Referrals and References – Get Comfortable with the Ask

By Tim Bigoness
Published on: January 29, 2021

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Most small business owners would agree that referrals and references are a cost-effective way to generate new business. It’s not expensive in and of itself if done properly, and the combination of referrals and references builds a strong foundation for your company reputation. I think what stops many SMBs from asking for referrals is that they may not be sure of the right time to ask, or they may be afraid of coming off as being too needy. But if you lay a proper foundation and get into the mindset that referrals and references are just another step in your client engagement process, I think you’ll begin to see some amazing results. Here are a few suggestions:

Begin with your best clients. Those clients who you already have a relationship with and who trust your work are going to be the easiest to approach and offer the best referral advice. Next time you do an upgrade or provide a service call, using some of the following suggestions, ask for a referral. If your customer cannot recommend someone for a referral, then asking them to be a reference is the next best thing and should be a significant part of any content marketing strategy.

When to ask. Don’t wait until the project is over to ask for a referral. There are touch points along the way that may present themselves, and you need to be ready when the opportunity strikes. Take a step back and think about how long most CI projects take to complete. And think back to when your client is the most excited about their new smart home plans. You want to ask for referrals when your client is stoked about your company and is fully engaged in how you are educating them, showing them new technologies, discussing how to future-proof their plans.

How to ask. Make it personal. A direct ask is always the best approach. Especially for the premium and luxury markets – keep in mind that your client is successful in business and has probably networked and asked for referrals themselves. It’s a part of conducting business. Be direct, and be honest.

Update your website. One of the simplest and most cost-effective ways to generate referrals is to add a “Recommend a Friend” button on your home page. It is also incredibly productive to have a Reputation/Review button on your home page so people can rate your services. Post your best references so potential clients can see and hear from your happy clients.

Update your social. “Tell a Friend” campaigns every month are simple to execute. Make sure your social manager is checking out your reputation on Yelp and other rating sites on a regular basis. And be active on LinkedIn, produce great content to share with other professionals in the design/build community.

Referral marketing materials. At the bottom of each invoice you could add a “like our company? Do you know anyone who we might want to contact?” type of message. Create simple referral cards you can leave with your clients that read “Referred by ____________”. Let your client know that if you get a referral, the next month’s software/firmware updates are on the house.

Networking. You are part of an ecosystem of trades that are involved in delivering today’s modern smart homes. You are most likely already working in tandem with architects, builders, designers – everyone in the design/build community might be someone who you could have a serious discussion with about referrals. Referrals can go both ways – if I bring you a client, you pay me $xxx. Ditto if you bring me a client. These other professionals can also provide you with a reference or quote for your website or marketing collateral.

Coda. Start your approach by updating your website and social strategy to take advantage of reputation enhancing platforms. How you are rated is critical when someone is referred to you – they will definitely check you out online first! Next, update your invoices and other marketing materials to mention you would appreciate a referral. Finally, approach your trusted clients and get comfortable asking directly if they have anyone in mind who they might refer to you.

Tim Bigoness

Tim Bigoness

Tim is the CMO of D-Tools. He brings over 20 years experience and background from within the television, publishing, multimedia and internet industries, having been involved in all aspects of sales, marketing, public relations, business development, and product management. He co-founded Morph’s Outpost, a technical trade publication for interactive media developers.

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