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How to get referrals from clients (with expert tips)

How to get referrals from clients (with expert tips)

Many businesses depend on word-of-mouth marketing to attract new customers and grow their business. It is even more important for small agencies that do not have large advertising budgets to use paid channels to reach new clients.

The best way to tap into word-of-mouth marketing is through client referrals. Asking for referrals directly can be anxiety inducing and time consuming, which is why you need to learn how to secure client referrals without asking.

Getting client referrals without asking helps you to set up an organic referral engine that drives your business forward seamlessly. In this article, we’ll share five simple ways to achieve this.

1. Deliver a top-notch client experience

Rachel Davis, chief writer at SoulFactors, says, “One of the best ways to get referrals from clients is by providing great work and always going above and beyond what is expected. If you go the extra mile for your clients, they will be more likely to recommend you to their friends or colleagues who may need similar services.”

Every business knows how important it is to deliver a top-notch client experience — but the hard part is making it happen. A stellar client experience starts from the moment a prospective client comes in contact with your brand and continues up to the post-purchase point.

Use a client intake form

A client intake form streamlines the data collection process for each prospective client, so you can have all the information in one place.

Instead of sending prospective clients one-off emails with questions, you share a standard intake form with pre-vetted questions to understand the client’s budget, project goals, and work processes. Their responses to these questions will help you make an informed decision on whether or not to move forward with the client.

You can create a client intake form in Portal. Once you add your prospective client to the collaboration portal, you’ll share the form with them to collect important information about their business needs before they sign a contract.

Set up a detailed customer onboarding process

A detailed client onboarding process sets your agency up for success so you can have a frictionless agency-client relationship. It’s a chance to get the client acquainted with your work process, realign expectations, and close any communication gaps that you didn’t pick up on during the client vetting stage.

Most agencies jump from paperwork to execution without taking the time to get familiar with the client. A detailed client onboarding process includes:

  1. The administrative phase where you sort out paperwork like contracts, invoices, and statements of work
  2. The get-to-know-you phase where you send a client onboarding questionnaire
  3. A kick-off meeting to answer any follow-up questions and define next steps

Use a client collaboration portal

A client collaboration portal enables you to seamlessly manage client communication and the overall project execution from one place. When you add clients to the collaboration portal, you can send deliverables right in the application, and clients can review these deliverables and leave their feedback too. They can also use the in-messaging option to ask questions and request updates in real time.

Portal is an excellent client collaboration software. With Portal, you can seamlessly manage the entire client experience — from sending contracts, invoices, and onboarding forms to providing regular client updates and sending deliverables. Read this article to learn more about Portal.

Have a detailed client offboarding process

You shouldn’t just call it a day at the end of the project. You need a detailed client offboarding process that allows you to tie up any loose ends and re-emphasize the value of your work. This increases the chances of a client using your services again in the future or making a referral to their network.

Justin Borge, Founder of Help With Your Hustle, says, “Something that’s worked well for me in getting referrals is that I always have an “offboarding” call with my clients upon delivery. In these, I spend 30-60 minutes walking them through my work, making sure they understand their next steps, and always making a big deal of mentioning that my best clients are referrals from past clients (like them!). I always say that if they can refer new business to me, I’d be happy to send them a finder’s fee (10% of whatever the client spends) as a thank you. Sometimes they insist they don’t want the finder’s fee in the end, but the conversation often keeps me in the front of their minds when they inevitably come across someone who could use my services in the future.”

You don’t need to get on a call with your client as Justin does. You can have an asynchronous offboarding process that focuses on these two things:

  1. Sending a final report that summarizes the entire project and the results you achieved
  2. Providing constructive feedback on how the project execution could be improved and requesting feedback from the client

2. Create a client loyalty program

If you have a great loyalty program, your clients will not hesitate to tell people in their network about it, so these folks can benefit from it too! For example, in Bond’s 2020 Loyalty Report, 72% of respondents said they are more likely to recommend brands that have good loyalty programs.

How do you create a client loyalty program that’s worth talking about? These three tips will help you.

