Small Business Advice
Don't be shy. Ask for the referral!
Q: I try my best to do a good job for my clients and hope they will tell their friends. How can I ensure they will recommend me to others?
A: In a recent “Ask SCORE” article, I suggested that a referral or endorsement from a satisfied customer is the best advertisement money “can’t” buy.
It’s not that hard to satisfy a customer. Just give them what they want, in a timely manner, with a friendly smile, and thank them for their business. However, you should take it a step further to ensure they tell their friends.
Here are some ways you may wish to consider:
- Ask for the referral. Don’t be shy. A simply question like “Do you know anyone else who would be interested in our product or service?” would be a good start. In every sales seminar I have ever attended, they teach that if you don’t ask you won’t get.
- Ask at the right time. Not necessarily at the point of sale, and never when you present the bill.Ideally, when it appears the customer is receptive to the request, perhaps when they complement you.
- Most people like to share experiences. If your customer is truly pleased with your product or service, they willwillingly share their experience with friends they feel have a similar need.Even better, if they give you a referral, tell them you will follow up immediately, and ask if you may use them as a reference.
- Take advantage of technology. If you have access to your customer’s phone number or email address, you can follow up a sale to determine if they are satisfied. If so, request that they refer your business to others.
- Make the most of Yelp, Insider Pages and Angie’s List. These are third party websites that solicit customer’s reviews. Encourage your satisfied customers to relate favorable experiences to these sites. Potential clients value unsolicited testimonials.
- Create a “selling” website. Online tools allow you to follow up customer transactions with an email directing them to a survey that asks “tell us what you think.”It’s an excellent way to obtain constructive feedback.
- Offer incentives. Communicate details of your referral program to your best customers. Depending on the type of business, this may include discounts of the purchase of products, free items or upgrades.
- Consider related businesses. Your suppliers may be a source of referrals.Contact businesses that provide complementary services and work out an agreement that benefits both parties.
- Don’t forget a “thank-you.” Always acknowledge an endorsement or referral. Be sure to call or, even better, send a hand-written note of thanks.
Gray Poehler is a volunteer with the Naples Chapter of SCORE.
A SCORE counselor since 2005, Gray Poehler owned and operated an independent insurance agency with 20 employees and two locations. He has earned the Certified Insurance Counselor designation and is familiar with both personal and commercial property and casualty insurance. Areas of expertise include: Business Finance and Accounting; Business Strategy and Planning; Business Operations; Human Resources and Internal Communications; Sales, Marketing and Public Relations.
To learn more about management issues of small businesses, contact the SCORE office nearest you.