When someone runs their own business, they theoretically make a substantial effort to produce goods or provide a service that stands out from the crowd. By doing so, a company creates a good relationship with customers, justifies what they charge for their products or services, and builds a good reputation in the community and within the particular industry or business field.
And when you have a superior product or service, you advertise that, naturally. But the inescapable fact is, your advertisement is self-promotion, and thus is considered biased and subjective by the vast sea of potential customers.
What you and your business need are referrals.
Although the word “referral” can be used in a variety of contexts, the one we’re concerned about is where a customer that you’ve had dealings with recommends you to their friends and associates. In this particular instance, the process involves the customer giving you a list of names of people who he or she thinks would also be interested in doing business with you.
Granted, it can also entail the customer reaching out to their friends and saying “Do business with this person.” But sometimes even the most enthusiastic customer who swears up and down that they will refer their friends to you can often forget about it, and it never gets done. No, when it comes to customer referrals, if you want something done right, you better do it yourself.
Friends trust each other, and that means trusting their judgement, tastes, and opinions. If you’re watching television and a commercial for an auto dealership appears, promising you the best deal ever, you’ll probably sneer and change the channel. But if a friend says “Go to this dealer; they’ll take real good care of you and won’t hose you,” you’re more inclined to believe them.
Speaking of referrals and car-related stuff, this kind of referral is essential for something like finding a good mechanic. Many consumers are afraid of getting ripped off by an auto mechanic. But if a friend refers one and says that they don’t overcharge nor do unnecessary work, then you have more confidence and trust.
Providing an excellent service or product is only half the battle; a business owner needs to make sure that they interact with the customers and build a rapport. It all boils down to engaging the customer and giving them good customer service, a point reinforced in “Why A One-Time Client Is Something More.”
The best way to get a referral is in a relaxed conversation. Once it’s clear that the customer enjoyed their experience, ask them if they know of anyone else in a similar situation who could benefit from the same solution.
Note that this is different from just asking for a list of names of people who might like what you have to offer. Purchasing a product or service is meeting a need and solving a problem, and what you’re looking for are more people who have the same problem. In other words, you’re giving your satisfied customer the opportunity to be the good guy here; the customer is doing their friends a favor!
Advertising and marketing are good things. Excellent products and service are indispensable things. Referrals are the best mechanism for growing your business in a natural, hassle-free way.