My sister loves genealogy. She’s researched our family tree and knows the great grandparents back for generations: the grandfather who went to Russia to help build steel mills after World War I, the Civil War veteran who was shot in the hand and the grandmother who ran a bakery in Pennsylvania.
I’m just grateful to my ancestors who’ve brought me this far; I’m also interested in my family tree of clients, where they come from and how I’ve been able to bring them on as clients.
Ask successful entrepreneurs how they’ve grown their business and most will sum it up one word: referrals. Just like my family tree, I can trace all of my clients back to their sources. In my case, there are three main “parents” to my clients.
The Importance of Referrals
When I teach marketing to entrepreneurs, many of them are more concerned about the “unknown” clients, the ones they’ve never met who they think are on their path to wealth and success. Truthfully, unless you are a hermit, you already have enough people in your “circle” to build the clientele of your dreams. Referrals are low-cost, low-risk, warm leads, so how do you get them?
- Provide great service. It’s not hard to get referrals if your current clients are happy. Help them grow and provide the kind of service you would want to get; they will reward you with referrals.
- Reach out. Referrals are the result of cultivating relationships. Create a plan to touch base with your clients on a regular basis for no particular reason. Unlike a business-related call where you have an agenda, reaching out allows you to really get to know your client. Make it a policy to call them every 90 days. Touch base and ask how they are and what they have going on, but make it clear you are just calling to check in on them. These calls keep you top of mind with clients, ensuring they stay loyal to you. You will be surprised at the discussions you’ll have after making a few of these calls. You may even get additional business from them, too.
- Ask. Clients don’t always think to refer you. Make sure you let them know you’re interested in their referrals. Include a statement in your invoice that states: “We always appreciate your referrals.” When you receive a compliment from a client, make sure to say something, such as: “I’m glad you’re happy with my services. Do you know anyone else you think would benefit from my help?” Just don’t over ask; you’ll make your clients uncomfortable.
- Return the favor. Look out for business opportunities for your clients, too. Make introductions, recommend them to others and let them know you’re invested in their success.
- Reward referrals. Whether you offer a gift card, discount or just a thank you, make sure you let your clients know you appreciate their referrals. It’s just good manners.
Take a few minutes and look at your clientele. Do you know where they’ve come from? Have you made the effort to thank the ones who have referred to you? Building your family tree of clients doesn’t have to be hard … you just have make time to do it!
Editor’s note: Laura is also the author of another Intuit® ProConnect™ Tax Pro Center article, “How to Grow Your Referrals During the Off Season.” Check it out for more practice growth tips.