Have you ever wished you could clone your best customers or clients – potentially doubling or tripling or quadrupling the number of people just like them who come through your door? The truth is, you can! I’m not talking about scientific cloning. (In spite of what’s going on with Scottish sheep these days, creating genetic duplicates of your best customers is still probably a few years off.) The “cloning” I’m talking about is simple, ethical, and doesn’t require millions in research grants to accomplish.
In fact, it costs next to nothing! So, what’s the easiest, most effective, least expensive way to get many more customers like the ones you value most? Get them to do it for you. All you have to do is systematically ask your present customers to recommend your business or practice to people just like themselves.
Don’t Settle for Passive Referrals
Chances are, your best customers or clients are already referring friends, family, and business associates to you from time to time. And these people are probably very similar to your best customers – with similar interests, similar desires, and similar buying habits. Your customers refer people to you because they value the benefit you bring to their lives or businesses – and they want the people they care about to benefit as well.
For most businesses I’ve seen, however, that’s the extent of it. They settle for the small amount of business these passive referrals bring in – without ever actively soliciting referrals from their customers. Think about the amount of business you currently get through passive referrals. Now imagine five or 10 or 20 times that amount. That’s the leverage potential of a formal “active” referral sys¬tem.
And the best part is, a customer referral program will bring you immediate results. Your customers and profits will begin to grow as soon as you put the system in place. And because they’re similar to your best customers or clients, referral-generated customers will normally spend more money and buy more often. They almost always make up the most profitable, loyal, and likeable portion of your customer base. Best of all, referrals are self-perpetuating. Referrals beget referrals.
And Don’t Be Bashful!
Some business owners hesitate to ask for referrals because they feel it is somehow “inappropriate.” They fear that customers will see it as overstepping their bounds – getting too personal. Don’t make that mistake. Most people do it wrong. They say they hate to “beg” for customers. There’s no reason to be embarrassed or timid or unduly sensitive about asking your customers or clients to direct other customers to your door. In fact, it’s not only appropriate and ethical, it’s your obligation. Let me explain…
You’ve got to remember that the vast majority of your customers or clients really do have a bonded relationship with you. They trust you. They trust your company. They trust the product or service they acquire from you. They have grown dependent on realizing a high level of results, satisfaction, protection, prestige, enjoyment, experience, well-being, or whatever else your product or service provides them with.
And you owe it to everybody that your customers know to at least arrange the opportunity for those people to make your acquaintance, to experience your business philosophy, to get your best perspective on their need, their opportunity, their problem – and how your product or service can help fill it. Every satisfied customer or client you have is in a position to know, live with, live next to, hang out with, do business with, buy from, sell to, or otherwise associate with an abundance of people or enterprises that are prime target prospects for your business.
But you cannot expect your customers, on their own volition, to be responsible for, or even aware of, the opportunity they have to bring their friends, neighbors, coworkers, employees, employers, church members, club associates, and colleagues into your business for you. You’ve got to program them – and program them benevolently, not self-servingly.
Revere the Benefits You Give Remember: You cannot have an effective referral system until you first and foremost revere – not your product or service or company – the impact, the implication, the improvement, the protection, the transactional value and benefit your product or service has on somebody’s life or business. You’ve got to be very keenly connected to what occurs in their life or business when they have your product or service functioning, operating, protecting, working for them.
When you start with that operating philosophy, it’s easy to make the constant generation of referrals an essential responsibility, obligation, and commitment that you must have to the families, friends, and associates of every one of your customers or clients. And to help your customers or clients see the connection, you’ve got to have a formalized referral system in place. This system has to be so automatic, so continual, so authoritative, so revered that it works continuously for both sides.
Referrals in Four Easy Steps
So how do you structure a strategic referral system for your business? The options are limited only by your imagination. However, most effective referral systems have certain key elements in common. For example, the first thing you need to do is set the stage. Do a little “romancing.” Here’s a simple four-step process you should follow – one you can use regardless of whether your referral request is being done in person, over the telephone, or via e-mail or letter:
1. Tell your best customers or clients that you enjoy doing business with them more than with any other customer or client you work with, and that you realize they probably associate with other people like themselves who mirror their values and qualities.
2. Tell them that since they obviously know the exact people you prefer working with, you’d like to extend to them the opportunity of referring their valued and trusted associates to you. Tell them you would prefer their referrals to any other source of customers or clients.
3. Then help your customers or clients see a clear picture of who in their lives could benefit most effectively, and naturally, from your services or products. Tell them what kind of people or businesses they might be, where they are, what they are probably doing – and why they’d benefit by doing business with you. To make the picture vivid, show them what those people or entities would be doing or buying right now.
4. Then extend a totally risk-free, totally obligation-free sales offer. Willingly offer to confer with, review, advise, or at least talk or meet with anyone important to that customer, as a service to that customer. In other words, offer to consult with their referrals without expecting them to buy anything from you, so your customer sees you as a valuable expert with whom they can put their friends or colleagues in touch.