Consider this: 85% of people in Africa trust recommendations from people they know (Nielsen Trust In Global Advertising Report 2015).
If there’s anything you should believe, it’s data and this statistic from a reputable information company should convince you of the power of referrals to drive business growth.
Here are four proven ways to generate referrals for your business.
1. Build credibility
People like shortcuts, naturally. We just love to hack processes and jump queues, don’t we? But this isn’t one of those bogus business hacks or so-called shortcuts to success. Establishing your business’ credibility will take time and consistent effort.
What does credibility even mean?
It means keeping the promise you made to customers in your unique selling proposition.
It means delivering good service over and over again till your brand becomes associated with nothing less than good service. Your product or service might not be revolutionary or the most exciting, but there’s always an opportunity to captivate your target market with the quality of your service.
Credibility means treating every customer with regard and doing your absolute best to satisfy them. It also means taking responsibilities for your shortcomings as a business and fixing them. Building credibility is not a short-term thing, but every day counts toward developing a lasting good reputation.
2. Love your customers into friends
Yes, you read that right. Love. Not the romantic kind, no. We’re talking about creating a special feeling beyond the basic satisfaction your business should always provide.
This kind of preferential treatment (let’s call it what it is) is reserved for your top customers (defined by how long they’ve been your customers for and/or the value of business they’ve done with you). Elevate such customers to insider status by giving them early access to updates as well as new products and services.
Make them friends of your business by inviting them to special events such as power lunches, giving them exclusive discounts and doing more than sending them a regular card on their birthdays. Also, if you’re the kind to open up your private life, you can invite them to certain family events. The ties you build this way go beyond everyday business and they often open doors that can lead to business growth.
3. Be brilliant on social media
Hello, 2017 calling. Are you there?
If your business has no presence on social media and doesn’t have a functional website, you should be more than a little ashamed. The internet is the most popular hangout spot in the world and there’s no excuse to be absent.
There are two straightforward ways your business can use social media to attract referrals:
i. By building personal connections through prompt and useful responses to mentions of your business, involving your online audience in the business by asking for their opinions and taking such feedback seriously, and making your business more human by showing off your staff.
ii. By sharing useful information about your industry, helping to establish your business as a leader. See why you need a business website with a blog? Where else are you going to put all the great information you have to share?
4. Ask, with the promise of a reward
In business, there’s a place for indirect activity and there’s a place for direct action. Asking for referrals is direct action. But don’t just ask, provoke a response with a reward. For example, you can offer a discount to everyone who refers a certain number of customers to your business. This isn’t new, it has been done with varying degrees of success for decades. Take it further, develop your own referral scheme by first learning what appeals to your customers. That knowledge will put you in a better position to offer them useful rewards and benefit from their connections. Surveys, suggestion boxes, feedback forms and actual conversations are ways to gather the knowledge you need to create a winning referral scheme. Start listening to what your customers are saying.