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How to Actually Get More Referrals – PART 3

This is the third and final post in our three-part series on How to Get More Referrals. Check out the first post here and the second post here.

Make it extremely easy for people to refer you

What does this mean?

To answer this you first need to understand the psychology of referring, from the perspective of the person doing the referring.

A referral in essence puts social capital on the line. A person refers you because he wants to simultaneously help out someone in his network, and he wants to look good doing it — that is, he needs to know that the referral will work out well. Because in essence, when someone refers you, he is saying to his network, “I want you to trust this person, and I want you to trust me that this is someone good.”

If he does that and it works out badly, then he has egg on his face. Thus the risk.

So then your job, once you’ve gotten to a point of doing outstanding work, providing amazing service, and building a referral system in place, is to make referring you very easy — as in almost completely risk-free.

Here’s are a few ideas to help you do that.


Yes, you can incentivize referrals. This usually works better when you are dealing with a customer, but it could work with a client as well.

The bare bones approach of it with a client is basically this:

You pay for a customer.

That means if a referral source refers someone to you, and that referred lead converts into a customer, you pay the referrer.

It makes sense, because if you consider the cost of customer acquisition, this is a very small price to pay.

Let’s say you run an event planning business. And you know that typically, an engagement with one client leads to an average of three engagements through the year.

Well, if a typical engagement brings in $5,000, then you know that each customer is worth about $15,000 to you (3 engagements through the year at $5,000/engagement). So you could strike up a deal with a potential referral source to pay them the value of the customer’s invoice if they convert. You pay $5,000, and then make $10,000.

Any CEO or marketer or ad man on the planet will tell you if you can spend 1 dollar and make 2, then that’s a business. If you scale that out, the sky is the limit.

Another incentive structure is to incentivize your customers to refer their friends to you. This usually takes the form of “Refer four people to us and you get a year of free haircuts.”

ING Direct, where I bank, will pay me $100 if I refer a friend. That’s because ING knows how much each customer is worth, and you can bet it’s a lot more than $100.

Offer a free consultation

Another way to mitigate the risk on a referral is to make it clear that your initial meeting is a 100% free consultation. That way the referrer doesn’t get stuck telling someone to trust you, and now their friend has to put up with a hard sell.

Equip them with tools they need

As always, make sure the person referring you can easily point a potential referral to your work, via a website, a portfolio, etc.

Ask and you shall receive

Okay. Let’s get into how to ask.

The first thing to do is set the expectation at the very beginning of an engagement that if you do a great job, and they love the work,

Here’s how you do that:

YOU: “Great, I’m really looking forward to getting my hands dirty on this project. At the end of the project, if I do an outstanding job and you just love the results, I’m happy to offer similar results to people that you know. Assuming you love the work, is that something we can talk about?”

CLIENT/CUSTOMER: Sure, of course.

You’ve given a highly conditional statement (“If… then…”) which basically makes it easy for someone to say yes, and you’ve established from the very beginning that referrals are something that you do.

So. You’ve set up the expectation. Awesome. Now you’ve completed the project brilliantly, provided superb service, and you’ve delivered it to your customer. Whether that’s a new website, a wedding cake, a customized car, whatever. What do you say?

First, reiterate the value you’ve given them:

YOU: “So to recap quickly, since we’ve worked together, you have seen X result to help you with X benefit, Y result to help you with Y benefit, and Z result to help you with Z benefit. Is there anyone you know and trust, who is also looking to achieve X, Y, or Z, or you think could use a hand with their xyz [area where you provide value]?”

And then:

YOU: “Would you be willing to introduce me to him?”

Here’s a real-life example. Let’s say you’re a physical trainer, and you’ve come to the end of your six sessions with a client.

YOU: Well, Terry, great work today. Since we’ve worked together on your health and fitness, you have dropped ten pounds of body fat, which helps you have increased energy, greater health, and look great in clothes. You’ve increased your bench press by 20 lbs, which has improved your core strength and protects you against injuries. And we’ve improved your run time by 2 minutes, which has widely positive increases across your entire body, including increased energy and better brain function. Not bad. If you’re open to it, is there anyone you know and trust who is unsatisfied with their health and is looking to make a change?”

CLIENT: Oh yeah, there’s blah blah blah…

YOU: Would you be willing to introduce me to him?

