Bringing on new clients can be challenging, especially for a newer business. And while technologies are constantly evolving, giving entrepreneurs more and more ways to connect with potential customers, one of the most effective tools is also one of the simplest – word of mouth. Here, three business owners share their tips for maximizing referrals from current clients.
"Concentrate on the clients that you currently have, and be results-oriented," suggests Melanie Rego, founder and president of Elevator Communications in Toronto. "Focus on doing good work and you will get noticed."
It can be tempting once a project is underway to shift your focus to new business development. But making sure the completed work is top-notch should be your first priority, Rego says. "Really, the referrals will come to you."
Many referrals will happen organically—either because your client spreads the word or their partners are asking about the work you've done—but that doesn't mean it's a bad idea to just request a referral as well. However, timing is everything, says Larry Anderson of business consultancy Trigger Strategies. "The best time is when they're at their happiest, when you've done something great."
Anderson also notes that these types of requests are best handled in person, or at least on the phone, rather than via electronic means. "Emails are forgotten really quickly," he adds.
For Beth Boyle, co-founder and principal at Vancouver public relations firm Talk Shop, focusing on niche interests has been key to building a strong client base via referrals not just from current or past clients, but from complementary agencies, too.
"Real estate is my background and the industry I specialize in," she says. "I have a list of marketing agencies or branding agencies that use public relations as a complementary service to what they’re already offering a client." In other words, by becoming the specialist in a specific area of your industry, you'll quickly become known as the go-to professional in that field.
Anderson, for his part, recommends using a content marketing strategy – typically, a blog in conjunction with social media – to help establish yourself as an expert. "In today’s marketplace, you have to produce your own content on a regular basis or you’re going to be forgotten," he says. "Centre it around the services and products you have and people keep you top of mind."
Sometimes, referrals happen in an instant. But often, relationship-building is a long game. Rego, for instance, recently received a referral from a former client who had been job-hopping since they last worked together two years ago, and notes that staying in touch with people is a key component of her networking activities. "Maintain a meaningful relationship by staying in touch, being courteous and sharing any updates you think they’d be interested in," she says.
Anderson believes strongly in the importance of establishing a strong professional presence on LinkedIn, which includes recommendations from colleagues and clients. However, he suggests a more organic approach rather than just asking people to write you a recommendation. "Give three or four LinkedIn referrals first, without being asked, " he says. "It elicits people to think, 'I should write something as well in return.'"
Building strong relationships with other companies is extremely important, too, notes Boyle. "A tip that has really helped us is understanding how we can be a better partner to other agencies or referral sources," she says. "How can you add value to what another person is doing rather than always looking for business for yourself?"
Used with permission by Profitguide.com, a division of Rogers Media Inc.
Used With Permission