Untitled-1Referrals can be one of the greatest sources of new business for many small businesses – particularly service businesses. In fact many businesses attribute their entire growth strategy and success to word of mouth. And referrals often make the best clients or customers as they come from those who already know and understand your business.

Do you see the power of referrals and opportunity to work with other like-minded individuals, but struggle to drive new leads in this way? Ready to turn up the heat on your referral strategy? Consider…

#1. Define an actual referral program. Like any marketing program, define a plan for your referral strategy. Consider both how you’ll reward/recognize the referrer and if you want to have a special offer for new customers that come by way of referral. The goal is to show appreciation for the right referrals, not to incentivize someone providing you with any name just to receive a benefit or reward.

#2. Ask for referrals! Don’t forget to tell those already in your network that you’re looking for new business! Otherwise, existing clients or customers may think you’re too busy to take on new work or don’t necessarily view themselves as a valuable part of your marketing strategy. No, when you ask nicely and appropriately, it doesn’t make you look desperate. Promise. And be sure to make it a real ask, not just a tag in your email footer than goes unnoticed as being nothing more than a part of the template and noise.

#3. Stay top of mind. Many of the best referrals happen over coffee dates and dinner parties – places and situations where you as the business owner simply aren’t present to jump up and down when a perfect opportunity for your business comes up in conversation. Staying top of mind is critical so that when those conversations occur, your name is brought up as the obvious solution to the challenge or frustration being shared over a glass of wine. Communicate with your clients and network regularly so they remember all your awesomeness and are at the ready to share you with others.

#4. Create referable moments. Get people talking! Make customer love a regular part of your business. Do the unexpected. When you surprise your clients with flowers on their birthdays, cookies on Valentine’s Day, or simply the perfect sentiment just when they need a pick me up, they’re certain to sing your praises and share with their friends about the fabulous relationship they have with you. What happens next? Referrals commence.

#5. Be awesome. Always. Too many business owners fail to give themselves credit for the referrals they generate. “I don’t do any marketing, my business has grown entirely from referrals and word of mouth.” Except here’s the thing – every project you deliver on time, urgent situation you address with calm and grace, positive interaction you have – they all contribute to an overall positive experience with you and your business. When you’re generally fabulous, do what you say you’re going to do, and leave clients happy, they will refer. Plain and simple. When asked who designed their logos, built their websites, manages their books, and fulfills their orders, they’ll point to you. When you do great work, clients often pay in ways far beyond the balance on their invoices.

Go forth and conquer, great business owners. There’s tons of business out there to be had and growth to be achieved. Make it yours!