Create a referral network with strategic partners

I touched on this in the last post, but a powerful way to increase your referrals is to create a referral network.

That means you make an agreement with a group of other business owners to refer each other business.

If you’re a trainer or gym owner, striking up a referral network with:

  • a local orthopedic surgeon
  • a local sporting goods company
  • a local health food store

Seems like a no-brainer.

Here’s how you do it:

  1. Contact the owner of the biz you think would be a good fit.
  2. Sit down and figure out ways you can add value to his/her biz
  3. Actually add value by delivering on that thing you’ve identified.
  4. Stay in touch as you do this across 3 or 4 other businesses
  5. Then, once you have a few people built up, introduce the idea to them:

YOU: “So one thing I’ve been doing over the past 4 months is really connecting and helping out complimentary businesses, in order to build a referral network. I’ve already got John Smith, owner over at XYZ Acme, Peter Smith over at ABC Acme, and we’re excited about this. I wanted to invite you to join it. It basically works like this:

– If someone comes in and you sense that they would benefit from my service, you refer them to me. I’ll do the same. And Peter, and John will do the same. That means where once we had zero people referring us, now you’ve got 4 or 5 professionals referring people to you. We can track who comes from where by using these little cards I printed up. What do you say?”

Any business owner on the planet would be thrilled with this arrangement.

Provide a free service to a complimentary business

This ties in loosely with the above point, but you can increase your referrals by providing a free service to a complimentary business.

If you are a health food caterer for example, you can partner with a local gym and offer 1 free meal for each new gym member. The gym owner loves that because that’s a calue-add on what he can offer, and it exposes you to THE GYM OWNERS ENTIRE CUSTOMER BASE, which is a huge swath of highly qualified leads.

In conclusion

This may very well be the most epic post on referrals ever written in the history of the internet. But do not just read it. Implement it. Go forth and prosper.

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How to Actually Get More Referrals – PART 2

This is the second post in a three-part series on How to Get More Referrals. You can see the first part here.

Build referral generation into your business cycle

Now we can assume you’re doing great work and delivering killer customer service.

How do you now get referrals consistently?

The first thing to do is to set up a system whereby you no longer have to remember to get a referral or kick yourself for not doing it — it becomes automatic.

Here’s what I mean.

You very likely already have systems in place in your business. You may have a set questionnaire your gym clients fill out to asses their physical condition. You may have a quick audit you run on your accounting clients. You may have a standard greeting you want your employees to use inside your retail boutique.

Well just like you’ve got those systems in place, now it’s time to add referral generation into the mix.

This is an automatic process designed to provide you with more leads and more business.

Most people think of getting referrals as coming at the end of an engagement — that is, after they’ve been paid.

That is problematic though, because you’ve just had a fair exchange of value. You did the work, and then you got paid, and now you’re asking for MORE? It puts off clients.

However, it’s quite possible to get more referrals and get paid, if you ask for referrals a) in the right way, and b) at the right time.

Here’s a quick diagram I put together to illustrate this idea.

There are other ways of course beyond asking (and we’ll get into the specifics of asking in a moment).

Over at Passive Panda, I’ve read of an insurance agent who generates referrals and new leads by the following:

After he successfully closes a client, he goes to their neighborhood, and knocks on the doors of his new client’s neighbors. He then tells them a little script, (“Hi there, I’m John Smith, and I just helped Mike Johnson protect his family and wealth. I wanted to give you this little refrigerator magnet — it has my contact information on it. That way, if something were to happen while Mike’s on vacation or away from the house, you can give me a call. I just want to make sure that they are taken care of. Would that be alright?”)

You can read about about a variety of over referral systems over at Duct Tape Marketing.

There you’ll read a story about a remodeling contractor who, after completing a project, throws a small party for his clients — a little open house party. He makes a small presentation at the very end, passes out cards, and the photos he takes there go on his website and postcard mailings.

What’s important is not so much what you do, but the fact that you have a system. You know exactly when you will ask for the referral, and you know exactly what you will say. Once you have a system, then it’s just a matter of testing different approaches and tweaking it.

IMMEDIATELY ACTIONABLE TACTIC: Decide on a referral system and WRITE. IT. DOWN. Maybe it’s asking before you present the invoice. Maybe it’s throwing a party or visiting neighbors. Whatever it is, write it down, and place it in your business cycle as a specific step.

