Guest author Brad Shorr has agency, in-house, and entrepreneurial marketing experience. He writes frequently about social media, SEO, content strategy, and other business issues of interest to small and midsized companies. He lives in the Chicago area and has been blogging since 2005.
Many a small business strives to “go the extra mile” for customers … but finding ways to put that promise into action is not always easy. One thing that’s been very successful for me is going the extra mile to give customers referrals, to connect them with people who can help with business and non-business related issues.
Now, this is an obvious networking technique and most entrepreneurs use it every day — but the focus is usually on lead generation: I’ll get Sally in touch with a bank that will help her with her mortgage loan, in the hope that Sally will refer one of her clients to me; that sort of thing. This is a powerful form of networking, because if my bank is instrumental in getting Sally her dream house, she won’t soon forget it.
Great networkers (like the host of this blog, Phil) are always on the lookout for referral possibilities. And while directing this activity to potential lead reciprocators, we should never forget to do the same thing for our customers. Unfortunately, this is something we often do forget.
Suppose you’re in the copywriting business and you connect a client with an attorney who helps her out of a serious legal jam. Do you think that client will abandon you to save a few dollars on the next project? Chances are, the client will never want to abandon you for any reason. We know that people have long memories when they’re wronged. But let’s not forget: we also have long memories when we are helped, especially when help comes from an unexpected source.
Get to know your customers. It’s important to maintain boundaries, but that doesn’t mean you can’t talk to clients on a personal basis. If you know Bill loves French cuisine, you can recommend an awesome restaurant. If you know Mary has a son trying to get into a top university, you can arrange to have one of your friends — who happens to be an alum — write a letter of recommendation.
Learn what your friends and connections really do. It’s one thing to know your friend Joe works in real estate. It’s another thing to know that Joe specializes in helping first-time home buyers find high quality, low-risk foreclosure properties ready for move-in. If you don’t know what your connections do, your ability to refer them intelligently is next to zero — and giving a customer a bad or inappropriate referral is worse than not providing one at all.
Follow up after the referral. After you facilitate a connection, ask your customer and the referrer how things worked out. Number one, it shows genuine interest, which never hurts. Number two, the feedback will help you match people up even better in the future … or prevent you from repeating a mistake. Finally, staying involved may open up the opportunity to make another referral. For instance, maybe Real Estate Joe helped your client find the perfect home, and the client now needs the perfect banker, who happens to be someone you know!
Do you have any tips for making referrals to customers? Have you had any success stories you’d like to share?
Note — Brad works for Straight North, a Web development, Chicago-based agency. They have a very wide variety of small and midsize clients, including aluminum fabricators and a company for booking tee times online.
(Image Credit — © iQoncept – Fotolia.com)