SCORE Tip of the Week: Get More Business By Using Referrals

SCORE's CEO, Kenneth R. Yancey, explains how to increase customer referrals in your business.

Are you using referrals to get more new customers and drive more business? If not, you’re missing out on one of the most powerful tools in the small business owner’s marketing arsenal. Here are some tips to get more referrals—and more business.

  • Ask for referrals. Most small business owners don’t get referrals because they don’t ask. Build the practice of asking for referrals into your sales cycle. When you’re doing post-sale follow-up, ask the customer if he or she has any friends or colleagues who might be in the market for your products or services. If so, ask if you can get their contact information.
  • Time it right. Make sure you’re dealing with a satisfied customer before you ask for a referral. The worst thing you can do is ask for a referral at a time when the customer has unresolved issues with your product or service.
  • Make it easy for customers to give you referrals. People are doing you a favor by providing referrals, so make it as simple as you can. Send an email asking customers to reply with a referral, or a link that takes them to a (very short) online form to fill out and capture the information, or include a (brief) form requesting a referral in the packet when you mail out invoices or bills. (That way it’s easy for customers to mail it back with their payments.)
  • Offer something in return. To really make it worth your customers’ time, offer something in return, like a discount coupon good for a percentage off the next purchase for filling out a form, or a $50 credit if the referral ends up becoming a customer. Make the reward proportionate to the value of the referral.
  • Follow up. Referrals won’t work for you if you don’t act on them. Create a system for contacting every referral within two weeks of getting their information (if not sooner). That increases the chances they will still need what you’re selling.