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How To Get More Referrals From Your Customers

One of the easiest ways to grow your business is to get more referrals from your current customers and clients.

However, most businesses don’t ask for referrals for one reason or another.

If you run a business and you...

  • Don’t like asking for referrals.
  • Don’t have a referral system in place.
  • Always get a “no” when asking for a referral.
  • Need a reliable way to get new clients.

...then read on because you’ll discover an easy way to get more referrals from your customers, and you’ll be able to generate these referrals all year long.

The Cheapest Way To Acquire New Customers

First, let’s look at the lifetime value of your customer.  Now, it’s going to be different for each individual business, especially depending on what industry your in.  But suppose you’re in a service industry, and the lifetime value of your customers is $3,000 on average.

Now let’s suppose that on average, you are currently generating 12 referrals a year (or one per month).  That’s a pretty conservative number.

Multiplying the average lifetime value of a customer ($3,000) x the average number of referrals you receive in a year (12) means that the average annual value of your referrals is $36,000.  Not bad. But it could be a lot better!

How Powerful Are Referrals?

So why are referrals so powerful in growing your business?

Well consider these statistics:

  • 92% of consumers trust referrals from people they know.
  • People are 4 times more likely to buy when referred by a friend.
  • 77% of consumers are more likely to buy a new product when learning about it from friends and family.
  • Businesses using referrals as part of their regular marketing see conversion rates up to 70% higher

Think about this in your own personal life. If a friend or family member recommends a restaurant or a movie, that’s a really strong endorsement, and more than likely, you’ll try it out.

In this day in age of social media, we’re always asking for recommendations for things like doctors, vets, salons, car mechanics, gyms, massage therapists, restaurants...the list is endless.

We ask for these recommendations because we trust our friends and family.  Well what if you had a business where when people asked for a recommendation for the service or product you offer, your business was top of mind?  That’s exactly what you want, and it’s what you’re about to learn how to do.

When generating referrals for your business, it’s important to have a system.  One that you put in place and put into action consistently, so your business grows in a predictable manner.  To develop a relationship of trust with a large network of people, you need a system for managing those relationships.  One that is predictable, repeatable and consistent. This will go a long way in saving you time, energy and money!

The best type of referral system is based on the relationships that you build.  This type of referral system consists of generating referrals from people that know you, like you, trust you and remember you.  They will WANT to refer business to you.  

The more you communicate with someone, the more they know, like and trust you.  Frequently communicating with someone in a positive way results in a better relationship.

If someone knows, likes and trusts you, AND they remember you, they’ll refer to you.

3 Steps To Generating High Quality, Relationship-Based Referrals

Generating high quality, relationship-based referrals can be thought of like a garden.  There are 3 steps:

Step 1: Planting the seeds.  In your business, this would be meeting new people daily and growing your network.  Many businesses are great at this. You may be great at this. If you are, you’ve already mastered the first step in getting high quality referrals.  If you’re not, go out and meet more people. Grow your network.

Step 2: Nourishing the seeds.  In a garden, this would be watering the seeds and giving them sunlight.  In your business, this means staying in touch with the people you meet and showing them that you care about them.  Many businesses don’t do this very well. Don’t worry. I’m going to show you the most powerful way to do this.

Step 3: Harvesting your garden.  In business, this means reminding the people that you know that referrals are important to your business.  In short, it’s asking for referrals, but doing this AFTER you nourish the people you meet and add value to their lives.  Again, hardly any businesses to this, but there is a simple process to make this all come together, and that’s what you’re going to learn next!

Planting seeds

Ultimate Referral Card System

The Ultimate Referral Card System is based on the emotional bank account, which Steven Covey talks about in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

Your emotional bank account is quite simply how you feel about others.  The more deposits you put into someone’s emotional bank account, the better they feel about you, and the more likely they’ll help you.

Likewise, the more deposits someone puts into your emotional bank account, the better you feel about them, and the more likely you’ll help them.

When you make a deposit into someone’s emotional bank account, you’re making them feel good.  The deposit can be as simple as saying something nice about them. You’re nurturing the relationship by staying in touch with the people you meet and showing them that you care about them.  Remember our garden analogy? Your nourishing the seeds.

Once you’ve made enough deposits, then you can ask for a favor.  In this case, you can ask for referrals. Remember, after your nourish the seeds, you’re ready to harvest.  This is simply reminding the people that you know (the ones that you took time to nurture) that referrals are important to your business.

There has been some testing on the concept of the emotional bank account and it turns out that a 3:1 ratio of nurturing to harvesting works very well.  In other words, after you make a deposit into someone’s emotional bank account 3 times, you can feel confident in making a withdrawal from the account, which is asking them for a referral.

So what’s the best way to implement this referral system?

Handwritten greeting cards!

Think about it - greeting cards exude feelings of warmth, thoughtfulness and kindness.

Sending a card to someone shows them that you care, because you took the time and effort to write it and mail it.

People love to receive physical things that they can hold in their hands.

Greeting cards linger.  They hang out in people’s homes and offices.

