We all know that personal referrals are one of the best ways to grow our small business; new customers that come by the way of a referral become customers more quickly and stay with us longer than others. Satisfied customers appreciate our company values, we’ve reached them on a level deeper than a product at a price. When those same satisfied customers refer their friends and colleagues to us, chances are that those friends and colleagues also appreciate those values. They become happy, ideal customers and the referral cycle continues. So why aren’t you asking for referrals? Here are the top three reasons small business owners don’t ask for referrals and what you can do to start asking today.
Fear of rejection. I get it, it’s scary to ask someone to recommend you. We fear that our customer will say no, but think about it; if they don’t want to refer you, they just won’t do it – they won’t actually say no to you! If you sense some hesitation on their part, that’s a great opportunity to correct a misunderstanding or dissatisfaction they may have had with you in the past. Your effort to resolve some old issue for them, or just to listen about it, will win them over and they just may become raving fans.
You don’t know how to ask. Take 30 minutes to create several scripts you and your staff can loosely follow, and that you are comfortable with. When you’re comfortable asking, you will come across more confident and natural, and the request more likely to be received well. Worry less about what the “experts” say about how to do it, and ask in a manner that works for you.
You may have tried to ask following a well-intentioned marketing seminar, but lacked the follow-through. What you need is a system, an easily repeated step-by-step system. The best systems are well-defined and automatic. Consider these:
Have your Google+ review link printed on your invoice. This is fairly passive, but may be a “safe” first step for you.
Follow-up transactions or at regular intervals with an automated email satisfaction and review request (there are some slick systems out there that point happy customers to your review page, while less than happy customers generate an email to you. Let me know if you’re interested in learning more and I can point you to some business partners who can create this for you).
If you’re interested in a more low-tech option, define who will ask for referrals and at exactly what point in the customer interaction. Once you’ve defined the “right” words (see #2), you and your staff all need to know where responsibility lays for asking. Walk through this process in a staff meeting, as a multi-step process may be best.
Best bet: do all three!
You haven’t figured out what the referral reward ought to be. Don’t let this hold you up! Think about the last referral you gave and why you gave it. I doubt it was for the Starbucks coupon; it was more likely because somebody asked or reminded you, or because you wanted to help a friend. Humans give referrals because we like to help.
This is an EXCELLENT example of a referral program – it’s easy for your customer, and offers them a tangible, useful reward.
A well-defined referral system drastically increases the number of referrals, as long as you are (reasonably) comfortable with the actual request. Invest 30 minutes to define your system, and be on the lookout for new ideal customers coming through your door!
Vision Planning notebooks are an excellent way to map out your action plan for the New Year!
Hi everyone! Now is a great time to write out your goals and plans for the New Year! You know my motto – “if you fail to plan, then you plan to fail”. I have extra vision planning notebooks that I’m giving away FREE starting Wednesday, December 18, until the New Year. The only thing you have to do is sign up for the newsletter on www.avisionofyourown.com! Once you do, shoot me an email at with your mailing address, and I’ll send it out. Any questions? Shoot me an email!
Vision boards are a great way to really focus on what you want to accomplish next year. Writing down your ideas makes you accountable to yourself, and moves your ideas from your head to reality!
Since Apple’s launch of the iPhone 5 on September 21st, Apple has sold over 5 million phones and has sold out of their initial supply. That’s 1.2 million phones per day. It was announced on September 12, 2012, and was released on September 21 – ten days. Our small businesses may not have the national spotlight that Apple enjoys, but we can gather the attention necessary to successfully launch a new product or service in our own corner with planning and attention to detail. Apple carefully choreographs every step of a product launch, and small business owners should do the same.
1. Any successful launch begins with your strong reputation. If you have customers and clients who have come to rely on your expertise, they are more likely to listen to what you have to say. The stronger your reputation, the fewer messages needed to convert your market to paying customers. If your reputation is less than you’d like it to be, start by cleaning that up, first.
2. Create intrigue in your customer base. Apple “leaks” tidbits of information well ahead of the official announcement to build a “buzz”. Drop hints so that your customers and prospects are curious and will pay attention to upcoming announcements from you. Don’t be afraid to make an announcement before you have the details sorted out about something “exciting” that’s coming. I guarantee that if you make a public announcement, you will push through any procrastination and get the nitty-gritty done!
3. Depending upon the financial or time investment required for your product or service, begin seeding three to four weeks before launch. Remember, you are only “hinting” at what is to come. For a launch the size of the iPhone 5, Apple began seeding approximately 10-12 weeks prior to launch.
