Building a Client Referral Process
Lead generation drives business growth.
And without lead generation, your business may find it challenging to increase sales or expand.
Before we dig in, let's make sure we’re on the same page, lead generation is the process of generating interest in your product or service with the goal of converting that interest into a sale.
While leads are essential to the sustainability of your business, it’s worth noting the characteristics of a lead: a lead is often an unqualified contact given to you without any personal introduction or endorsement made by a third party.
That means a lead, in most circumstances, is just “a name”, and you’ll have a lot of legwork to move that lead down your sales funnel.
What if there was another way and if implemented right will practically guarantee to bring in a steady flow of new business opportunities for you!
We are talking about building a client referral-based sales funnel.
While referrals can be considered leads, they are more effective because of this one characteristic: the introductory salesmanship has been taken care of for you by someone the referral personally knows and trusts. This action puts a stamp of approval and helps bridge the trust gap between you and the referred prospect.
Did you know?
- B2B companies with referrals experience a 70% higher conversion rate
- Customers referred by other customers have a 37% higher retention rate
- 82% of small businesses claim referrals as their main source of new business
- 28% of millennials say they won’t try a product if their friends don’t approve of it
- The lifetime value of a referred customer is 16% higher than a non-referred customer
Despite referrals being low-hanging fruit, many companies today rely solely on accidental referrals, if any, or waste a considerable amount of marketing dollars on social media and paid ad campaigns, trying to generate cold leads…
The good news is that there are some easy things you can do right now to get high-quality client referrals to 2x your business.
10 Ways to Grow a Client Referral Program
Before we dive deep into the ways you can use to get client referrals, your business must first be referral-ready. This entails having the right systems in place for managing the new influx of interest, including having a definite referral acquisition plan that you can follow through.
The first step to getting referral-ready is to identify which existing customers could potentially provide you with quality referrals who match your ideal client profile, i.e. prospects who are a perfect fit for your product or service and are ready to buy from you. Consider their business objectives, demographics, psychographics, values, and interests. The last thing you want is to invest a lot of time and effort in selling to a pipeline full of low-quality prospects.
Another important aspect of getting referral-ready is you need to build a sales process on how you will convert the inbound referrals to clients. This includes creating referral sales collateral, sending referral requests, follow-up procedures, methods of communication such as phone calls, zoom presentations or personalized emails, activity logging, etc. Having a systematic approach will help ensure successful referrals aren’t forgotten and conversion rates are as high as possible.
Now, let’s get into the good stuff and how you can start growing client referrals.
1. Collect Testimonials
Testimonials are not often associated with referrals, but these written or spoken statements that praise or recommend your product, are very useful. You should not overlook the fact that people will take the time to do research online and look for positive confirmations. Testimonials help to build trust and remove the doubt in your prospects’ minds about your business.
2. Ask for Reviews
While online reviews and recommendations don’t directly put a referral prospect in your hands, the proliferation of online review sites with ever-increasing users should alert you to the fact that reviews are of paramount importance these days. 91% of people read online reviews and 84% of people trust them. Pay attention to reviews, both good and bad, and take the necessary action to address the bad reviews.
3. Use Client Logos
After reading a positive review online, 50% of consumers visit a company’s website. You should use business credentials on your website as they add trust to your business and product, e.g. placing logos of well-known prior customers or industry-recognized certificates demonstrate your abilities in your industry.
4. Research Connections
LinkedIn Advanced Search allows you to review a person’s LinkedIn profile and connections. This is particularly useful to use before you ask your clients for referrals and show that you’ve done the preparatory work and know which specific introductions you’d like from them. This improves your odds of success by eliminating any aimless referrals your clients have to think about for you.
5. Leverage Youtube
With billions of videos streamed daily, YouTube has become a social media client referral tool that simply can’t be ignored. While you can’t get referrals directly on YouTube, you can create a branded experience to turn your channel into a destination for clients to learn about your industry expertise and business. If you are seen as an indispensable resource to your clients, they will naturally drive more client referrals to your business. Create content that educates and addresses your clients’ needs. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback on the videos you create and don’t forget to include your contact info, a link to your website, Facebook page, etc, in the description of your videos.
6. Build a Loyal Community
Earning client referrals hinges largely on client loyalty, which stems from client satisfaction and delight. Being responsive to queries, offering a personalized buying experience, and sharing positive feedback or user-generated content are examples of actions you can take to gradually build brand loyalty. The key to getting client referrals is to create satisfied and delighted fans who are raving about your product or service and are willing to share and recommend you to their personal networks.
7. Develop a Reputation
In business, your reputation is everything. A great reputation opens the door to opportunities and unhindered access to clients and potentially, their networks. Because a reputation has a direct and measurable impact on you and your business growth, you should strive to build, enhance and maintain a good business reputation.
Below are a few tips on building a good reputation with your clients:
i. Go the extra mile: good customer service never goes unnoticed. It will not only result in a much happier customer, but it can also go a long way in terms of keeping your business growing for future opportunities and business. After all, only happy and satisfied customers will refer new business to you.
ii. Strive to exceed expectations: you want to make sure you are always meeting, and even better, exceeding your customers’ expectations in every possible way. Not only do you want them to be happy but also spread the good word about your business through social media and referrals.
iii. Act quickly and exhibit transparency: never leave customers feeling neglected. This means responding to customer issues quickly and fairly, and being truthful and honest. Make sure there is always honesty and integrity in all customer interactions.
iv. Keep your promises: a promise kept is a customer kept. Keeping and delivering on promises show the true value and power of a reputable business. This is important as customer satisfaction and customer loyalty are highly correlated. Loyal customers are more likely to respond positively to your referral requests.