More to come, so stay tuned

Okay, now you’ve figured out how to 1) do great work and 2) provide outstanding customer service that sets positive expectations. This week you’ll be getting part two of our three-part series on building referrals. Part 2 covers how to bake a referral generation system right into your business cycle, so you never have to think about it again.

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How to Actually Get More Referrals – PART 1

Referrals are a vital part of your local business, whether you’re offering a service or a product. The lead that comes in through referrals generally needs what you have to offer, enters your business cycle with a lot of trust baked in already, and reflects a similar customer profile of the person who referred him.

That’s great, because as you get better and more customers, that means you’ll be getting even better and even more customers — if you know how to take advantage of referrals.

Here’s a primer on what you can do, step-by-step, to get more referrals for your business.

Deliver the kind of service or product that gets people talking

At first glance, that headline might look like some mumbo-jumbo inspirational stuff that makes you momentarily feel good, but then a second later fades away and leaves you thinking, “Okay, sure. But HOW??!!”

Fret not. You’re about to get a step-buy-step guide in how to be instantly more referable.

Deliver great work

Whether you’re walking dogs and giving their owners the peace of mind knowing that Fido is getting his exercise and getting top care, or you’re a baker and creating sugary gifts to make a child’s birthday party his best one yet, or you’re a masseuse and you’re giving stressed out people a much needed break from the daily grind, you have got to be delivering the best work in your niche.

The problem with that is that we, as people, generally find ourselves fault-less, and often assume we are in fact delivering the best work that we can. This may or not be true. And if you haven’t been consciously improving yourself at what you do, odds are you aren’t delivering the best work in your niche. Here’s how to find out:

Ask yourself: “When was the last time I consciously tried to improve what I do?”

This could be picking up a book with the latest Photoshop techniques in them and using them on a project. It could be attending a seminar from a respected industry expert and applying what you learned. It could be even having a lunch with a mentor and laying out what you’re doing right now, and asking where you can improve. Or it could even be asking for specific feedback from your customers about their experience, listening to that feedback, and then implementing it in a strategic way.

If you’ve done something along those lines in the last two weeks, then congrats, you are ahead of the curve. Chances are you’re delivering above-average work.

If you can’t remember the last time that you did one of those activities in your business, then I’ve got bad news. You’re coasting. You’re on autopilot and that’s a dangerous place to be. The best thing for you to do — TODAY — is find some resource (a book, a friend, a magazine, an online course, an instructional video) and improve what you do.

But here’s another question to determine where your work fits in the market.

Ask yourself: “Who is the number one person in my niche, in my market?”

If you answer, “Me,” (and that’s definitely true based on real figures and metrics) then that is awesome, very good. You very likely already consistently improve yourself to provide top-quality work.

If the answer is, “I’m not sure,” then that indicates a problem. If you’re a hair stylist or salon owner, and you’re not sure who the number one person is in your niche, and you know it’s not you, then you’re missing out, and you’re trying to operate your business with zero external reference points.

For example, if you run a gym, it’s probably at xyz size, with xyz members, providing xyz services and options. That’s great. But you also need to know who in your industry or niche is doing far better than you. Then, DO NOT try to change to BECOME that person or business (Pepsi can never be Coca-Cola and has been wise not to try) — instead LEARN from that person or business and implement strategies they are using in your own business, your way.


What underlying philosophies power what they do?
What frameworks or systems do they rely on?
How do they approach every stage of their business and interactions with their customers?



This article by Atul Gawande, a surgeon and writer for The New Yorker, digs into this concept from a slightly different angle. He’s talking about coaching, and how strange it is that the best tennis players in the world have coaches, while attorneys, doctors, and business people do not.

The same is true here. If you’re not doing the best work in your niche, then you’ve got to find some resource to help you make adjustments and improve. It could be a book, a seminar, a mentor, a coach, or the careful observation of a highly successful example from your niche.

But the first step to referral business is to do great work.

IMMEDIATELY ACTIONABLE TACTIC: Do 1 thing to improve your business today — schedule a session with a mentor, order a book, sign up for a seminar.

Set expectations

Beyond the simple fact of delivering great work, there is a host of activities and behaviors that may be even more important than the work itself. This group of behaviors is called, in scientific terms, “everything else.” It’s also in a sense customer service, but should go beyond that.

