I saw a great article  on Twitter the other day about asking for referrals. So I re-tweeted it because I ALWAYS get asked about the best way to set up a referral program and it also inspired me to write this post. (thanks Dave Humphrey) 🙂

Everyone seems to know that referrals are one of the best ways to get new business – not only because it’s very cost-effective but also because the sales pitch is just about done. The trust is already there from someone who has passed on your details, so the relationship building is ready to begin.

But how do you regularly get to this step?

I’m not big on setting up a ‘process’ but I do think a regular ‘project’ of referral building makes good sense and I think there are a couple of key steps:

  • Think about who to ask. Have a good look at your connections and your database and select the ones you have built a solid relationship with. Sending out a broadcast to all and sundry asking them to help you build your business is not going to work because the majority are not going to care enough. Find the contacts that you have a genuine rapport and relationship with. More often than not, they will be only too pleased to help.
  • Just on the above point, don’t send out a broadcast. Always make this particular request in a face to face conversation. No doubt the connections you select in the above process are the ones you meet up with regularly because they’re good clients or colleagues! So remember to ask next time you’re having a coffee, highlighting the value you provide and how you can help their contacts.
  • Make it easy for them – not only by providing extra business cards, business collateral etc but also clarify clearly who is a good referral for you. Asking someone to refer you and then getting contacts that are not in your target market or relevant for you is not useful. <br>Make sure you clearly articulate what sort of contact you are after. In fact, the article I mentioned above made a great point – narrow it down when you’re asking the question. Instead of ‘do you know anyone who would be interested…’ try “do you know anyone in xyz industry that is looking to achieve abc because I would like to try and help them do that.”
  • Reciprocate – do for others what you’d like done for you, so pay it forward or return the favour. Identify how you can help them in return – what are they concentrating on to build their business? It could be by making a referral to them; or amplifying their social presence by sharing, commenting, liking their posts; by being a guest blogger or supplying other value to support their content creation strategy; by referring them to a supplier or someone else that can help them in some way. Be creative and thoughtful here.
  • Remember to thank them. I don’t believe people refer simply to be rewarded so it needn’t be a grandiose gesture. Think how else you can make them feel valued. A hand written note is a curiosity these days and in my experience, always well received. In addition to reciprocity, this is authentic and doesn’t turn a good deed into an economic transaction.
  • Lastly, do good work! All the processes in the world aren’t going to generate referrals if your product or service isn’t worthy of it.

That’s what I think. What about you? Do you have a process? Let me know in the comments.