"Ask for more referrals."
We're force fed this "marketing wisdom" and we hate it. We're told to "be proactive".
And some of us try. But it always seems to end the same way. You feel stupid for asking, things get weird with your customers or you get zero referrals for your trouble.
Asking for referrals seems to only bring trouble
We badger our customers with requests.
“Know anyone that could use _____?"
"Would you tell your friends and co-workers about us?"
Everyone wants referrals but no one wants to ask for them.
The traditional approach makes asking for referrals a nightmare
When it's time for customers to refer you, they don't know what to say or who to say it to. They're sensitive to the sales pressure and resistance others feel when they actually try to refer you.
Most don't want to send you referrals, even if you're awesome.
They're too busy with their own life; helping you doesn't really help them. And then there are the other businesses that badger them for referrals on a consistent basis. It's so easy to see why they'd ignore these requests.
Related Article: Lead Generation Has Never Been This Easy
But it's not like this for everyone
Some businesses seem to be flooded with referrals. It's like they can't keep up with all the customers clamoring to do business with them. There never seems to be a shortage of people who want to work with them.
Is their business that much better?
Some businesses are "easy"
When it comes to referrals, the basics are where you start. You’re trustworthy, your product or service is awesome, you've got great customer service, etc.
You need these but they don't create referrals on their own.
Businesses that are flooded with referrals are easy. They make the entire referral process easy from beginning to end. They remove the emotional and psychological costs.
They make it really easy for customers to refer and promote their business. Then they give customers a compelling and self-serving reason to do just that.
They turn customers into evangelists.
Your business needs evangelists if you want referrals
But what are the specifics of being easy? And what do you need to get the amount of referrals you're looking for?
It starts with knowing your ideal customer.
This isn't the customer you accept to pay the bills or the project you take to keep your doors open. These are the customers you love working with. The ones that treat you well and spend often.
You'll need a clear understanding about your ideal customers.
What's their biggest problem? What are they afraid of? What motivates them to act? Get as much intel as you can on these ideal customers then...
Use this intel to make their problem worse
Often times customers aren't aware of how serious their problem is. They may have an idea, but that only makes it worse. Problems are easy to ignore when you're missing information.
Which is why customers need you to educate them. Agitate their problems. Show them the true consequence of ignoring them. Show them what they're going to lose.
Related Article: 6 Customer Feedback Channels You Should Be Using
Agitating their biggest problem, gives you their attention
But how do you communicate all of this to your customers? It's not like referral partners can carry you around in their pocket.
You're going to need leverage.
That leverage comes in the form of a referral kit. A referral kit continues to work for you, without you having to be involved. Books, mp3's, recorded webinars, videos, presentations - these are all forms of leverage.
Use leverage to agitate their problems
Present your solution. If you've done your homework, customers have a much clearer picture of their problem; they're freaked out.
Problems create stress and anxiety, solutions relieve stress and anxiety.
Present your solution without the problem and you're just another annoying salesperson begging for money. Present the problem first, then trot out the solution after and your credibility skyrockets. You understand their problems and you can help them.
How are you supposed to help them if no one refers you?
This is where your customer evangelists come in. Approaching customers for a referral doesn't go well...
Until you answer "what's in it for me?"
One of the best methods to answer that question is with interviews. The format doesn't matter as much as the interview itself. When you interview (and promote) your customers it gives them prestige. It gives them bragging rights.
Related Article: How to Turn an Ordinary Client into Your Biggest Fan
Sharing is a prerequisite of bragging
Customers share their good news to get the praise, attention and prestige they desire.
Here's where you come in. You host the content on your website, or fan page. You make the interview accessible to anyone on the condition that it's viewed on your territory.
Suddenly they're eager to share
So they send people to check out the interview. You're getting referrals and lots of attention from your evangelists. But you still haven't gotten the kind of referrals you're looking for.
It's time to ask for what you want.
You've just delivered a whole lot of value to your customers. You've promoted them and you've put them first.
Asking them to share your referral kit with their audience gives you the ins you need to skyrocket your referrals. And because your referral kit was created to educate, not sell, there's no misunderstandings about you being genuinely interested in helping and serving others.
Do this right and the referrals will flow in.
Customers will see that you're focused on helping and serving them. Your evangelists will see that you’re all about helping and serving them. Your deep understanding and focus on service will give you all the referrals you need.
My industry doesn't really work on referrals
Some industries and circumstances require that you tweak the strategies we've discussed here to work for you. Let's say you're selling to local, regional and federal governments.
The strategies we've talked about here work the same way, the approach is what's different.
Asking for referrals doesn't have to be miserable
And it doesn't have to end in failure. With referral kits and customer evangelists you'll have all the referrals you can handle, no awkward tension required.
Most businesses get this referral strategy wrong. Download our checklist to get it right and win more referrals (no opt-in required).