That first day of self-employment was terrifying. I sat at my laptop feeling like the floor had opened up and I was staring across a wide canyon I knew I had to cross but I had neither the tools or knowledge to get to the other side.
My livelihood depended on figuring it out and so I did the only thing I could think of:
Tell everyone I knew that I was now self-employed and available for business.
It started with a blanket-wide LinkedIn message. I followed it with an email to my whole inbox. Finally, I texted all my family and asked them to tell all the people they knew that I was available for work.
I look back and realise how brave that was. It didn’t even register at the time what people would think of me or how much it oozed of desperation.
Thankfully it didn’t register though, because that was how I got my first three clients. My brilliantly supportive friends, family and past colleagues referred me.
To this day, referrals have been the best source of clients and custom in my business. Sometimes they’ve come naturally from word of mouth I have not been privy to. Sometimes they’ve come from me asking my best clients if they know anyone else who’d value my services. Sometimes it’s come from someone who’s read a testimonial from a client of mine who they know.
It’s not rocket science, but so few entrepreneurs make the most of referrals. If you deliver a great product or service and are confident in your customer service, why wouldn’t you?
So, if you’re wondering how you can get more customers and you’re not absolutely maxing out your referral opportunities, then you’re sitting on a potential goldmine of work and you need to start getting the people you know and the clients you do have working for you:
5 Ways To Get More Referrals
1. Ask all your best clients
Send all your favourite clients a quick email which asks for a referral and tells them exactly the type of customer you’re looking for and/or for which services you have capacity to fill:
I really enjoy working with you – you always send me interesting work, write great briefs, give timely feedback and pay your invoices promptly! I have the capacity to take on more two more clients and I’d really appreciate an introduction to any business owners you know who would benefit from my copywriting service and who you’d be happy to recommend me to.
2. Play on the 6 degrees of separation
Six degrees of separation is the idea that all humans are six (or fewer) connections away from one another. If you have your eye on winning a particular client, play on this phenomenon and find out who in your network knows them, and ask for an introduction.
LinkedIn is a great way of finding out who you connects you, or simply asking around. Once you’ve identified your connection, drop them a quick line:
Please can you help me? I’d really appreciate an introduction to [Name]. Would you be happy to make the introduction?
3. Ask for reviews after completing work
Have you just finished a job for a happy customer? It’s time to ask them for a review. You can simply reach out and ask for a testimonial or review by email which you can use on your website, a LinkedIn recommendation or a review on your Facebook page.
Alternatively, if you don’t have a formal review process in place yet, find out whether there is a system available for your industry.
Some common services include:
- Tripadvisor – for travel, hospitality and events
- Check A Trade – for trades people
- Feefo – for online purchases
4. Incentivise your referrals
We all like getting something for free and offering some sort of incentive or financial reward for a referral that turns into a paying customer is a brilliant way to get people taking action. Make sure it’s generous enough to encourage people to make the effort and that you have terms and conditions in place (and clearly communicate them) so your referrers know what they get, how and when if they pass on business to you.
5. Give referrals
The New Radicals sang it better than I ever could: you get what you give. One of the quickest ways to get a referral is to give one. People like to reciprocate as a way of showing their gratitude. Which of your customers could you big up to people you know?
Picking just one of the above suggestions and focussing on it every day for the next week will be one of the most productive and quickest ways of growing your business and is worth making a permanent fixture in your marketing strategy.