According to recent studies, 85% of small business owners said they depend on word-of-mouth referrals to get more clients. While there’s no denying how powerful referrals are for growing your business, many of us don’t go looking for them. Instead, we wait and think: “If I deliver great work for my clients, the referrals will come.” This approach isn’t the best way to grow your business. The key is knowing when it’s appropriate to ask and what is the best way to do so.
Put yourself in your client’s shoes: Would you be willing to refer a service provider who’s asked for a referral only a few weeks after they started working with you?
Chances are you wouldn’t. In fact, not only would you probably think this is super weird at such an early stage in the business relationship, but you may feel they are “money hungry” or even wonder: “Are they already moving on?”
Your clients are no different and asking for a referral too early in a relationship sends the wrong message. If anything, it only increases the chances of souring that relationship.
The point is: At the beginning of any relationship you should only focus on getting feedback to see if your clients are happy (which should always be your goal) and even attempt to increase your workload. But as the relationship evolves, they’ll begin to trust you and learn what you’re capable of. It’s at this point you can comfortably ask for a referral.
While only you can discern when you’ve reached this point, here are some common cues which suggest it’s an appropriate time to ask:
- You’ve hit a significant milestone in the relationship, e.g., you’ve worked with the same client for six months now or just finished a major project that’s taken months to complete
- Your client is always praising your work
- They’ve made it clear they’re delighted with your output, but have put a clear cap on how much work they can give you
1) MAKE THE REQUEST SPECIAL: Send a PERSONALIZE EMAIL
- Address the client by name—this may seem obvious, but many people forget this simple detail
- Don’t immediately ask for a referral at the start of your email, instead begin on a lighter note by thanking them for all the work or even mentioning how you enjoy working with them. Be open, friendly and genuine… Always!
- Mention projects you’ve just completed and highlight how you enjoyed tackling them.
- Let them know how much you enjoyed working with them and that you’d like to find more clients just like them!
Note: do not bury the request in the latest invoice or in a recent back and forth with the client. They need to understand the importance of their referral.
2.) Make your Request Specific
As a small business owner, you may have a basket of services you offer. If you reach out to a client and ask them for a referral without specifying the service you want them to refer you for, you’re only creating more work for them: They now have to figure out what you want to do and for what kind of client. Remember you are asking for a favor and you want to make it easy on them.
3.) Reward your Clients for Referrals
If your clients love your work, they’ll probably be more than happy to give you a referral anyway. However, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t show courtesy and provide them with something in return to say “thank you.” Who doesn’t like a small gift or discount?
These gifts don’t have to be expensive—they can be something as simple as a handwritten Thank You card or a % discount on their next invoice.
As a small business owner, we understand and value the importance of client referrals. We continue to strive in client satisfaction as it in direct correlation to the growth of our business. Having a client give us a positive review or refer a friend means we are doing it right! Best wishes to you and a successful business.