8. Take Proactive Approaches
Adopting a client referral program is one way you can get proactive and generate a lot of referrals. An organized client referral program presents a unique opportunity to efficiently monetize existing clients, drive re-engagement and accelerate your client acquisition process. One often neglected benefit of having a referral program is the actionable analytics and insights provided through powerful referral tools such as ReferralHero, which will help your marketing team optimize resources to drive the success of the referral program. Below we share a few common elements of a successful client referral program:
i. Offer incentives: referral incentives increase the likelihood of making a referral because while 83% of satisfied customers are willing to refer, only 29% actually do. Incentive offering not only demonstrates your gratitude but also gives the existing clients a reason to go out of their way to advocate on your behalf. There are many different ways you can use to devise an incentive system, one common approach is to review your conversion path and identify what activity matters the most to your business. Users should be incentivized to perform this action.
ii. Run referral contests: referral contests create excitement around recommending your business by offering prizes for a select few participants. Gamification, which means applying some sort of game mechanics such as point scoring and game rules, adds a touch of fun to your program that will challenge, amuse, entertain your participants and make the experience shareable.
9. Personalize Communication
One way you can proactively improve your referral rate is to make it easy for your clients to share with their networks by providing editable email and social media templates that can be deployed to make connections more effortless. Incorporate a clear subject line and limit it to around 30 characters, keep the message simple and to the point, include your client’s name, and use “you” whenever possible. This plug, tweak and play email referral strategy makes onward sharing more efficient and productive.
10. Optimize Timing
Proactively look for referral opportunities by pinpointing the right time to ask for referrals. Most businesses think that asking for referrals at the end of a job is the most opportune time, however, that's not always the case. You should instead look for referral opportunities when the client is particularly pleased with the work you’ve done: your customer must be completely satisfied and delighted with your product or service. Another good time to ask for a referral is when a customer voluntarily suggests that your product or service is incredible or when a customer sends an unsolicited testimonial. Pairing a positive response with a referral request is the way to go.
Client Referral Forms
You’ve just learned how you can put your best conscious effort to cultivate client referrals, now it’s time to explore how to collect, manage and organize your referrals.
Standardized forms are an essential part of the documentation in any company. Most companies use a client referral form as a structured document to gather relevant referral information in a logical and meaningful fashion to be passed between parties.
There are many formats you can follow to create your own client referral form. The template below is an example form that asks for the MOST basic information you would want to collect:
- Phone number
- Customer ID (if applicable)
- Mailing address
- Name/Business name
- Phone number
- Mailing address
- Website (if applicable)
- Date submitted
While this is a simple template, your clients are required to fill out their and the referrals’ contact information in the form. Imagine how this tedious process has to be repeated all over again when the clients have many referrals to make! While you are receiving a referral, this definitely doesn’t help to improve your referral growth rate if the referral process is too cumbersome. Referral form design matters a lot because, without a professional and easy-to-use form, it’s harder to entice your clients to take the time to provide you with the information you need. You can however step up your referral game and remove this obstacle easily through an efficient form design that’s simple and straightforward offered by most automated referral tools, such as ReferralHero.
An Ideal Client Referral Template
Great form design enhances UX and helps boost conversions. The first and foremost rule for an efficient form design is to minimize the number of input fields and user typing effort. The form should be ordered logically and ask only what’s absolutely required. But what is the “absolutely required” information you need to establish a referral? As you might have figured out, it’s the referral’s information! “Repeating fields” should ideally be removed so referring clients don’t have to keep supplying their own contact information for each and every referral.
How can this be done? An automated referral tool, such as ReferralHero, simplifies the referring process by keeping all the referring clients’ contact information readily available in the system. The referring clients are given their own unique referral link which they can forward and share with their referrals. By automatically tracking the referrer’s personal information, all that has to be filled out in the client referral form is the referral’s information. This automation also efficiently removes the need to date the form submission and facilitates tracking and the ensuing follow-up efforts.
A well-designed client referral process can help you quickly and seamlessly start collecting client referrals. The template below is an example of a ReferralHero client referral form that adheres to the form design best practices. Keep in mind the power is not in the form itself but rather in the simplicity of the process, tracking, and automation that takes place in the backend.
i. Simple and straightforward: ask only what you really need to get a referral. Reducing the number of form fields helps avoid the risk of losing conversions. The rule of thumb is that shorter is better.
ii. Use a single-column layout: single-column forms are more comfortable to scan and help avoid referrals skipping fields accidentally. If a form is in a single column, the path to completion is a straight line down the page.
iii. Use inline form field validation: inline validation helps successful form submission on the first attempt by correcting users’ information as they go, e.g. “please provide your name”.
iv. Ability to tab to the next form field: make use of keyword shortcuts and allow users to move to the next form field by using the tab key.
v. Call-to-action: employ a minimalist-designed CTA so that users can quickly understand the action they need to perform.
vi. Responsive to mobile devices: a mobile-friendly form that fits every device’s screen will greatly reduce abandonment from mobile users.
All in all, users can be hesitant to fill out forms, you should make this process as easy as possible. An efficient form design can significantly increase the conversion.
We hope you have made it this far and have enjoyed this article. If you want to 2x your business and build a program that will ignite your referral growth, check out ReferralHero.
Sources: Inc., WordTracker, Hubspot, Formidableforms, Invespcto, Wharton