Every day, more than 2.4 million brand-related conversations take place in the United States.

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This illustrates that people aren't shy when it comes to talking about their experiences with companies, which might leave you wondering what you can do to sway these conversations in your company's favour.

After all, with 92% of people relying on the opinions of family and friends to make their purchasing decisions, banking on attracting potential customers through your sales marketing efforts alone just isn't a sound strategy.

In an effort to capitalise on the undeniable power of word-of-mouth, many companies are turning to customer referral techniques as a means of increasing customer sharing to connect with more qualified prospective customers. These referrals trust the person they already know more than they'll ever trust your advertising, and they'll be cheaper for your company to eventually acquire.

If you're looking for some tips on how to break into this space, we've put together a list of how to get referrals.

1. Leverage LinkedIn.

Rather than asking for referrals blindly, you can improve your odds of success by doing your homework first.

When you approach a customer with 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 customers can introduce you to.

To get started, click the search bar at the top of the page, and then select 'People' from the drop-down menu. From there, 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 to find an ideal referral candidate to bring up to your customer.

2. Look for opportunities for a positive response.

The best referrals come about after the customer 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 customer.

To set yourself up for success, keeping your customers up-to-date on the outcomes they achieve using your product or service will make them happy -- and they'll want to spread the word about you. This starts with a successful onboarding process so customers have a clear sense of expectations, timeline, and work required to get to that point.

Then, consider pairing referral requests with positive customer experiences.

If you just delivered the news that your product or service helped them increase monthly revenue, ask away.

But if you came up short on all of the KPIs you defined together for the quarter? Pump the brakes on that request.

3. 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.

Here's a sample email template you might use to get the ball rolling:


I don't know if I've mentioned it before, but I've been working with [Your Name] 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 [Your Name, with a LinkedIn profile URL].

[Your Name], meet [Referral, with a LinkedIn profile URL].

Can I leave the rest to you guys?

Talk to you both later.

If you get any pushback from your customer on sending it out, don't push them on it again.

4. Act on positive 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 customers, it's important that you're regularly collecting and acting on their 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).

(Additionally, HubSpot is releasing customer feedback tools as part of our newest product line -- sign up to try it now.)

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. Make sure you're writing effective survey questions and choosing the survey types that will best suit your needs.

5. Distribute your content and resources.

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 customers 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 customers are already consuming your goods, adding an easy referral 'Share This With a Friend' link to your automated offer emails or on your thank you pages could help you achieve just that.

Making it this easy for your customers 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.

6. Offer incentives.

Nobody likes to work for free, right?

If you want to sweeten the deal and make sure your customers actually scour their networks for a good referral, offer them something valuable in return.

Whether it's a Starbucks or Amazon gift card, a free month's subscription, or cold hard cash, offer something in return for your customers connecting you with warm leads -- they deserve it.

7. Create different avenues for advocacy.

If you get pushback when you ask for customer referrals, the first step is to back off and give them space. It's not important that you know the exact reason why they're saying no, and you want to be respectful of your relationship.

But once more time has gone by, consider reaching out to them with a different offer to advocate for your company without having to actually refer someone: by writing a review, serving as a case study, or submitting a testimonial.

These lower-effort actions by your customer will still drive potential new leads to your company -- and won't risk your relationship with your customer. Ask them what they would be comfortable sharing, and see if you can find a place for their positive feedback on your website or social channels.

8. Align with your customers' values.

Do your research to learn about what your customers truly value before asking for a referral from them. Then, you can align your incentive or acknowledgement with those values, and you'll be able to give them an idea of the impact they'll have with a referral.

For example, if your customers use your product for nonprofit fundraising, or if you know they're personally or professionally invested in advocacy for a cause, you could reward them for referrals with a donation in their name. Simple gestures like this can go a long way toward proving to customers that your relationship is a partnership, not just a business transaction.

9. Exceed expectations.

Word of mouth is one of the most powerful ways to propel referrals for your company. However, it's largely dependent on loyalty, which means that this is something you really have to earn.

If you want to get your customers (or potential customers) raving about your service, you have to delight them.

Go above and beyond for your customers not just by achieving goals with them, but by sharing their content on social media, citing them in your blog content, and proving to be an indispensable resource for them. Then, the case will be made for you why they should tell their network about the great work you do.

To learn more, read about how to build a customer referral program next.

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Originally published Sep 27, 2018 6:08:00 PM, updated September 27 2018


Customer Acquisition