In an effort to capitlize on the undeniable power of word-of-mouth, many agencies are turning to referral marketing techniques as a means of increasing customer sharing to connect with more qualified prospective clients.
If you're looking for some tips on how to break into this space, we've put together a list of highly effective ways to squeeze more business opportunities out of your existing client base.
7 Ways to Get More Referrals From Your Clients
1) Build referrals into agreements.
Nearly every agency/client relationship begins with an agreement. The purpose of this document is to define formalities such as expectations, payment, and any additional arrangements in advance, to avoid confusion or conflict as the relationship progresses.
While it's clear that agreements play a huge role in maintaining a positive relationship between both parties, did you ever stop to think that there could be an opportunity to propose referrals during this time?
Although it may seem premature to suggest referrals before you've even done any work for the client, this approach aims to illustrate your dedication to their success.
To ensure that your client feels comfortable with supplying such endorsements, you have to be careful about how you frame the request. In the words of referral coach Bill Cates, "For a good referral, value must be given and value must be recognized."
So while you are asking them to agree to provide you with a referral, that doesn't mean it has to be supplied then and now. To be sure that this is clear, consider phrasing the addendum like this:
"If Agency ABC meets or exceeds at least 75% of the defined goals by the end of the second quarter, Client XYZ will supply a minimum of three qualified referrals."
This approach will help ensure that the client has an opportunity to experience your ability to deliver results firsthand before they agree to vouch for you.
2) Take advantage of your LinkedIn network.
Rather than asking for referrals blindly, you can improve your odds of success by doing your homework first.
When you approach a client already having a name or company that you'd like to connect with in mind, you're eliminating the need for them to sit down and think about it for you. Lucky for you, LinkedIn's Advanced People Search feature makes it's easy to turn up qualified second-degree connections that your clients can introduce you to.
To get started, select 'Advanced' next to the search bar at the top of the page, and then click 'People' on the left hand side of the screen. From here, you can filter your search by second-degree connections as well as additional specifics such as industry, title, keywords, and location to turn up a list of potential referral opportunities.
Once you find someone you'd like to connect with, hover over the arrow next to the 'Connect' button and select 'Get Introduced' from the menu.
(Fun Fact: Our VP of Localization, Nataly Kelly, is a first-degree connection of President Obama.)
Now you can select the first-degree connection you want to make the introduction, and write them a message that explains why you'd like to be introduced.
It's that simple.
3) Know exactly when to ask.
As we mentioned earlier, the best referrals come about after the client has had an opportunity to experience the value that you're capable of delivering.
You wouldn't ask your boss for a raise right after you missed the mark on your monthly metrics, which is precisely why it wouldn't be appropriate (or effective) to request a referral when you're under-delivering on what you promised a client.
To set yourself up for success, consider pairing referral requests with positive client outcomes.
Just launched a killer website redesign for a client? Helped them get one of their blog articles to rank on the first page of Google? Doubled their Twitter followers in less than a month’s time?
Just sent out an email on their behalf with a broken link? Misspelled their CEOs name on their new team page? Came up short on all of the KPIs you defined for the quarter?
Pump the breaks on that request.
4) Provide a template.
When asking for referrals, it's important that you're mindful of how busy your clients are (that's why they hired you in the first place, right?)
Rather than ask and hope that they find the time to follow through, be more proactive in your approach by eliminating some of the heavy lifting for them.
I don't know if I've mentioned it before, but I've been working with [salesperson] for a few months. The other day, I was talking with him about some of the things that he and I have done, and I realized that I should put you two together. So...
[Referral], meet [Salesperson, with a LinkedIn profile URL].
[Salesperson], meet [Referral, with a LinkedIn profile URL].
Can I leave the rest to you guys?
Talk to you both later.
"After sending this template, I usually check in a week or two later with my customer and ask -- gently -- if they sent it out. If they haven’t, I reply that it’s no problem, and then I do not ask again," he explains.
5) Act on feedback.
In order to accumulate more referrals, you have to prove yourself as referral-worthy.
To ensure that you're meeting (and exceeding) the needs and expectations of your existing clients, it's important that you're regularly collecting and acting on feedback.
SurveyMonkey is an online survey software that makes it easy to whip up and distribute client satisfaction surveys to keep tabs on what you're doing right (and where you need to improve). For HubSpot customers, setting up and deploying a SurveyMonkey survey using the software couldn't be easier. (For more on that, check out this resource on the SurveyMonkey/HubSpot integration.)
Before you send off a survey, you want to be sure that you're positioning it in a way that is going to surface the most honest and accurate results. Rather than start from scratch, consider leveraging these free SurveyMonkey templates to provide a base that is free from bias.
6) Include forwarding links in your emails and thank you pages.
According to Google's Zero Moment of Truth study, the average buyer now engages with more than 10 pieces of content before making a purchasing decision. This means that before your existing clients closed into customers, they weren't being shy about eating up all of those resources you've worked hard to put out.
This places a profound emphasis on the importance of strategically distributing that content to ensure that it lands in the hands of qualified prospects. And considering your potential clients are already consuming your goods, adding a simple 'Share This With a Friend' link to your automated offer emails or on your thank you pages could help you achieve just that.
To quickly and easily generate the code necessary to put this into practice, check out the "mailto" Code Generator Tool. Once the code is generated, simply link to a line of text on your page or email, or create a contrasting CTA to draw even more eyeballs to it.
Making it this easy for your clients to pass along your resources to their qualified connections before they even close will help you stay one step ahead of the game at all times.
7) Exceed expectations.
Word of mouth is one of the most powerful ways to propel referrals for your agency. However, it's largely dependent on loyalty, which means that this is something you really have to earn.
If you want to get your clients (or potential clients) raving about your service, you have to dazzle them.
Neither Zappos nor Varynerchuk are in the pizza business, but they are committed to delivering positive experiences. And while pizza was certainly the way to @mehwolfy's heart, you can exercise this concept of delight by doing something as simple as sending your client a hand-written thank you note.
Sometimes it's the little things that mean the most.
Originally published May 31, 2015 9:00:00 AM, updated February 01 2017