By Mark Creedon
Turning Your Referral Program into a Series of 1%ers
What are the one-percenters in your business? What are the little things you can do to go above and beyond in making your clients feel valued?
Whatever they are, whether it’s a bottle of wine on arrival to your property or a simple, handwritten note in your product packaging, these incremental improvements – the one-percenters – have the most impact when they’re continuous.
Let’s first think about the difference between the external and internal one-percenters.
As you probably know already, your business has both external and internal elements. The external is all that you do for your clients and customers to make them feel special, to make it easier to do business with you, and/or to improve the quality of whatever it is you deliver. The internal, then, is all the things you do backstage like lead generation, delivery, communication with your staff, and referrals.
What area in your business have you introduced a 1% improvement to this year?
Was it an internal process that made things better for you and your staff internally, or was it an external process aimed at making your business better for your clients?
In many cases, the internal and external go hand-in-hand.
Maybe you introduced a new internal process that directly made it easier for your staff to deliver your service to a higher standard. Maybe you brought in a new team expert to help identify external areas that could be improved. Either way, it’s the little things you do that will make a big impact overall.
Sometimes, what starts as a 1% improvement actually snowballs into something much bigger and much more impactful. Remember, it’s the concept of incremental but continuous improvement that’s going to get your business to the next stage.
Referral programs are a great example of how you can turn a big leap in business into incremental one-percenter improvements.
Introducing a referral program into your business can seem like a sizeable task, but when you break it down into small steps, the program itself can be introduced in increments that become equivalent to a series of one percent improvements. Let’s go over how referral programs work and what they mean.
This is where so many businesses go wrong in introducing their referral programs:
- They don’t ask for them
Most businesses don’t ask for referrals, and if they do, it’s usually something quite passive like a footer on a webpage or at the bottom of their newsletter. There’s a much better way to do it, and we’ll get to that shortly.
- They don’t get the timing right
Timing plays a huge role in asking for referrals. I once worked with someone who did it in their
Christmas cards each year. Talk about bad timing. Don’t send me a Christmas card wishing me all the best then ask me for more business… it just doesn’t seem right. Another thing we don’t like to see is asking for a referral at the same time you ask for payment. This makes it seem like you’re just asking for too much.
Now I want to take you through our five-step referral process:
The purpose of pre-framing is to get the client to expect that it’s coming so it becomes quite natural.
Without pre-framing it, your clients’ expectations are unclear, and they may be caught off guard when you ask for a referral. So, what you want to do early in your business relationship is let them know that you’re going to ask for one. An important tip here is to use the word “may.”
For example, “Hey, our business depends on referrals, and we may ask you to refer people you know at some point.” Set the expectation and make it clear, but don’t guarantee it.
2. Watch for a Win
This is where timing plays a huge role in your referral program.
Watch for opportunities when your client has a win. The win will look different for every business. Whether it’s something that you’ve achieved for them or a job you’ve completed for them and they’re happy, it’s all about timing. When you’re on that win, that’s when you want to ask for a referral.
When this is timed correctly, there’s a story or a conversation to be had around it, which makes the referral feel earned and well-deserved.
3. Congratulate and Calibrate
Congratulate your client on their win and make it a big deal.
Then, remind them about how you pre-framed the referral.
If you’ve done this correctly, they’re already primed and they’re expecting it, and they’ll be happy to give you a referral once they’ve seen the win that you helped them earn.
4. Honoured and Special
Now, remember, you said that you may ask them for a referral, which implies that you don’t ask everyone for a referral.
So, when you do invite them to refer, make sure they feel honoured and special.
5. Equip Them
You’ve got to give them the resources so it’s easy for them to make that referral.
This way, they feel confident in making it, and it doesn’t seem like you’re asking for much of their time or effort.
If you miss this step, often, there’s no follow-through.
If you get this process right, you’ll find that your entire referral arrangement will get much higher levels of traction.
Don’t be daunted by the referral process – it will become a simple series of one percent changes that will snowball into a big impact on your business.
Mark Creedon is the founder of Business Accelerator mastermind by Metropole and business coach to some of Australia’s leading entrepreneurs – helping them build a true business, not a job.
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