple requests for satisfied clients to tell a friend to creative marketing campaigns that connect customers through social media.
According to research by Nielsen, 92 percent of consumers rely on the opinions of family and friends to make their purchasing decisions. This means that fewer than 10 percent of your potential clients will choose your business based on advertising and branding alone. Getting referrals from existing customers is vital if you expect your company to grow and prosper.
The most reliable way to get customer referrals is to keep your clients satisfied. Happy patrons won't hesitate to recommend your company to a friend or family member, especially when your products or services exceed their expectations. Unsatisfied patrons talk as well, so be sure customer care is a priority. The wants and needs of your customers should always be a primary focus, regardless of your industry.
Some companies ask customers for referrals and recommendations. Ray Silverstein, president of President's Resource Organization, believes every contact with a client or potential customer is an opportunity to get referrals. Make a habit of asking others to pass along your name if they know someone who could use your services and always follow up with existing customers. Small business contractors may request referrals as part of their contract, suggests Silverstein.
A variety of businesses create customer referral programs that reward consumers for giving referrals. Service providers may offer credits or cash to a current customer and the new client they refer, while gifts or product discounts are often better suited for retail referral programs. The key is to provide an incentive that appeals to your customer base and fits within the scope of your business.
Social media is a powerful tool for getting referrals. Effective word of mouth marketing techniques move away from collecting followers and likes to actually connecting with consumers and bringing value to their lives. Consumers are more likely to share engaging, interactive campaigns, increasing the chance of getting referrals. Strategies that solicit opinions, advice or feedback from customers, especially contests, are the most successful.
Consumers trust the opinions of others, especially people they know. Getting referrals from existing customers is the most reliable and effective way to make your business grow. The best strategy is to deliver an exceptional product or service, to cater to your customers' needs, and to encourage an interactive community of loyal patrons on a platform that facilitates sharing, such as Facebook or Pinterest.
Photo courtesy of Sarah Murray at Flickr.com