Everyone says that “word of mouth is the greatest advertising.” Yet so few people take it much further than this. If indeed it truly is the greatest–why don’t we at least take the time to consider more about it? Why don’t we take the time to learn how to maximize this “greatest” asset to our business. The answer?….I don’t know, and, perhaps you don’t either. BUT,,, let’s not let that stop us from starting to at least explore just a little bit about referrals.
Now this is in no way a complete or exhaustive list nor is it a certified guru tested top ten. It is however a my top ten and I figured I’d share it with you. So with that said, PLEASE, if you have more insight or a tip you can add to it. I whole heartily invite you to do so. I think we could all use the help.
1. Stop looking for out of the blue referrals
We’ve all had that ‘lightning bolt’ hit out of the blue. Doing a simple pest job and you get a referral for a huge commercial job. But how often does lightning strike? You must systematically cultivate and be active in building your referral network. If done correctly, lightning will strike you at least 2 or 3 times per week.
2. Networking is about building relationships
Networking the guerrilla marketing way is all about aggressive hunting. One shot one kill- great but you still have to go hunting the next day to survive. Instead look at gaining referrals like a farmer. Still quite a bit of work but in the end your barns are full for the winter and you have what you need to continue the cycle next spring.
3.Ask for referrals not leads
A lead is almost always just a luke warm chance at a sale. It’s a name and a number and maybe a “tell him I told ya to call” sprinkled in. It seldom works because your call is just about as good as a cold call and if the recipient isn’t on a truly friendly basis with the person who gave you the lead..instant resentment brews up. A referral is a true suggestion of a person who can actually benefit from you or your service. Many times, the referral giver is the one to actually call for you… that is when you’ve done it right.
4. Be specific when asking for referrals
Asking a pest customer for a referral is at best a crap shoot. They may know plenty of people & indeed spout off a name or two. Many times it turns out just to be a lead. (see above). It’s not their fault-they truly may be trying to help but you’ve given them to big a pool to draw on. Narrow it down & you’ll be surprised at how much more powerful the referral is that they give you. So instead of saying “do you know “anybody”…. simply ask, who else do you know that has tubes in the wall?… Ever hear of a friend whose had ants like you? I bet your home isn’t the only one on the street with rats running around. Have any of your neighbors talked about having them too?
5. Never ask for the referral on the first date
It’s hard to ask someone to honestly refer you until they know that you are worthy of their word. I’ve referred tree trimmers, plumbers etc. after simply getting their business card at a gas station…boy was that a mistake. It was bad for my client but it also reflects bad on me. Sure I didn’t leave the mess, show up late or overcharge them but…. I also didn’t care enough about my client to ‘vet’ these people before I found out they were any good. Now put yourself in their shoes. You’re asking them to refer you and you’ve barely gotten to know them or even proven yourself. Show your client that you’re worthy of their word & once you’ve reached that point, you’re ready, but rarely do you even have to ask.
6. Do what’s not asked
I don’t know how many referrals I’ve gotten over the years because I changed a light bulb, fixed a flat, pounded a nail, etc. In pest control I would say that this could be a daily opportunity. Now… the good part. NEVER expect or ask for a referral because you did so and so or fixed such and such. Simply know, if you ever do what’s not asked and then when you do employ one or more of the other steps listed here. That referral will be the most passionate and powerful endorsement you’ll ever get AND it will repeat itself many times.
7. Reward your referrer
Sometimes we don’t say Thank You enough. Never let this be the case with someone who has referred you. Go out of your way to let them know you appreciate them. If you’ve offered a $10 gift card or cash…deliver it by hand. If it’s money off their next visit, at least give them a call to express your gratitude. (this is also a great time to ask for another referral-nothing like adding to the bank) If you’re Thankful, say so. This builds strong relationships and keeps the pipeline open for future business down the road.
8. Look out for your clients
Does your customer have a business, website or service? Why not refer them? I have a full notebook of business cards I carry of my clients who own businesses. If and when the opportunity arises, you bet cha I’m all over that referral. I even take it one step further in many cases by calling the customer myself and hook the two parties up. This breaks the ice #1, & #2 it solidifies my “working relationship” with that client and you know good and well they’ll be looking out for me as well.
9. Let your intentions be known
Anybody like the high pressure of a door to door salesman? First off, you have no idea they’re coming and so caught off guard you fumble uncomfortably and either can’t gracefully get rid of them or end up buying something you never wanted in the first place. The same kind of thing can happen if you “cold call” a client for a referral. With your ‘sudden request’ they may start to feel uncomfortable. At this point you’ve kind of drawn a red line in the sand. With this kind of approach you may risk any good will that you’ve just built up with your excellent service. Instead of a bombshell at the end of your visit…let them know how your business grows by word of mouth…that you actively seek referrals and that you (if you do) have a rewards program in place. Then, just let it lie, let them think it through. You may be surprised at the end of your service when without asking, they hand you a check, and a name and number of someone they know that could use you.
10. You have not because you ask not
As a teenager I never went to the prom. Not because I didn’t want to go or that I didn’t have a particular gal in mind to go with. I never went because I never ASKED. Even if you never master any of these tips given. If you want more business, if you want referrals…. it simply comes down to this 3 letter word…a s k.