Every local business owner appreciates the value of a referral. In fact, most of the small business owners I speak with actually have some standing offer for anyone who refers them. What I find, however, is that these same business owners, who depend on referral business, usually do not have a process for generating or following up with referrals. And, that is not a surprise. Small business owners have a lot on their plate already and it is hard to know how to work a referral program into their existing sales process. But, there are a few keys to make any referral effort worthwhile.
This may seem obvious, but it is always best to ask your customer for a referral immediately after you have completed work for them. You want to seize upon the momentum and good will you just earned, so email your customers a compelling offer to forward to their friends and family right when the job is done. The longer you wait, the further you get from the emotional peak of the experience. You should send an email as opposed to direct mail or a flier because it is imperative that your offer be quick and easy to pass along.
If you want your referral offer to go viral, enable the ability for your customers to share the deal on Facebook. A 2011 study by ShareThis found that more than half of all the content shared on the Internet was shared via Facebook. Aside from being the place on the Internet where most people share content, Facebook is also the easiest way for your customer to share your offer with their peer network. With just one click, the offer can go to the wall of your customer’s Facebook page as well as to the newsfeeds of their friends and family.
The most important factor in whether or not your customers refer you to their friends and family is the value of the offer you are asking them pass along. According to that same study on content sharing, one of the primary reasons people share content on Facebook is to pass along something helpful. Your customers are much more likely to pass on your deal if they believe it will be valuable and helpful to their friends. Incentives alone are unlikely to get your customers to post your offer to their Facebook wall or forward it to their email contacts.
Create a gift for those who bring you a new customer. The gift is more of a “thank you” than an incentive. Your customers will refer you to their friends and family because they know you, they trust you, and you have a great offer. Jon Jantsch of Ducttape Marketing literally wrote the book on referral marketing, and he suggests that paying customers for referrals changes the motivation from social to financial. But, Jantsch says, that does not mean you shouldn’t offer “creative incentives to keep referrals top of mind.” So, rather than paying your customers for each referral, consider a gift like movie tickets or a gift certificate to a restaurant.