A steady flow of clients is necessary for a business to grow. Constantly attracting new clients is challenging and takes a lot of time and work, however.
A referral network is one of the best ways to consistently attract and retain clients, according to business owners who participated in a survey by Alignable. Furthermore, research from Nielsen’s states that 22% of consumers won’t make a purchase after reading a negative review. If there are multiple negative reviews, it can put a halt on new clients.
A referral network and positive word-of-mouth recommendations are vital to building client loyalty, developing a brand community, and driving business growth into the future.
Referral networks can be used for just about any business. They’re particularly important for service-based businesses, however, which rely on growth for sustainability and profitability. Referral networks spread the word about a business to new clients, driving consistent acquisition.
This is basically a network of businesses, individuals, and organizations that offer referrals within their network, whether formal or informal. The network may include similar, non-competing businesses, suppliers and businesses, other industry professionals, and current and past customers.
Referral networks should be used with marketing campaigns to organically attract new clients without substantial marketing spend.
Service-based businesses may include software providers, HVAC and home contracting companies, beauty salons, and family law practices. For these types of businesses, a referral network helps to spread the word about the business and fuels exponential client growth.
While some referrals may make contact through email or text, this is an impersonal way of approaching client acquisition. If possible, ask contacts to have a video conference or in-person meeting to show that you’re truly interested in the clients.
Many people are opting for remote communications after the pandemic, so if meeting in person is not an option, choose a phone call.
Once the meeting is complete, set up a follow-up meeting to discuss details. Make sure the prospective client knows that you’re available for questions or details, so you can start to build a future business relationship.
If you don’t know what it is you do or why you do it well, how can you sell it to others? Knowing your business and your unique selling points inside and out is the best way to stay prepared for an opportunity to attract a new client, which may come up when you least expect.
Ask yourself some questions and prepare the answers. What do you do better than your competitors? How are you different than what’s available on the market? What do you do to ensure you meet the client’s needs?
Prepare these answers and practice them. Summarize your business into an elevator pitch, or a 60- or 90-second summary of your business that shows clients what makes it the ideal solution. Keep it short and direct.
Incentive programs are great for getting your prospects and current clients interested and enthusiastic about your business. All you have to do is offer an incentive to encourage referrals, and they’ll have motivation to let others know.
No two businesses are alike, so each referral program should be unique. Make sure your incentive suits your audience and your business, rather than being a meaningless gift. For example, if you’re a software vendor, offering a discount on a subscription plan or a free trial of a new feature would be an incentive for a client.
When you create your program, make sure to outline guidelines and eligibility to avoid confusion and frustration. It’s important to be clear, such as asking clients to leave an authentic review on Google or your website in exchange for a service upgrade or free gift. If you want to encourage referrals, offer incentives for both the client and the prospect they refer, provided they sign up for your service.
This can get tricky with some businesses, such as law firms. For a child support law firm, consider high-value gifts like gift cards, donations, or discounts on legal services for the client and the referred prospect.
Trade associations and industry organizations offer a wealth of opportunities to grow your referral network. You can build your own authority in your industry or niche while connecting to other leaders in their respective industries.
Another benefit is that these professionals may have an audience that overlaps with yours. When you build a professional relationship, you can share referrals and build your clients with more leads and prospects.
Here’s how you can start building your network:
This may seem obvious, but this is where a lot of businesses fall short. If you want to build long-lasting client relationships, you have to return the favor. This isn’t as simple as thinking ``the customer is always right.”
Exceptional client service comes from having the culture and systems in place to ensure that your clients have a positive, seamless, and consistent experience, no matter who they speak with. All of your employees need to have the same standards.
Consider all aspects of the client experience, from social media to marketing communications to registering complaints. Make sure you have an effective and detailed plan and policies in place to keep everyone on the same page.
When you’re in business, every person you meet could be a new client. While you don’t want to go around pitching everyone constantly, carrying business cards and identifying opportunities to talk about what you do and connect with a prospect can go a long way.
Don’t ever assume someone isn’t a possible client. You never know if the next conversation you have with a waiter or a friend of a friend at an event could be the next client looking for your services. Even if they’re not directly, they may refer you to someone who is. You’re never off the clock.
Your referral network is doing you a big favor, but it’s important for you to return it. Make an effort to show your appreciation for your referrers and build positive relationships. Send out thank-you notes to clients and keep in contact with your industry or professional referral sources.
These relationships go two ways. In exchange for getting referrals, you need to give them. You can both benefit from the effort. For example, if you have a beauty salon, you could partner with a barber shop or a nail salon and recommend each other. Both of you are likely to attract new clients.
Referrals are among the most powerful and cost-effective ways of bringing in a steady flow of new clients and generating business well into the future. Focus on building strong relationships with industry partners, current and past clients, and new contacts to drive new business through your doors.
Maxwell Hills is the founder of Hills Law Group, a premier Orange County divorce lawyer law firm with a concentration on high net worth divorces. Max’s entrepreneurial career stretches back to his teenage days when he had his music used in Grey’s Anatomy and ESPN. Today, Max has used that experience to build Hills Law Group with 0 customers and $0 in revenue to a respected firm in the industry.
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