By Rieva Lesonsky
The biggest compliment a business owner can get is when a happy customer recommends your business to their friends and family—actually, to anyone! You can encourage this—and the best news is you won’t have to tap into any of your small business loan funds to do so. It’s possible to generate referrals for little cost and even less fuss. Here are 5 ways to generate capital-building referrals for your business:
1. Just ask! Don’t ever hesitate to ask a satisfied customer to recommend your business—especially if they have just paid you a compliment. A simple “Be sure and tell your friends,” is friendly, and if a customer is really pleased, he or she will be happy to spread the news. You can also ask for referrals on your social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Everyone will see them and if you ask for permission from the customer, you could even use the compliments as testimonials in your marketing materials.
2. Make the referral worth it. Create a program that rewards customers for bringing in new customers. If you have a store, for instance, you can have a signup sheet asking for customer’s friends and emails, and do the same online. Then explain to the customer if their referral ends up in a sale, you’ll give them a discount on their next purchase or they’ll receive a complimentary gift.
3. Clear up the confusion: Sometimes your friends, family and business associates don’t understand your business and what you do. Don’t avoid talking about your business; let them know what you do and how it’s going. You never know when someone will say, “I know people who could really use your business.”
4. Be a referrer yourself. Cultivate relationships with fellow business owners in which you drive traffic to each other’s businesses. If someone asks for a great restaurant idea, make sure you recommend your fellow small business owner, and they’ll do the same for you. Ask new customers where they heard about your business and be sure to return the favor.
5. Keep out in front of customers: Don’t let customers forget about you. Consistently market to them through email, social media, on your website and via direct mail. Make it easy for them to share news about a product or service they think their friend would like. Try having an event in your store or business and tell your customers to invite their friends and family. Serve food, have entertainment, and offer discounts and freebies. Capture the new referrals’ contact information for future use.
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at email@example.com, follow her on Google+ and Twitter.com/Rieva and visit her website, SmallBizDaily.com, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports