You’ve just spent the last 12+ weeks performing some of your best tax work for your clients, and no doubt your clients are equally impressed. But, just before you go on vacation, take this time to leverage the “high” that your clients are on, in order to grow your practice over the next few months. Not doing so could cost you referral clients, which ultimately could cost you potential revenue.
Here’s how to ask for a referral:
- Be direct: This may be a bit of an oversimplification, but putting a statement such as, “We like referrals” at the bottom of your client’s tax prep invoice is not sufficient. This is entirely too passive and often overlooked by the reader. Instead, you should directly ask your clients for referrals by email, online or in person. Don’t feel sheepish about this! There’s nothing pushy about it, and people won’t give you referrals unless you deserve them. In fact, getting a referral is the highest compliment you can receive.
- Make it personal: When asking for a referral, don’t send a broad message to a bunch of people over LinkedIn or some other network. Instead, reach out to each client directly using the same means as #1 above: email, phone or in-person, after reviewing the final return. This may be a bit tedious, but studies show people are 41 percent more likely to respond to direct, personal requests.
- Be specific: A request for a referral taps into the memory reserve of your client. Studies show that the brain easily forgets information that is too broad or too overwhelming, but is more likely to recall information that is specific. In addition, it’s much easier for clients to recall one or two people who could use your help versus “anyone” who could use your help. So, when you ask a client for a referral, don’t say, “Hey, do you know someone who could use my accounting services?” Instead, say, “Do you know one or two people like you, with XYZ needs, who could use my accounting services?” Are you looking for high-net-worth individuals or mid-sized companies? Say so. The more personal the request, the more likely your request will be remembered. Plus, if you don’t tell your clients more specifically what you want, you’ll waste time pursuing leads you can’t use.
One thing to note here is that I highly recommend only asking your best clients for referrals. Remember, you don’t want to grow your practice at the expense of your happiness. Be sure to choose clients with personalities you enjoy working with, and be comfortable knowing that these may not necessarily be your highest paying clients.
- Make it easy: Don’t just ask a client for a referral; make it easy for them to give you one. Remember that everyone is time-constrained. If giving you a referral takes extra time or causes a headache, then they won’t do it. Create something that can be easily accessed from a mobile phone or on social media (see ideas below).
- Be repetitive: Asking for referrals shouldn’t be a one-and-done thing. Your clients meet new people all the time. Six months ago, they may not have known someone to refer, but today, they might. Create a calendar of the key times of the year when your services will be in demand and send referral request emails to your clients a few weeks before.
- Follow up: When clients send you a referral, thank them. A simple, handwritten note, flowers or a small gift are all great gestures. Whatever you do, don’t give them a monetary gift such as a gift card, discount or money. According to Behavioral Economist Dan Ariely, non-monetary gifts help to establish community and a more natural reciprocity. Plus, you don’t want your clients to feel as if they were paid for sending a referral your way, right?
Here are a few referral ideas:
- Write the referral email for your clients and ask them to drop in their name and send to their friends.
- Create a mobile-friendly referral form on your website and send your clients the link.
- Create a referral form on your website with social sharing capabilities and tell your clients about it via email, social or in-person.
- Email your clients a virtual business card that they can save in their phone and forward to friends (note: check out bvcard.com to create a free virtual card and QR code to post on fliers or your website).
- Create a Facebook post and share it with your clients online. Encourage them to share on their page or tag their friends in the comments section.
- Offer clients a special service, such as a free asset assessment if they tag your website on their personal social media accounts.
- Create a blog post about your services on LinkedIn and share it with clients for them to share.
- Pre-write a tweet that includes the referral and send the link to clients (note: check out clicktotweet.com to create a free tweet that your clients can share).
It’s the end of busy season and you certainly deserve a few days off, but remember, now is a great time to build your practice. Referred clients tend to have a 50+ percent close rate!