When you are a professional bookkeeper, which is a position of trust, you know that the absolutely best way to secure new clients is through a referral from a current client.
We are in the business of trust, and a referral from a trusted friend or family member is gold. It is without doubt the oldest, most effective marketing and growth strategy that exists.
A true referral exists when a current customer sends another customer to you on their recommendation that you do good work and could likely help them solve a challenge.
The big question is: how do you secure that referral?
The old school of thought was that you asked for referrals or that you offered incentives for referrals, but both might seem a little cheesy to you.
In the highly confidential world of handling people’s financial matters, you can’t just call up a friend of a client’s and say: “I handle your sister’s business finances and she thought perhaps I could do yours too. Can we book an appointment?”
So there is no point in asking current clients for names. You can ask them to pass on your name but you still hesitate. You may be shy to ask a client such a favour, or you may feel it is unprofessional to ask them to promote you while they are paying for your time.
Seeking alternatives to get referrals
You start to research the question concerning options for securing referrals for your business.
If you Google the question, more than 90 percent of the answers are going to say essentially “no, there are no options. Just find your courage and ask for them.”
But it has been our experience, both at Kninja Knetwork and our own bookkeeping firm, AIS Solutions, that asking is not necessarily going to work. Lots of clients say “of course” they will pass your name along to anyone who needs such services, and then they promptly forget all about you ten seconds after they walk out your door.
We knew that to build a successful business we needed referrals, but we resolved to search for better strategies than the “ask.” We came up with many ideas, tried and tested them, and came up with two really effective strategies that we know from personal experience are really effective.
In this blog, we will share them with you.
Strategy # 1: Don’t ask for referrals; create the circumstances where they are volunteered.
People generally love to solve problems for their friends and family members. It makes them feel useful and worthwhile.
So when a friend says “I need to get someone to fix my roof,” or “mow my lawn” or “dog-sit for a weekend,” if you know a good person who is trustworthy and can do a good job, you are really happy to volunteer the referral.
So Strategy 1 is to do such a sterling job that your clients are really happy with you. Build a climate of trust with them, so that they will share your name with people within their circle of trust.
You may be told that your clients are your ambassadors and they are in this instant. It doesn’t mean that they go out and constantly promote you, but when they are asked to recommend someone in your line of business, inevitably they will recommend you if they are satisfied with your work.
The effectiveness of your clients bringing in new business depends in large part to how connected they are themselves. If they are social butterflies with huge numbers of friends and extended family members, they will obviously be in a position to pass your name along more often than if they live quiet lives with fewer contacts.
But either way, their referral is gold because they will only give it if they believe it will benefit the person seeking help.
Strategy #2: Be enough of a presence in your customer’s lives that they will think of you
Last year, my friend had a fellow in to clean the gutters on her house. I had a friend who was seeking someone this year to do that service, so I asked my neighbor for the guy’s name. She thought and thought …and decided maybe his first name was “Paul” but she couldn’t remember the name of his company but she thought it had “gutter” in it. And then she surprised me by saying, “I’m glad you asked, because I’ve been trying to remember his name. I really want him to come back this year, and so does the lady on the other side of the street, but we can’t remember how to find him. Maybe you can track him down.”
It was a sobering thought. Here was a woman ready to recommend a small business person not only to others, but to rehire him herself, but she had received no contact from him in a year, and therefore could not even remember his name or how to reach him.
That is not unusual, considering how many people we need to keep track of in our busy world.
So that led to our second strategy, which is to be sure that we stay in touch with our customers regularly.
We devised a “touch” strategy, and realized that we couldn’t just secure new members and then expect they would lead others to our door. Perhaps they might forget where our door was, or what our company was called.
We did some research and discovered that the average business has about two touches a year to their clients. They might send a spring and fall catalogue or a mail-out with coupons. They might simply send a letter reminding their clients that it is time for the service to be done again, and offer a number to call for preferred booking.
Really connected companies raise that to about 20. They offer quarterly newsletters, a holiday card, and a few special promotions.
We upped our touches to more than 50, and included everything from regular blog posts to a planned series of special reports and even books to download, all of which are coming soon on this site. We know we are in the information business, and the more valuable and relevant information we can offer our members, the more top of mind we will be to them.
Repetition is a good thing when it comes to staying in touch with your clients. They know you are there, even if they don’t have a pressing need for your services at that moment, and that builds a trusting relationship that pays off over time with multiple referrals.
So, if you take nothing else from reading this article make sure you find a way to stay in touch and “top of mind” with your existing clients. Even something as small as a birthday greeting, or a hand written card to simply say “Thank you” can make all the difference.
Keep in touch. You will be glad you did.
This blog is for you and we hope you will enjoy the content.
Please let us know if there are any specific topics you would like us to address in the future.
Copyright: Isselee / 123RF Stock Photo