As business owners, there never seems to be enough time to do all the things you need to do. Unfortunately, when it comes to marketing, you may have to make the decision between learning a new marketing tactic, like using social media, or actually running your business. Whether it is sites like Facebook or LinkedIn, or using a mobile marketing campaign, or ramping up your website, the sheer number of new marketing options is almost dizzying.
Yet, even so, even though there are a vast array of new tools available, it still remains true that for many small business people, the best way to get new business is the old-fashioned way: Networking, referrals, and word-of-mouth.
Indeed, according to one poll I saw recently, 87% of small business owners surveyed said that word of mouth was their most effective marketing tool, with networking coming in not far behind.
This then begs the question: How do you get people to refer business to you? Here are five tried-and-true ways:
1. Under promise and over deliver
The first time I heard someone say this, I thought it was the wisest piece of business advice I had heard in a long time. Now of course, I know that it is really a bit of a cliché, but one thing I also know is that clichés become clichés for a reason – they are usually true.
That is the case here.
If you want clients or customers to refer business to you, then one of the best things you can do is offer folks, not only value, but extra value. Do more than people expect, do more than you are paid to do. If you give more than you get, you can bet that you won’t be in debt.
I learned this lesson from my brother the real estate broker, who also happens to be an author. On Amazon.com, one of his real estate investment books has many, many positive reviews, and that is marketing gold, Jerry. When I asked him how he got so many, he shared this nugget:
“People read my book and often end up emailing me questions about real estate. I tell them I am happy to answer their question, and all I ask is that they first post a quick review on Amazon about the book, good or bad. They do, and then I happily help them.”
It is a good lesson for all of us. Asking for what you want works. Ask for referrals. You will get them.
Have you ever heard of Le Tip? Le Tip is an international business organization based on the idea that if you refer customers to others, they will refer customers to you. Individual Le Tip groups are generally small (20 people or so) and the deal is that participation in the group requires that all members refer clients to one another.
Of course this can be done informally as well. The important things is to share the love. It will be shared back.
4. Be visible and connected
One reason some businesses get far more referrals than others is that they are out there, visible in the community. Whether it is sponsoring a little league team, or the symphony, or a soup kitchen, that goodwill usually creates goodwill. Then, when someone has the occasion to refer a business, it is that visible business that they remember.
5. Be great at what you do
The most important way to get more referral business is to be worthy of referrals, and of course you do that by being great at what you do, whatever that is. By offering exceptional service, or excellent products at a fair price, by really serving the customer, you will ensure that people will want to refer others to you.
Steve Strauss is a senior small business columnist at USA TODAY and author of 15 books, including The Small Business Bible.