Yes, I admit it - I hate asking for referrals - don?t you? Be honest. Doesn?t your heart start to pump faster and hands start to sweat even thinking about asking a customer for a referral?
If you?re like me, you hate to impose on others. Asking for names of friends or family members almost makes you feel as though you?re selling a multi-level marketing opportunity.
Not to worry. There are many ways to get a continual stream of qualified referrals without having to go through the painful process of asking for referrals face-to-face.
The secret to getting referrals without asking for them is to develop referral systems that do the asking for you. Here are six innovative systems for getting referrals without asking.
Referral System 1
Make a list of people / businesses that sell complimentary products and services to your own product or service. If you sell athletic shoes your list might include health clubs, running clubs, basketball teams, or podiatrists. Now create a referral program that pays referral fees for people that are sent to you by your referral partners.
To make this system more effective, give your referral partners customized coupons, tickets, or cards that the referral brings with them to your business so that you can correctly track each referral source.
Referral System 2
Approach charities in your local area to get a list of donors that already give to the charity. The United Way is a good place to start. Most United Way donors make advanced pledges or set goals to give a specified amount to the United Way.
Now approach the executive sponsor of the United Way donation drive and make a proposal. Propose that for every referral that is sent from their organization to your business, you will take a percentage of your sale and donate it to the United Way (or whatever charity they are affiliated with) in their name.
Referral System 3
Local churches are always looking for innovative ways to raise money to sustain the programs they offer to their members. Most churches would be enthusiastic about the opportunity to receive a donation from you or your business.
Simply call up the ecclesiastical leader and ask if you can meet with him/her to talk about a potential fundraising activity. Propose that for every referral (church member) they send your way, you will donate a percentage of the sales to the church. In return, the church should agree to promote your business.
This same referral tactic can be done with the booster clubs of local sports teams, Boy Scout troops and other organizations looking to raise money.
Referral System 4
The fourth referral system is very simple. Give your products or services away (or significant discounts on your products or services) in local raffles. In my hometown of Friendswood, Texas the local Ford dealer gives away a brand new truck in a 4th of July raffle through the local Chamber of Commerce.
The tickets sold in the raffle go towards paying for the cost of the truck and the dealership gets to display the new truck for several months leading up to the raffle in high-profile areas provided by businesses that are members of the Chamber of Commerce.
In fact, we found our financial planner through a raffle offered through the local Boy Scout troop. We "won" a full financial analysis and eventually purchased some of his products as a result of the raffle.
Referral System 5
Most everyone has a barber or hairstylist they use on a frequent basis, especially if you have children. I don?t know about you, but my barber always engages me in conversation during my haircut. And most barbers and hairstylists are very happy when you give them a 2 - 3 tip. Do you see where I?m going with this?
Why not approach the local barbers and hairstylists and offer them 1 for every referral card they pass out to their customers. You might even motivate them to talk up your business by promising them a percentage of each sale that results from their referral.
Referral System 6
The last referral system will not only bring you referrals, but will also create a lot of goodwill. I learned this tactic, strangely enough, by Princess Diana and a local real estate agent. When Princess Diana died a close associate of hers was interviewed and revealed that Diana always carried a set of "royal" thank you notes.
Every time she met with someone she would remember their names and as soon as she got in her car she would write a short thank you note to them. The people cherished the thank you notes they received from the Princess. After hearing that, I started to carry around my own box of thank you notes.
But here?s what really will make this referral tactic take off. Not long ago I received an email from a subscriber to my Marketing Best Practices Newsletter that had this phrase under the man?s signature:
By Referral Only
By Referral Only...means: We invest 100 of our time and energy to delivering first-class service to our clients. As a result, our valued clients, suppliers, and friends refer their family, friends and work associates to us for advice on buying or selling real estate. We're interested in building strong life long relationships one person at a time.
You see, its not enough to send a thank you note. People need to know that you want and appreciate their referrals. The phrase, in essence, answers the question, "What can you do for me in return for this nice thank you card?" Immediately, I had this phrase printed on the bottom of my thank you notes and my referrals took off.
Each of these referral tactics that I have shared with you are s-y-s-t-e-m-s. They motivate others to generate referrals for you without you having to play the role of the beggar and asking for referrals face-to-face.
The best thing you can do to excite your referral partners is to get them to experience your product or services themselves. Then they can talk about it with first-hand knowledge. It will not only make them more credible to others but once they've experienced the benefits of what you have to offer, they will be more excited to tell others about it.
In the referral systems that require you to pay referral fees, make sure you pay quickly, honestly, and with gratitude. Always give your referral partner the benefit of the doubt. If you treat them right, you will be the benefactor.
Copyright 2005 David Frey
Short note about the author
David Frey is the author of the best-selling manual, "The Small Business Marketing Bible" and the Senior Editor of the "Small Business Marketing Best Practices Newsletter." To get your free lifetime subscription visit http://www.MarketingBestPractices.com.