Tips of the Trade: “Getting Referrals”
By Ilise Benun
Everyone knows that the best way to get new customers is through referrals, and there are two elements that make it so: trust and timing.
If someone comes to you by referral, you don’t have to “sell” the person on what’s so great about you. He or she comes to you with at least some trust already in place. He or she probably also comes to you in his or her moment of need, so timing is on your side.
The downside of referrals is that you can’t control when or how many come along, which can put you in a dangerous position, especially if you rely on word of mouth as your only marketing tool (and many people do).
You see, getting referrals is a passive way of marketing; in fact, I don’t consider it marketing at all, unless you are proactive and go out seeking referrals. But how?
A couple years ago, Peleg (my business partner) did a proactive marketing campaign to generate referrals and that’s exactly what it did -- to the tune of $160,000 worth of business in two months.
How did he do it? Below is an article Peleg wrote about his strategy. Here’s the secret: More is not better when it comes to generating referrals. You’ll see in Peleg’s example that he chose his 12 best clients to focus on and then did something really special for them -- something that made them respond:
“Thinking outside the (chocolate) box”
Networking [is] ...great--it’s important to keep yourself out there. But, it’s also important to look at business you might be able to get from customers you already have: namely, referrals.
When I looked at my own business, I realized that there were a handful of clients who were responsible for bringing in the best work with the largest budgets. So, I decided to experiment with a promotion that focused on those elite clients.
Our vehicle was simple but effective: a bright red, oversized Chinese takeout box filled with chocolates, to which we attached a custom card thanking the clients for their business and asked them to refer us to any friends or associates they knew whom they felt might be a good fit for our services. We included a self-addressed response card to make things easy, and delivered the package by hand on Valentine’s Day.
Of the 12 we sent out, we received six back: a 50 percent return! Of the six cards we received, we got 12 referrals. We cultivated eight relationships and closed about $160,000 in business within the next two months. Our cost [was only] $330, which included messenger services to deliver each package.
The lesson? When you’re good, business will come to you. But that doesn’t mean you have to stop going after it yourself. Ask, and you shall receive.
Give chocolate, and you never know what might happen!
Excerpted from “Quick Tips from Marketing Mentor”, a free e-mail newsletter published by Hoboken, New Jersey-based consultant, Ilise Benun. Benun is also the author of “Stop Pushing Me Around: A Workplace Guide for the Timid, Shy and Less Assertive” and founder of Marketing Mentor, a one-on-one coaching program for small business owners. For more information, visit www.marketing-mentortips.com.