If you can nail this, you are guaranteed to get a referral if you ask for it (and know that “asking” can take many forms — from actually asking, to a more complex referral system you have in place).

It’s the how to your what. How you communicate. How you lead the interaction with your customer. How you deliver. How you end each engagement.

For example, you could make the world’s greatest pizza, but if it’s consistently late, if you’re rude and unreliable, if you leave it up to your customer to know where to sit in the restaurant, etc, etc., then you will fail.

The way you set expectations, the way you deliver your product or service is critical, and it’s a part of your marketing.

I’ve written here about rocking customer service, but there are other areas where this applies as well. For example, I was in a U-Haul recently. There was no signage as to where U-Haul customers should park, so I drove around the block once before I figured it out — we were to park with the inventory around the back. When I got inside, the lady working behind the counter never made eye contact with me and just asked if I had my contract. So I walked back to the car to get my contract. When I brought it back, she didn’t say anything at all, just took it and started pecking at the keyboard.

At the end of the transaction I had one more step. After I transferred everything out of the U-Haul, I had to head back inside and finish up. I walked in and got to the counter and the same thing happened — “Do you have your contract?”

I walked back again, and brought it back and was so frustrated by the fact of having to run around chasing a piece of paper, it ruined the entire experience. The fix could be a simple sign—”Don’t forget your contract”—on the way to the counter. I could tell it was a common occurrence because of her jaded attitude towards the problem. But instead of having a sign which would solve the problem entirely, this manager decided the fix for her was a really poor attitude towards her stupid customers who didn’t know they needed their contract.

Here’s a reverse example. IKEA. You get free bags to tote around. You get plenty of signs and tips. You even get a computer station in the warehouse section to look up a chair if you forgot the numbers from the showroom.

Here’s a quick way to assess where you are:

  • Does your business communicate positive, desirable values with every interaction?
  • How attuned to your customers common fears, frustrations, goals, and desires are you?
  • Are your communications proactive, helpful, and friendly?

IMMEDIATELY ACTIONABLE TACTIC: Assess your ability or your business’s ability to set highly positive expectations. If it’s not great, pick 1 area to improve and focus on that area for 2 weeks.

More to come, so stay tuned

Okay, now you’ve figured out how to 1) do great work and 2) provide outstanding customer service that sets positive expectations. This week you’ll be getting part two of our three-part series on building referrals. Part 2 covers how to bake a referral generation system right into your business cycle, so you never have to think about it again.

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How to Rock at Customer Service

SalesVu helps you improve your customer service by making credit card processing really, really easy. Check us out.

As more and more business transactions get both conducted and rated on an increasingly social web, customer service is now more important than ever. In days of yore, a customer’s dissatisfaction usually found an audience of her friends and family. Now, no joke, THOUSANDS of people can hear about a negative experience, and not just hear about, but tweet it, like it, share it, email it—with the click of a button.

TechCrunch recently highlighted startling insights from the Customer Experience Impact 2010 report from RightNow. The most important takeaway: 82% of consumers in the U.S. said they’ve stopped doing business with a company because of a poor customer service experience.

And that’s a real shame, not just in a “let’s be nice to each other” kind of way (though we should of course). It’s a shame because poor customer service has a direct and significant impact on the bottom line, especially when considering customer lifetime value and the power of word-of-mouth marketing.

So what can you do to ensure you don’t suffer the same effects as this or this?

Make amazing customer service a priority of your business. Here’s how.

Be a Customer at Your Own Business (or a Competitor’s)

When was the last time you walked through your business, either for real in the physical world, or as a rehearsal in your mind, from the point of view of your customer? From being unaware of you, to aware, to walking in, to shopping, to buying, to leaving?

This exercise is important because as the business owner, you are so wrapped up in your own concerns, it’s easy to take for granted the experience of your customer on an individual level. The moment you do that, or, if you’re reading this and you realize you’ve never consciously considered that process, you’re in trouble. There are critical blindspots that need attention.

If you own a restaurant, go out to eat at a competitor and take notes. Where do you as a customer feel like your needs are left unmet? Where are your needs not just met, but you are delighted?

If you own a dog walking business, think through and write down the steps someone goes through as they meet you and hire you. How does it start? Where are you? Where are they? What happens?

