If you’re an entrepreneur, you must master the art of asking for a referral. That’s because referrals are one of the fastest ways to get your first client – and any new clients thereafter.
In fact, your business should always focus on getting referrals, even when you’re at full capacity. It’s an inexpensive and highly effective way to attract clients.
So, how do you get referrals for your business? Check out these four steps:
Finding possible referral sources
So, who are your referral sources? Honestly, they can be anywhere! Start by making a list of who you know. Here’s a list to get your creative juices flowing:
- Social media contacts
- Former work colleagues
- Networking peers
- High school friends
- College friends
- Alumni associations
- Places of worship
- Past clients
- Sales prospects
- Youth sports &activities
- Community service
- Business schools/marketing academies
At first, you want to reach out to everyone you know. You just don’t know who the PTA president knows! As you move along in this process, you can start segmenting your list. (Check out the book, The Referral of a Lifetime, by Tim Templeton for great information on segmenting your referral list).
How to ask for referrals
Now that you have a list of referral sources, consider any or all of the following methods you can use to ask for referrals:
- Warm update letter: This is when you send a letter – through snail mail – to your referral sources to let them know about your business and to ask for referrals. Feel free to vary your letters. It could be a traditional letter at first, and then mix in greeting cards, postcards, small gifts – whatever you want. Have fun with your warm update letters!
- Coffee Dates: As you network, you will meet certain people who seem like the “networking mayors.” They know everyone and are natural connectors. Ask these influencers to meet you for coffee to learn how you can refer business to them, and how they can refer business to you.
- JV Partnerships: These are more formal arrangements. Think about other entrepreneurs who have the same ideal clients as you, but you service them in other ways. For example, if you’re a wedding photographer, potential JV partners could be florists, wedding planners and DJs.
What to share with your referral partners
You don’t want your referral partners to have to guess one thing about your business. You must supply them with the right information so they can refer your ideal clients to you. Here’s what you want to share:
- Who you want to work with (your ideal clients)
- How someone can reach you
- What locations you serve
- What types of programs/services you offer
Think about putting this information in writing so that your referral partner has it at hand to refer to it later. Even something as simple as giving your referral source a dozen of your business cards can help her easily refer people to you.
Thanking your referral source
How will you thank your referral partners for their referrals? Even if the referral doesn’t pan out, you still want to thank her.
For example, you may decide to send a thank you note and a gift card for a successful referral, but if the referral didn’t work out, you can send a card and follow up with an email to explain what happened.
This is important for two reasons:
- People like to feel appreciated, and you’ll increase the likelihood that you’ll get more referrals.
- If someone doesn’t pan out, it gives you an opportunity to further educate your referral sources about your ideal clients and business – so that he can send an even better referral to you in the future.
Never forget the thank you part! Planning for it now will make it more automatic for you when it occurs (because it will!).
Now you know how to ask for referrals! If you’re new to your business and/or need clients, knowing who your referral sources are, how to ask them for referrals and what information to give to your referral sources will help you get the perfect clients for your small business. And don’t forget to plan for thanking your referral partners now, so it becomes “automatic” as the referrals pour in. Never forget about the power of the referral for consistently growing your business.