A recent survey of business owners showed that 41.4% of businesses count on referrals for over 80% of their sales.
I actually don't believe this statistic; I think it's way too high.
But the statistic is very exciting. Because it means that these 41.4% of entrepreneurs are doing it right; because getting referrals is absolutely critical to your business' success.
Let me explain.
To begin, referrals generally don't cost you any money. So rather than spending $X to acquire the new client, you spend $0. This dramatically boosts your profitability.
Second, getting referrals boosts your average profit per client. For example, let's say your average profit per client is $50. Now, let's also assume that 20% of your clients refer you one additional client.
What that means is that for every 10 new clients you get, you actually receive 12 new clients (including the 2 referrals). Since each client gives you a profit of $50, you've generated $600 in profit from the 10 initial clients. So, your profit per new client goes from $50 ($500 divided by 10) to $60 ($600 divided by 10).
Yes, it's exciting that your profit has gone up 20%. But what's even more exciting is that you can use this increased profit to dominate your competitors. For instance, if your competitors are still only earning $50 profit per client, they can only spend up to $50 per client in marketing expenses. But since you're earning $60 profit per client, you can actually spend more than $50 in marketing to acquire a new client.
This allows you to advertise in more places and in places that your competitors can't afford. This will drive tons of new clients to you instead of your competition.
In summary, getting referrals can allow you to significantly boost revenues and profits, and allow you to dominate competitors.
Now, if referrals offer such a great benefit, why do 58.6% of entrepreneurs fail to effectively use them? The answer is that they haven't set up an effective referral system.
So here are the keys to an effective referral system.
Step 1: Make the Client Want to Give You a Referral
Clearly, your clients must be happy in order for them to give you a referral. So, make sure you satisfy their needs and fulfill the promises you made them when they purchased your product or service.
Step 2: Ask for the Referral
With a job well done, some clients will give you referrals on their own. But you'll dramatically increase the number of referrals you receive if you simply ask for them.
Of critical importance is to ask 1) at the right time, and 2) multiple times. With regards to the former, if a client needs to use your product/service in order to be satisfied, then you clearly can't ask for the referral immediately. Rather, you'll have to wait until they've used your product/service and can vouch for its success.
With regards to the latter, it is critical that you ask clients multiple times for referrals. You need to do this for several reasons. The first is that clients are often busy and if you ask at the wrong moment, they simply might not have time to give the referral.
Secondly, it's possible that today one of your clients does not have a new client they can refer to you. But maybe in a month they meet someone that would be a perfect fit for you company. But unless you ask for the referral again then, they'll probably forget to give it to you.
In asking clients for referrals, don't just ask them who they think might be a good fit for your product/service. Rather, it's more effective if you guide their thinking. For instance, you should ask, "I know you're a member of the XYZ organization; do you know anyone else in the XYZ organization that could benefit from our product/service?" This allows your client to focus their thinking in order to find more potential names for you.
Step 3: Effectively Contact the Referral
Clearly, once you receive the referral, you need to contact them and try to close the sale.
A key tip here is to ask the referral source to let the referral know you'll be contacting them. As such, rather than contacting the referral cold, you'll receive a warm introduction that will make the referral more likely to speak with you and buy your products/services.
Step 4: Putting it All Together
The key to a successful referral program is to formalize and systematize it. It shouldn't be something that one of your employees does once in a while. But rather, it should be a sequence of events that always happens.
For example, your system might include the following: Ten days after a sale is made your client gets an email requesting referrals. Fifteen days after a sale they receive a postcard. And then 28 days after the sale, your salesperson calls them to request referrals.
In addition to systematizing your referral program, you need to maintain statistics so you can see what's working and what's not working. For example, you should track each of your referral attempts and see which ones lead to new clients and which do not. And then you should tweak them (e.g., change your email to offer an incentive for the client to give you a referral), and track which tweaks work and which don't (and clearly keep using the ones that did work).
A quality referral program will increase your revenues and profits, and can give you real competitive advantage. So build your referral program today!
Suggested Resource: Growthink's Ultimate Marketing Plan Template allows you to quickly and expertly create your marketing plan; and exponentially increase your customers and revenues by developing your referral program and orchestrating the 5 key marketing levers. Click here to learn more.