And in the digital world we’re living in, handwritten notes allow you to stand out from the competition.  Unlike emails, which many people mark as spam or might unsubscribe from your mailing list, handwritten cards get opened 100% of the time! 

Think about it.  How many emails do you get a day?  50? 100? More? Emails tend to get lost in a sea of hundreds or thousands of other emails that your customer gets each month.  Many of them go unopened.

A text message is quick and simple.  But does it really convey a heartfelt message that took time and care to craft?  No, it doesn't.

Now imagine yourself walking to your mailbox.  When you get there, you open it up to a stack of mail.  You pull everything out of the mailbox and flip through the stack.

Ad, ad, bill, ad, bill.

And then you see it.  An envelope addressed to you in handwriting.

It’s obviously a card and you instantly smile.

Your mood changes.  You’re happy, just knowing that someone took the time to sit down and write a personal note to you.

Woman happy

This is how your customer will feel when they receive your card in the mail.

And guess what?  Unlike many emails, which go unopened, and then moved into the trash, handwritten cards get opened 100% of the time.

So here’s the winning formula…

Send out a relationship building card each month for 3 straight months to your clients.  This equates to making 3 deposits into their emotional bank account.

On the 4th make a withdrawal from the emotional bank account and ask for a referral.

It’s that easy.

If you use this formula for the entire year, you’ll be sending out 9 relationship building cards to each client and asking for referrals 3 times.

We can break down this easy referral system into 5 tips.

I learned this system from one of my mentor’s, David Frey, author of the Instant Referral Systems program.

  1. Never mix a thank you card or a “just checking in” card or a relationship-building card with a referral message. That turns people off. Never put your business card in your thank you cards. If you’re going to send out a heartfelt greeting card, then make it a heartfelt greeting card. If you’re going to send out a card asking for a referral, then make that card about the referral and nothing else. Keep your heartfelt messages and your business messages on separate cards.
  2. Use the 3:1 ratio. As mentioned earlier, everyone has an emotional bank account. After years of sending cards, David found a 3:1 ratio works well. Initiate three deposits into a personal emotional bank account before making a withdrawal. Asking for a referral is a withdrawal from a person’s emotional bank account. So send out a heartfelt card for three months to the same person to build the relationship; on the fourth month, send out a card asking for a referral.
  3. Frequency is key to staying top of mind. Email marketers will tell you that emailing daily is the best frequency balance for the highest ROI. David suggests sending a greeting card to a client on a monthly basis, so people always remember you. They’ll also know that you’re serious about your relationship with them.
  4. Add value in your cards. If you’re going to send cards monthly, make sure you are adding some type of value beyond the heartfelt message in the card. Add some tips or even a funny illustration—something that will make them want to open your card every month.
  5. Every fourth month, send a referral request card. So if you’re following David’s 3:1 rule, you should be asking your client for referrals three times a year.

Thank you card pen

Now imagine if you were sending your cards to 200 clients. That would amount to asking your clients for referrals 600 times a year. If you’re asking your clients 600 times a year, your referrals are going to take off like never before because the vast majority of business owners aren’t currently asking for referrals at all! Imagine going from asking for referrals 0 times to 600 times, but in a very authentic way.  

Remember, you’re sending three relationship-building cards before you ever send that referral request card. They’re going to be okay with that referral request card because you’re sending three times the amount of value to them, right? Three deposits in the emotional bank account, one withdrawal; everything is cool. It works! David’s seen it with his own eyes.

Over the years, David has worked with a number of different service-based professionals to help them get more referrals with greeting cards. Anyone from real estate agents to insurance agents, from mortgage brokers to dentists. His system works!

When the time came for David to move on to other projects, he passed the baton to us at Say It With Gratitude. We’ve adapted David’s model of helping businesses get more referrals with cards, and offering handwritten cards is a service we now offer to businesses.

Free Referral Card Templates

I asked David if he could provide some examples of what to say when asking for a referral. He provided a few referral card templates, so you’ll know exactly what to write. Feel free to download the Referral Card Templates. 

When you download the referral card templates, notice that David’s not saying, “Will you please send me referrals?” We’re simply reaffirming that they enjoyed the service we provided. We’re reaffirming that they got value out of that service and they have a friend who’s having the same problem. Will you mention me to your friend? That’s all we’re asking, right? Isn’t that beautiful?

This is Relationship Marketing 101. There is no hard selling. All you want to do is remind your customer that you’re out there. Remind them about what you do. Most importantly, remind them that referrals are important to your business. And that’s how you grow your business with referrals and handwritten cards.

Want more referrals for your business?  Book a complimentary Gratitude Planning Session and we can set up a referral card program for your business.

About the Author

Scott Colby is an adventure lover who has always created businesses around his passions. Although he has spent over a decade in the fitness industry, helping people create transformations, it was a trip to Guatemala that inspired him to create his latest brand - Say It With Gratitude. 

Say It With Gratitude is on a mission to make everyone feel appreciated through the power of gratitude. We spread our message to individuals and businesses with thank you cards, T-shirts and live experiences. We also help companies grow their business with gratitude through speaking, workshops and team building adventures.


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