Advertising can be really helpful to promote your product, but there is one form of promotion it will never beat: word of mouth. Paul Rand, author of the book Highly Recommended, already found in a study that 92% of customers report that a positive recommendation from friends and other people they trust is the biggest influence on whether they buy a product or service. Most people do not have much trust in conventional advertising, hence, according to the Global Trust in Advertising Report, “recommendations from people I know” is by far the most trusted source world wide. This is not only worth considering, it is vital to realize that your clients may be your main advertising force. Here are 4 steps on the way to building your own customer referral program.
Step 1: Make Sure Your Clients Are Happy
It is obvious, nonetheless it can not be emphasized enough: make sure that your clients enjoy being your clients. The Customer Experience Index has found that 64% of all brands have gotten a rated only OK, poor or very poor by their customers, which indicates that many companies fail in this regard. This is especially alarming since customer ratings never have been more important than they are now. With countless options to rate companies online and offline, business is more than ever about fostering relationships properly with your clients and not only about making them clients.
If your clients are not really satisfied, why would they refer you? Offer your services and give them the chance to give feedback. Take their feedback seriously, even if you do not agree with them. Make your clients feel understood and try offering quick solutions for their issues. Genuinely interact. Offer ongoing support, treat customers like partners. All this probably does not pay off financially in the short run, but in the long term you will recognize happy customers can be your number one admen. You can even make it a little competition and ask for the most creative idea of word of mouth within your customer base and reward these with incentives (step 2).
If you have the manpower and energy, go one step further: wow your customers. Go beyond the expected, offer additional services, surprise customers with specials. This takes a little bit of effort, but people like to brag about the extraordinary things that happened to them – and this is where word of mouth starts.
Step 2: Give Incentives for Referrals
Making your customers happy is the first step, but of course you can be more proactive when it comes to making your customer promote you. Give them something back in return. Incentives are a common method of motivating people to speak about you, and for a good reason. You don’t need to give them a direct financial compensation, but try integrating incentives into your business so that there will be no (direct) additional costs for you.
If you run a health club, for instance, there are numerous options: you can offer clients a free month for every new customer they bring in. Or a month of free fitness drinks. Allow them to join some courses for free. A free personal training session. Free PRO memberships in their Virtuagym app. Get creative about this, or at least get inspired. It is very important that you show to your customers that you invest in the relationship. Hence, never forget these two important words: thank you.
Furthermore, provide your clients with referral cards. Again, if you own a gym, during holidays like Christmas you can give them a couple of free training vouchers which they can hand to friends or relatives. They will then visit your studio for a training session. After that, it’s up to you to convince them of staying. You can also hand out other incentives via social media giveaways, which brings us to the third step.
Step 3: Use Social Media for Communication and Referrals
Whether you are very active on social media yourself or not, if you want to go with the times you should definitely consider having a social media channel. This is not primarily to promote your business but to offer customers and potential clients a contact point. These days, it is vital to be available and stay in touch with your clients. Whether you want it or not, your company will be talked about online. And it is a lot better if you can be part of these conversations than not being able to keep track how the public opinion about your business evolves.
Use the forces of social media properly. Give people the chance to reach out to you and handle their concerns openly. Do not delete negative comments but show your responsibility as a self-reflected company. Initiate conversation, stimulate participation. You can for example start raffles where you ask Facebook users to share your company’s posts and in return offer the chance to win free memberships for your gym.
Also, consider that social media users really like to show off. Networks like Facebook or Instagram are oftentimes used to boast about nice experiences or personal achievements. Quite a lot of people like to post how much they ran yesterday or post pictures of their workout. Make use of that and turn it into referrals. To stick with our example, if you own a gym, you can make them promote your studio with their posts. Via Virtuagym they can for example share finished workouts that link to a landing page in the fitness’ clubs own styling which helps generating new leads. If you also offer your clients the Virtuagym app, they can even unlock training achievements in form of badges which will motivate them even more to post about their current success.
Step 4: Communicate Honestly and Be Where Your Clients Are
Be where your customers want you to be. Let them know what is going on. If there are issues, communicate them and don’t try to avoid situations. Proper crisis communication can be vital to foster relationships and build trust. There will be situations where things go wrong. Admit that and openly cope with it. Let them see you are just human as they are but you are taking care of things.
Be where your customers are. Using client data, you can figure out wherever your clients are. Pick them up right there. Analyze their interests, examine the trends. Nowadays this is a really common technique to figure out what clients expect from you and thus to adapt to their needs. Also, give them easy opportunities to promote you. If you hand out business cards, always hand out two. It can be really efficient, sometimes the second card will end up in the right hand by coincidence.
The successful growth of your business starts with the happiness of existing clients. Once that is secured, you can start motivating them to promote your company by offering incentives. Also, make feedback a priority. It will make you understand your own company and your clients better. Use social media properly, for communication but also for spreading the word. Furthermore, make people sympathize with your company by caring. If you then also behave open and open-minded, show yourself as reflected but also proactive and communicative, you can count on the support of your customers in terms of word of mouth.