4. In the coming weeks (see timeline below), provide prospects with more and more details, always keeping in mind what they want, not just what they need. Credible rumors of a thinner profile and bigger screen kept Apple consumers interested and talking about the product. Vary your presentation as much as possible; consider all social media avenues in written, audio and video formats. If appropriate, use direct mail or personal contact.
5. For service offerings or an event, open registration within a week of availability or of the event. Most customers will “pull the trigger” within the last 48 hours, so don’t get discouraged if early numbers are low. Your customers have a lot on their minds and companies vying for their attention are everywhere.
Smaller product/service launch:
It’s fascinating to watch Apple and they are a prime, albeit enormous, example to follow. Be consistent in your message, reinforce your brand continuously and trust yourself when it comes to your brand.
When the Superdome’s lights went out during the Superbowl, audiences had 34 minutes with nothing particular to pay attention to. Oreo’s social media team jumped on the opportunity and sent this tweet: “Power out? No problem. You can still dunk in the dark.” Approximately 24 hours later, they’ve had over 15,000 retweets and almost 21,000 Facebook likes. That’s savvy marketing.
Chances are, there are moments when your customers have empty space in front of them, a “dark moment”; a checkout counter in a retail environment, a few minutes of waiting for a service business. These are prime spots to grab your customer’s attention, but too often they get cluttered with manufacturer’s marketing material rather than your own, reminders about your policies, or local charity events. Instead, consider what you most want your customers and clients to know about, to focus on, and that’s what they should be looking at in their “Oreo moment”. Just like in print copy, remember to use plenty of “empty” space to allow your customers to focus.
Over the past several weeks, a client and I have been looking at where his clients have come from and how best to find more. It’s a valuable exercise at any time, but especially now as he is faced with making contract renewals and determining where to spend his 2013 marketing budget; afterall everyone want a high marketing ROI (Return on Investment). It has been an extremely valuable experience and I want to share, step by step, what we did so you can put it into practice:
1. Look at every new customer from the past two years and determined what brought them to your business. Yes, it will be a lot of work and time, but honestly, is checking e-mail or Facebook more important?
Find the details. For example, once my client identified business came from referrals, we looked at what the relationship was between the person referred and the person who did the referring. My client learned that his customers were most likely to refer co-workers, not family members as he had thought.
Also research the precipitating cause of the prospects’ calls; consider individual life events (move, job change, family status change), a new or increased need for your service or product, poor care from another provider or loss of another provider. All of these are important in determining how to find more clients with the least amount of effort and resource
2. Outline your 2012 marketing dollars spent in detail.
3. Calculated the cost of each new client. For example, if you spent 2012 marketing dollars on radio advertising, divide the cost of radio ads by the number of clients who came to you as a direct result. This is your direct radio marketing cost per client. Some marketing may not directly yield customers but will instead reinforce your brand image. That’s okay, and you may determine that the resources spent are still worth it. If you can not directly tie new customers with marketing dollars spent, check in to see that your ego isn’t tied up in where you “should” be marketing your business.
4. Using what the corporate world calls “zero based budgeting”, and create a 2013 marketing budget. Starting at zero, build a marketing budget, justifying every dollar spent with two years worth of new customer source information.
5. Finally, identify 2013 milestones, points at which you can review your spending and make changes if necessary. Pre-defining these milestone points are critical to insure that too much time doesn’t pass without review or results. Equally important, the milestones insure that you don’t pull the plug prematurely, killing a campaign too early.
Marketing dollars can be tough to justify with data, so all too often we just keep on doing what we have been doing, latch on to the latest trend, or follow our colleagues when they have success. Be smarter this year and start with your own customers; just like my client, you will spend less, be more successful with finding prospects and increase your marketing return on investment (ROI). That’s excellence with ease.
Helen Dutton, A Vision of Your Own, has provided business and personal coaching for small business owners since 2000, providing online and face to face coaching for entrepreneurs, small business owners, start-up businesses as well as established businesses across the country. Clients come from New Hampshire, her home state, but she has also acted as a mentor to business owners in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, the Denver area, and closer to home in the Boston area. Helen helps her clients develop their small business ideas, create marketing plans, improve operation efficiency, build customer service systems, build management and leadership skills, and develop confidence as a business owner. Helen provides business tips and resources through her blog and her newsletter, where you can also find business templates to help your business prosper.