Referral Marketing: It's as Easy as One, Two, Three!
Sean McCool
Direct Marketing Strategist

Often small business owners are a little overwhelmed with the idea of advertising. It's confusing sometimes to try to find the best-and the most cost-effective-methods.

Personally, I think the best method of advertising is referral marketing-getting your customers to sell for you. I know, I know. You've heard that before; maybe you even tried it. Truth is, most people tend to over complicate the idea and process of referrals. It doesn't have to be that way. But consider this before you give up on referrals:

When a customer is referred to you by a friend, they already like you. They have a preestablished level of trust. And, because they trust you, it's likely they're willing to spend more money with you than will someone who has never heard of you before. If they're deciding between two companies, they'll likely choose the one that their friend talked about-even if there is a price difference.

There are many ways to foster referrals, which I'll get to in a minute. You need to realize something first. The best way to get quality referrals is to provide quality service. Go above and beyond what any customer would expect. In all you do, you want you customers to appreciate you and your work. Be honest, be appreciative of your customer, and do not let them find fault with anything you do.

With that said, let me offer you some tips on how to get your customers to talk about you.

One: The first and most basic method is to just ask for referrals. Ask for reviews and testimonials. Most people, especially if you've done a good job, are more than willing to help you in this area. Make it easier for them to refer you. The best way to do this is to make sure it's easy for both the client and the worker on the job.

So, at the end of the job, use a pre-printed "How did we do?" card. This is like the card you might find at a restaurant that asks for feedback and comments. Make sure the last question is a request for someone they know who would like whatever it is you offer. You'll also be able to use some of their comments as testimonials and future marketing pieces.

Two: Consider giving an unexpected gift to your customers at the end of a job. These can be unrelated-for a medium-sized job, you could give them a voucher for a local restaurant. For a large job, perhaps give them tickets to a local sporting event. After putting some counters in, leave a flower in a small vase with a thank-you note. Just be creative and give something you think will be genuinely appreciated.

It could be a gift related to your business. Or, team up with a business with a similar customer base, home remodelers, painters, lawn care, house cleaning, etc., and offer coupons for them to your customers. Ask this business to do the same for you.

Perhaps you can create small informational booklets or pamphlets relating to your business. Leave these with customers-they'll appreciate the time that went into making the booklet, and it could be a conversation piece when people comment on the work you've done for them. These little steps create goodwill which gets people talking about your business. Make sure you leave a fridge magnet, or two, behind so they can easily give it to their friends.

Three: The best ways to develop referral marketing may be the simplest. Just keep in touch with your customer. Do a 30-day satisfaction follow-up. Send them a thank you note in the mail. Send them Christmas cards. If you are able to get their birthday information, send them a birthday card.

All of these little extra things are not expected from businesses, and will make people think highly of you. They'll appreciate the extra attention, and will be more likely to talk with friends about you. It also gives you permission to contact them about new sales or new products because they are used to hearing from you.

Really, all you're trying to do is to connect with people so they want to talk about you. Be friendly, be honest, and go above and beyond what is expected, and you'll stand out in your customers' minds. When it comes to referral marketing, a little extra will go a long way to bring customers to your door.

Sean McCool is a an award-winning marketer and success coach. He can help you create marketing materials or just talk with you about what's possible for your business. You can contact or leave a message for him through his website .

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