8 Tips for Smarter Referral Marketing

One of the best ways to boost your business is to get referrals from existing customers. Because they already know and trust your brand, your customers can be your best marketing tool. But you still have to develop a solid strategy for your referral marketing campaign.

I posed the question to business owners and marketers: what’s your best tip for referral marketing? Their answers are smart, simple, and easy to execute. See for yourself.

1. Exceed Client’s Expectations

Eddy DeMelo, an SEO and content marketing consultant, offers the simplest of tips: go above and beyond with your customers…then ask for referrals or introductions to others who might benefit from your products or services.

“It’s amazing how many people are willing to make introductions if you just ask,” he says.

Put It Into Action: If you’re already delivering stellar customer experiences, go a step further. Make a list of your top clients who you know love you. Send a personalized email asking if they know anyone else who might benefit from your offerings.

2. Offer Financial Incentives

People are motivated by reward. Play to that in your referral marketing, and you’ll boost sales, says Joe Auer, Founder of Skill Voyage.

“At checkout, for example, a company could offer a discount if the customer shares their purchase with his/her friends on Facebook. Similarly, Groupon did this very well by giving big discounts for each referral a person made via email or social media. Giving financial incentives gives an extra sense of urgency to users and can be really effective when implemented properly.”

Put It Into Action: Determine what your customers want. A discount on their current order? Percent off on the next one? Cash in their account? Test out an incentive plan, then measure results.

3. Get Personal

This tip from Tom Smith of Insights From Analytics is easiest when you have a dozen or so clients, but gets a bit more challenging when you have more clients. He says sending a thoughtful note after a customer has given you a referral can go a long way in getting your customers to tell even more people to buy from you.

“Thank customers for referrals with a handwritten thank you, whether the referral is in person, via telephone or social media,” he suggests.

Put It Into Action: Track who’s sending you referrals and take the time to personally contact them and show your appreciation for the referral.

4. Give Referrals to Get Them

Rather than put all your focus on receiving referrals, try out giving them yourself, says Brian Basilico, Director of Direction at B2B Interactive Marketing, Inc.

“By giving great referrals first, you will get quality referrals back,” Basilico says, “Maybe not right away, but you can be assured of being top of mind when opportunities arise!”

Put It Into Action: Whenever speaking with a client, pay attention to what they’re telling you they need. It might be something personal like a roofer, or a business solution. If you have a good fit in your network, connect the two.

5. Send a Follow-up Email

You won’t get many referrals if you don’t ask. Ryan Scott, Inbound Marketing Artist atLean Labs says:

“[Your customers] just may never think to share it with someone, even when they know someone that needs it. Asking them is the best way to call them to action.”

Send a follow-up email after a sale, and in it, encourage your customers to use the referral link to share with their friends.

Put It Into Action: Tie this in with the incentive so that people have a reason to share that link. What will you offer for each referral they send you?

6. Send a Token of Appreciation

Reward programs may work for some types of companies, but are not always the best fit in a business context where the nature of the business is more personal, says Matthew Reischer, CEO of LawyerReviews.com. So you wouldn’t give account credit for a referral if you’re a lawyer, but you can still find ways to show your appreciation for the referral.

“People who know you appreciate their referral business will likely send you more referrals.  Depending on the nature of the referral I have been known to reciprocate my appreciation with mail order steaks or tickets to NY Knicks basketball games. Sometimes, however, a simple phone call thanking someone works great too!”

Put It Into Action: Customize your thank you gifts. If you know one client likes golf and he refers new business, buy him a round of golf at a local prestigious course.

7. Promote the Program

If no one knows about your referral program, how can you expect your customers to take advantage of it? It’s your job to promote it so that your customers are even aware it exists, says Matt Roche, CEO of Extole.

“Once you have a program in place, you have to get it in front of people in order to fill the funnel with advocates who will start sharing referrals. It makes sense when you think about it: promotion is the key to any marketing initiative, whether it’s a new brand, new product, limited-time promotion, new piece of content, whatever it may be…If nobody knows about something, they’re not going to take advantage of it. That’s the case with referrals, too, but because referral marketing is an up-and-coming channel marketers can lose site of the fact that the universal tenets still apply.”

Put It Into Action: Once you’ve set up your referral program, set up a strategy to share it on your social media accounts, your website, your blog, and via email.

8. Stay Connected Throughout the Year

It’s important to continue to develop relationships with your clients beyond the sale, and to show them how much you appreciate your business.

“Remind your referral sources how much you value them. Whether that’s by personally delivering a box of cupcakes or donuts, taking them out to lunch, or by inviting them to a professional sporting event. Don’t wait until the holidays to send a greeting; let them know you’re thinking about them periodically throughout the year,” says LaJackson White P.C.

Put It Into Action: Put it on your calendar to check in with your best clients each quarter. Send them an email, pick up the phone, invite them to coffee, or send a little gift.

This post was first published on AllBusiness.com.