How to Ask for Referrals from Existing Customers and Earn New Clients
People aren’t shy when it comes to speaking about their experiences with brands. According to Google, “Over 2.4 billion conversations about brands take place every day in the United States”—clearly illustrating that world-of-mouth marketing is not dead. In fact, the power of word-of-mouth continues to grow and is becoming an ever-important asset for companies to exploit. But how do we as marketers influence the narrative of these conversations to positively portray our brands and help us gain more customers?
In an effort to harness the power of word-of-mouth, many businesses are developing client referral techniques to increase the sharing of experiences among their customers. By working with your current customer base to seek out new opportunities, you’re more likely to get matched up with highly qualified prospects. These prospects will also require less effort from your business to establish a baseline of trust with your brand—referrals already trust the person or business that recommended your services to them and will be more receptive to your messaging because of it.
But why aren’t all B2B brands implementing this customer growth technique? Because they have to ask for referrals, and for many, that is outside of their comfort zone. Simply hoping customers will pass on stories about their positive experiences with your company isn’t enough—because in most cases, even if your service is top notch, they just don’t think to do it. They have their own concerns managing their companies and none of them have to do with helping to grow your business.
So, how do you fight pass the awkwardness of stepping into your customers’ space and asking them for a favor? It starts by stepping out of your comfort zone. To help you initiate the process of asking your satisfied customers for referrals—with the long-term goal of gaining new clientele for your business—we’ve compiled our top tips below.
- Provide Excellent Service and Collect Customer Feedback
The first step in gaining referrals is providing excellent service to the customers you already have. Nobody is going to recommend a business they’re unsatisfied with, so go above and beyond and ensure you customers are satisfied—or better yet, delighted.
To ensure you’re meeting and even exceeding expectations, you should start regularly collecting customer feedback. Short surveys through tools like Survey Monkey or HubSpot’s Service Hub make it easy to distribute client satisfaction surveys that will give your business an accurate portrayal of your customers’ satisfaction levels. It will also help you identify areas where you are exceeding expectations and what you need to work on. By identifying the crucial elements of your service that your customers find important, you can optimize your efforts towards pleasing them in the areas that matter most. You may even develop a few brand evangelists along the way.
Note that survey crafting can be tricky—and sometimes downright difficult. Before you send one out, make sure it’s developed in a way that is unbiased and doesn’t lead participants towards a certain answer. In the end, you’re only going to harm your own business by asking survey questions that skew results towards the positive end of the spectrum. The more accurate the answers you receive, the better you’ll be able to optimize your services to meet customer needs. If you’re looking for advice on how to craft effective survey questions, check out this resource from HubSpot.
- Get Over Your Fear
One of the biggest obstacles companies have to overcome to earn quality referrals is fear. Fear that your referral request will go over poorly. Fear of the awkward situation that may arise if they say no. According to Texas Tech University, “83% of customers are willing to refer after a positive experience—yet only 29% actually do.” In other words, most companies are only receiving a third of the referrals customers are willing to give. If you want referrals, you have to let go of your fear and facilitate it from your customers. To gain some confidence in asking, it’s important to remember that:
- Most people like helping other people (if there’s no negative repercussion to them).
- Remind yourself that the worse that can happen is a customer says, “No.” That’s not too bad, is it? There are many reasons companies might not be willing to give recommendations, so unless you think there is substance behind a “no” that might be due to an underlying dissatisfaction with your product or services (which you should investigate further), you shouldn’t take it personally. Among other reasons, many companies have corporate policies that disallow recommendations.
- If you make asking for a referral part of your normal routine, it won’t seem out of place. With most projects there is a final meeting with the customer to assure everything has been accounted for—the end of these meetings is perfect time to make a habit out of asking for referrals.
If you don’t ask, you won’t receive—simple as that.
- Develop Incentives
Some companies won’t feel compelled to put in extra effort to benefit another organization unless they receive something in return. Look for something you can offer customers so they’ll provide you an honest referral. Something as simple as an Amazon gift card, discount on their next order, or even a “shout out” in one of your company’s content pieces can go a long way.
To keep earning referrals from your customers on a consistent, long-term basis, your best bet would be to develop a customer loyalty program that rewards them for advocating on your brand’s behalf. The system could be point based, or even offer “premium membership” benefits that extend past referrals. Whatever way you choose to implement it, make sure your customers feel valued for their efforts as they will be more inclined to help you if they do. It’s more about creating a collaborative working relationship and building a belief in your brand that will naturally lend itself to spreading the good word.
- Craft a Script
It can be hard to think of what to say when approaching customers for referrals. Until you become comfortable asking for referrals and it becomes part of your routine, write yourself a script. A script is a great way to get your thoughts down on paper before you pick up the phone—or you can even use it as an email template. Say something along the lines of:
"I'm really glad that you're pleased with our company’s work and we feel honored to have you as a customer. As a small favor, I'd really appreciate it if you'd pass my name along to anyone else you know who would be interested in _____________ (what you do). If any of your referred sources turn into actual customers, I am happy to extend _________ (insert incentive) to you. May I send you some extra business cards to make the process easier?”
It’s also important to consider your customers' busy schedules when taking up any of their time for your own benefit. A great way to simplify and ease the referral process—on both sides—is to craft an email template for your customers to use when referring your company to an outside source. They’re not going to put a lot of effort into writing it themselves, so do the heavy lifting for them. Here’s a great email referral template crafted by HubSpot:
I don't know if I've mentioned it before, but I've been working with [Your Name] for a few months. The other day, I was talking with him about some of the things that he and I have done, and I realized that I should put you two together. So ...
[Referral], meet [Your Name, with a LinkedIn profile URL].
[Your Name], meet [Referral, with a LinkedIn profile URL].
Can I leave the rest to you guys?
Talk to you both later.”
- Show Appreciation and Say Thank You!
Always thank the referring parties for helping your company out (this is where incentives may come into play, but also use direct messaging that thanks them for their specific actions). Be sure to thank the referred for joining your customer base. A little show of appreciation goes a long way. Then, get to work! You have happy customers and your reputation to back up.
If you need help implementing any of the best practices outlined above, Grant Marketing is your resource. As a full-service marketing agency—with capabilities including content creation, account-based and inbound marketing for manufacturers, brand development, website design, and more—we can help guide you through the process of creating a referral strategy for your company that aligns with your goals. Contact us today to get the ball rolling on your new initiatives.