There are two schools of thought when it comes to Referral Marketing, one of the seven crucial pillars of Authority Marketing.

One school of thought casts referrals in a poor light. Good work should speak for itself. Soliciting referrals directly can feel forced and inorganic. Because clients are put on the spot and may wind up feeling pressured, some perceive it as pushy or desperate on the part of the business owner.

The other school asserts that in business, you can’t afford to be shy, least of all toward referrals. The way to succeed is to be bold and direct. Only then will your business grow and thrive. By that logic, you should regularly send current and former clients an email to tastefully ask for referrals.

There’s a certain validity to both approaches. Good work, customer service and good relationships will organically lead to satisfied customers who refer you to others. Your best calling card will always be a job well done. On the other hand, the health of your company is in your hands, so if there are ways to be proactive and encourage referrals, you’d be doing a disservice to your business by not employing them.

Here are 5 Tips to Help You Get More Referrals From Clients:

  1. Ask for a referral face-to-face.

Do not ask for a referral through an email. A referral is a personal gesture—a favor you’re asking someone. The right way to ask for a referral is face-to-face or, at least, over the phone. It’s not only more respectful of your clients, but more successful. Direct contact can’t be shuffled away in a letter drawer or fall to the bottom of a crowded inbox.

  1. Focus on the best of your best clients.

It’s best to ask clients with whom you’ve developed a history and mutual trust. They’ll be more likely to refer your goods or services to others since they trust you, can vouch for your work and have first-hand experience working with you. Newer clients may perceive the request as a little presumptuous; they don’t have a full picture of the product or service they’d be referring.

  1. Offer powerful incentives.

Inform your clients that for every referral they give, you’ll offer something in return. Incentives like a gift card, percentage off of future work or a charitable donation in their name are powerful incentives. If you have a good relationship with your client, you’ll have better perspective on what to offer. For a professional services firm, the most effective rewards are discounts off the following month’s service. Some companies offer a workplace lunch or a bottle of wine to clients. You have the opportunity to be creative–give them an incentive that only your company can offer.

  1. Ask at the right time.

Often, referrals are requested at the conclusion of a project. While this is fine, it is not your only option. The best time to ask is when you feel the relationship is strong enough to ensure their endorsement of you, like after receiving positive feedback. You need to engage your customers at the exact moment when they are the most satisfied with your work. Then you can channel that satisfaction into positive action. Also, if at all possible, don’t ask for a referral when presenting a bill. Asking for money and a favor at the same time is an awkward mix.

  1. Keep reminding your clients to refer you.

Your clients have more important things to think about than your business. Studies have shown that happy customers who say they’ll refer you, often don’t. They simply forget. So don’t be afraid to keep in touch with your clients and let them know that you still appreciate their support. Send an occasional email or card to touch base. But don’t be obnoxious about it. There’s a thin line between refreshing their memory and being annoying. Schedule reminders on your calendar to contact them every three to six months to ask how they’re doing and how you can assist them in new ways.

Referrals will get you more clients, period. They are among the best ways to grow your business. Learn how to walk that line between being aggressive and being professional.  Referral marketing is one of supporting “pillars” of the Authority Marketing. To take an in-depth look at the best practices of referral marketing, request a free copy of Adam Witty’s bestselling book for executives and business owners, Authority Marketing: How to Use 7 Pillars of Thought Leadership to Make Competition Irrelevant.

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