If you have a salon, book yourself a haircut. Walk in. Where do you sit? Would you like a coffee, tea? Reading material? One salon I went to in Miami provided little netbooks for browsing the web. Later, when I moved out of the city, I deliberately delayed getting a haircut for one month so I could visit that salon when I was back in town.

You want to go through and experience your business as just a regular customer off the street, so you can see where you can blow her mind and delight her.

Articulate what the customer experience is, start to finish, step-by-step.

Here’s an example:

Get Inside Your Customers’ Minds

Once you’ve worn their shoes, it’s time to get inside their minds. Take out a piece of paper or open up a word document and answer the following questions:

  • Who is your ideal target customer?
  • What is the main benefit that he wants when he chooses your business?
  • What’s important to him?
  • What is he afraid of (in the context of your business)?
  • What is he frustrated by?
  • What does he really, actually want?

For example, the main benefit of a salon.

You own a salon. What do you sell?

It’s not haircuts. It’s confidence. Looking great. Standing out.

What are some frustrations your ideal target customer might have?

“I’m tired of stylists who don’t listen to me or understand what I’m trying to say.”

“My hair color constantly fades, or I’m never happy with the way it looks.”


“I can’t recreate the look at home.”



And so forth. Knowing these frustrations, what can you do to immediately stand out from your competition? Provide the solution to these frustrations.

Once you know what your ideal target customer truly wants, you can overdeliver on what he or she wants and win loyal customers for life.

(Finding out what she wants is as simple as asking. Keep your eye out for a post in the future that digs deep into how to do this in a way that makes both you the business owner happy and doesn’t weird out the customer or seem strange.)

So what does your ideal target customer really want when she enters your store or otherwise does business with you?

Identify The Values Your Business Demonstrates

We all have that friend who is consistently late. Or only calls when he needs something. Or nine times out of ten cancels at the last minute. Or doesn’t really listen to you and just talks about himself.

You eventually phase those kinds of people out of your life. And that’s because that person’s behavior demonstrates values that you don’t find appealing. If someone is consistently late, she is saying, “I don’t respect your time,” and one of her values (unconsciously or consciously) is “My time is more important than others’ time.”

Your business is the same way. Each interaction you have with a customer expresses the values of your business.

The key is to 1). know what those values are and 2). translate those values into concrete actions that express those values.

This story about the Ritz Carlton has been passed around quite a bit, because it perfectly captures this idea. It’s interesting because the Ritz is very value-driven. And it finds ways to express those values in concrete actions.

Tony Hsieh is famous because of this.

What values drive your business?

How can you express those values in a concrete way?

Pick What’s Most Important

There are countless little tips online, lists of 50, of 75, of 101 little tips. These range from the obvious — “Smile!” — to the less obvious — “Make sure signing the receipt is NOT the last exchange a customer has with you before leaving your shop.” But all of those tips are meaningless if they aren’t coming from a framework that you truly understand. Or if you just put lipstick on a pig and try the tips out without knowing what your customer actually experiences, what they want, and what values you’re demonstrating as a business.

You are busy. You have financial goals you want to hit. Time and money is precious. So you need to save time and make small, powerful changes.

The next step is to identify just 3 key areas to improve. Why three?

We say three because there are a million things that you could do — and as a result, you do nothing. By focusing on three, you keep it psychologically very do-able.

So what are your three? Perhaps it’s the way you greet your customers. Perhaps its listening. Maybe it’s figuring out a way to turn a mundane step in the process (waiting for your appointment) into a delight (providing a complimentary cup of tea).

Whatever you think, limit yourself to three areas. What are they?

Turn This Advice into Actionable Steps You Can Test Today

Now that you’ve got your three areas, you just need to convert them into concrete behaviors or policies you can implement.

For example, if you want to improve the way you listen to your customers, then that can translate to making sure you maintain eye contact with them, possibly even noting their eye color.

If you want to make your store more welcoming, then set a policy of warmly greeting new customers and welcoming back returning customers.

If you’d like to be a business known for its appreciation of its customers, set up a simple system of including a little token of gratitude in the customer’s shopping bag, perhaps a note, or a chocolate.

By articulating these changes specifically, you ensure you’ll actually stick to it. And then you’ll be on the path to truly delighting your customers.

What 3 concrete changes can you test today?

These are just some considerations and ways to rock customer service. What other suggestions do you have for delighting your customers?

SalesVu helps you improve your customer service by making credit card processing really, really easy. Check us out.

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