Keep it simple

If customers find it hard to understand how your loyalty program works or what they stand to gain, it’s unlikely that they will sign up for it or recommend it to others.

Be clear on what the benefits of your royalty program are and the exact steps clients need to follow to enjoy these perks. Don’t put clients off with a complex or difficult-to-understand sign-up process.

For example, suppose you run a point-based loyalty program. In that case, you can tell clients that they’ll earn two points for every purchase. And when they have 10 points, they will get 10% cashback on their total purchase costs.

Match the reward with what your target audience cares about

Make sure the loyalty program’s perks are truly valuable to your clients so they’ll be more excited to be a part of it — the more excitement, the more successful your program will be.

For example, if your clients are pro-climate supporters, they might prefer a value-based loyalty program that plants trees for every 10 purchases they make rather than cashback offers and discounts.

The best way to know what your target audience cares about is to ask them. You can put out a poll or survey on social media to gather quantitative responses and use this data to inform the choice of rewards for your loyalty program.

Personalize the loyalty program

Personalizing your loyalty program increases client engagement. But many businesses do not pay enough attention to loyalty program personalization. In fact, Bond's 2019 Loyalty Report found that only 2 out of 10 respondents were very satisfied with the level of personalization they receive from their loyalty programs.

There are several ways to personalize your client loyalty program. For example, you can use demographic information like location and niche to create exclusive offers for clients. And you can also use purchase history data to send special productized service offerings to clients.

3. Reward referred clients

Rewarding referred clients is a smart way to:

  1. Leave a great first impression on your new client
  2. Make the referrer feel good, so they can send more people your way

Paige Arnof-Fenn, founder and CEO of Mavens & Moguls, says, “I think people really appreciate being recognized. I have clients who have offered a discount for first-time customers or ‘charter members/users’ as an incentive or have sent percent-off coupons for a next purchase if they refer new customers or share on social media to encourage building goodwill and momentum for the business.”

In your client intake form, ask prospective clients how they heard about you, so you’ll know if a former client referred them. When referred clients place their first order, let them know they’ve earned a reward — like a discount or cashback.

Another good option is to partner with complementary services in the same sector and offer discounts or introductory rates on their services as well. This not only gives your referred clients extra value without costing you money, but it also means you may get referrals coming the other way.

For example, if you’re a marketing agency, you could do a deal with an event management agency where your clients get preferential rates for its services. And the event management agency can offer the same to its clients for your services. As long as your services complement each other and don’t compete, it's a great option.

4. Encourage your clients to share their experiences on social media

How many times have you signed up for a service or patronized a business simply because someone was talking about them on social media? Probably countless times.

Social media is a powerful influence on people’s purchasing decisions. By encouraging your former clients to talk about their experiences with your agency, you can get your agency in front of prospective clients and attract them through word-of-mouth marketing.

In your final offboarding message, ask your client if they would like to share their experience on a particular social media platform. The social media platform you choose must be one where your target audience hangs out. For example, if you’re trying to attract C-level executives, ask your clients to share their experiences on LinkedIn.

5. Stay top of mind

You shouldn’t cut off all communication with your client at the end of your contract. Rather, keep cheering them from the sidelines so you can stay on top of their minds. You want to be the first agency they think about when someone they know requires the services you offer.

There are several ways to stay on top of your clients’ minds. For example, you can amplify their content on social media by engaging with posts, tagging them in relevant content, and sharing standalone content about their business.

Ryan Stewart, founder of WEBRIS, says, “You may also invite your referrers and their prospects to an open-house event or a free online seminar. Doing so helps you keep in touch with referrers and boost top-of-mind awareness. Likewise, hosting public, valuable activities will help build your authority and trust among potential customers.”

Don’t be afraid to ask your clients for referrals if the need arises

On their own, many clients will not always refer your business to others, even if you did a great job for them. Sometimes, you need to nudge them by asking for a referral directly — even when you have an organic referral engine in place.
Understandably, asking for a referral can be overwhelming, especially if you’re doing it for the first time. To make this process easier for you, follow the steps in our simple guide to asking for referrals without being pushy.