52 Fridays is a year-long series for equestrian professionals and equine business owners and managers, with marketing and public relations information, ideas, tips, & resources shared here each Friday throughout 2011.
This week in the Potpourri section of 52 Fridays we look at what might be considered the lifeblood of business success for many, the referral, and how to get more of them by making it easier for your customers to spread the word.
The first part of getting referrals is making sure your horsebiz is referral-worthy. Take a hard, critical look at your business from an outsider perspective: Are there things you need to correct in terms of first impressions, follow-up, or customer service? Then fix those things first. If you’re too close to everything, ask a friend or hire someone to give you objective feedback on their experience. The whole point is to give people something they want to share with their friends and colleagues.
Maybe you already have happy customers that come back again and again, raving about how much they love your business. If that’s the case, capture the love and use it! Ask those fans to provide testimonials about your horsebiz that you can use on your website or in your marketing collateral. And, if you get complaints, value those and dig deeper to resolve them. Value complaints?! YES, because many people just walk away after a bad experience; if someone cares enough to bring their complaint to your attention, you CAN turn them around to become a fan AND a source of positive word of mouth exposure.
If you’re already doing a good job with your outreach marketing, public relations, and advertising, and you’ve got happy customers but you’re still not getting referrals from them, it might be because many people are simply too busy to think of it, or they don’t know how.
When it comes to getting referrals it’s important to:
- give your happy customers reminders about how important their referrals are to your success and that they help you stay in business;
- make it easier for customers to refer others by giving them the tools to do so; and
- reward them when they do refer others to you.
Here are a few things you can incorporate right away:
- Put a reminder in your email signature line, on your website, and on invoices: A statement such as ‘I appreciate your referrals…they are the lifeblood of my success!’ reminds customers that you DO depend upon their referrals. Take it a step further with online tools and create a link button that connects to an online referral-collection form, or even a quick (2 or 3 questions) survey.
- Give customers recognition: Saying ‘thank you’ for a referral goes a long way, whether you do it by phone, in a written thank-you note, or via public recognition. If you’ve got a ‘bricks & mortar’ physical location, consider putting up a bulletin board, or a dry-erase board, so you can publicly acknowledge and thank customers for their referrals and testimonials; this also serves as a visual reminder and incentive for other customers. If you’ve only got an online presence, you can do the same type of thing at your website.
- Provide tools to make things easier: Give your customers access to business cards, postcards, or brochures they can give to others. Send out an occasional email, and ask customers to pass it along to people they think would benefit. Sometimes all it takes is something tangible that people can actually pass along, and that gives new prospects both information about your horse business and an incentive to follow up.
- Offer a bonus for referrals that become paying clients: For rewards, it’s helpful to take a look at all the rewards programs already out there and engage in some creative brainstorming sessions. Can you come up with a reward that your customers would value and that will work for your financials? You can also ask your customers ‘what would you value as a reward program for referrals?’ and ‘what would make you WANT to spread the word about my horsebiz?’
For more information on the subject, here’s a great article from Inc. magazine about How To Get Customer Referrals. Remember that there IS a time and a place to ask a customer for referrals, but if you think through the process and make things easier for people who want to recommend you, you’ll get referrals that will add up to some great new business for your horsebiz!
How do you get and share referrals? Leave your thoughts about referrals via the Comments link below. If you liked this article, you can easily tell others about it via Facebook, Twitter, Stumbleupon, LinkedIn, and even by email with the Share button below. Pssst, pass it along, and see you here next Friday for 52 Fridays #44!
Read other posts by clicking on the Sort Posts By Topic dropdown menu to the right and selecting a category, or you can select 52 Fridays to read posts #1 through #42.
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