When was the last time someone sent a referral your way?
If you can’t tell me today, yesterday, or this week, then you are leaving money on the table and not utilizing a low-cost opportunity to easily grow your business.
Nearly (yikes) two decades ago, I started the Center 4 Learning, a tutoring business, in the fabulous Florida Keys.
I, a fresh-faced English teacher, went house-to-house in my bright yellow VW Beetle, tutoring anything from math to writing, to test prep, to organizational skills.
My business started with one referral.
The mother of a student told another mother, of a struggling senior, that I might be able to help with essays and college applications.
Within two months my part-time, after-school tutoring hobby took off and I had ten students. Within another month, I had twenty, and in way-less-than six months, I was making more as a tutor than I was paid as a full-time teacher.
You might be asking, what does this have to do with helping me get referrals?
Everything. My entire business started and grew by referral only. That should show you the power of a single referral.
I had no advertising budget and no online presence.
My clients came strictly from word-of-mouth. One mother talked to another mother, who spoke to another mother and within 6 months I had more students (clients) than I could handle.
A good problem to have, right?
Referrals should be the lifeblood of your business. No matter what service or niche you’re in, the best way to gain a new client is from a happy one you are already serving.
And I know this works in other industries as well as tutoring, coaching, mentoring as I use these same principles to have a referral-based, wait-list only for my 100% occupied, 100% of the time side-hustle in property management.
So, yep, referrals rock.
For tutoring and for rentals and for anything you can do…so here’s a quick tip; don’t talk yourself out of trying the referrals method because you believe your business is unique or your situation is different.
Here’s the thing. We all think that at one point or another. And it simply is a get-in-your-own-way headspace. So snap out of it so you can rock referrals today.
You might be unique and special but getting referrals for your business can be simple and easy if you allow me to show you 7 simple steps.
Let’s dive into those seven strategies now.
Seven Tried & True Steps To Open the Flood Gates On Referrals
OPEN YOUR MOUTH & BE VISIBLE
Start telling people what you are doing and who your ideal client is.
Remember you have to be visible so they REMEMBER you when it’s time to hire you and/or refer you.
However, there is a way to do this without shouting all about YOU from the rooftops and it’s a communication skill called F.O.R.M. that I learned from my mentor, Dani Johnson, years ago. While I was already well versed at doing this, she was able to show me a method - F.O.R.M. - that is step-by-step simple.
Here’s the quick summary on F.O.R.M. - ask about others first and share about you last. Meaning, the conversation shouldn’t start and end all about you.
GET TO KNOW YOUR CURRENT & FUTURE CLIENTS
This might sound silly but this is important. When you talk with a potential client take notes. Remember the little things.
I am a firm believer in Relationship First and Business Will Follow.
I learned this from my own mentor and it’s served me well. It takes what I want out of the equation and puts the focus on the client/student/parent – where it should be.
IMMEDIATELY SEND A HANDWRITTEN THANK YOU NOTE TO EVERY NEW CLIENT
Whether you have 5 to write or 55, the power of this one step is awesome and will make you memorable.
Give this task to an assistant or hire a reliable high school student with great penmanship to come in once or twice a week and write those thank you cards. All you have to do is sign them.
[Side note: I have recently discovered a cool video service that allows me to record a private, quick video message from my phone and email directly to the new client. This is super cool, very personal and is a wonderful touch in place of a card perhaps. Especially if you have an online or digital business.]
SEND A HANDWRITTEN BIRTHDAY CARD
Be sure to include something personal about their child, their business, their dreams, or goals.
Go back to the notes you took when you were “getting to know your client” as mentioned in Number 2 above.
EDIFY YOUR CLIENT - ALWAYS. ALWAYS. ALWAYS.
Always speak LIFE into them, their actions, and their abilities.
This breeds trust and loyalty while building confidence. Confidence in you and in themselves.
You want confident clients/students because confidence breeds success.
ASK FOR THE REFERRAL
Yep! Ask for it. I ask for testimonials, too. And people give them.
Get used to asking the question: What are three things you liked about what you just (saw/heard/watched/did)?
Those answers are your testimonial.
Then you can follow up with: Is there anyone you know who may be in need of ________?
Simply fill-in-the-blank with what you have to offer. In my case, I would have said “tutoring”.
NEW-CLIENT-FROM-A-REFERRAL EQUALS REWARD
Send everyone who refers you a “Thank You” Card – yep, handwritten by your intern or high school hire with your signature.
This implies you start asking the question of every new client: How did you hear about us?
Now my rule of thumb is this: Card. Card. Gift-Card.
When I receive two referrals from one person, resulting in two new clients for me, I send a Thank You card each time. On the 3rd referral that earns me a client, I send a handwritten note edifying them and include a gift card to Amazon or Starbucks or, if known, a store or restaurant they love that I learned about.
If I took really good notes, and I know of a book they wanted to read, or a movie they wanted to see or something specific, I may even get gift-giving specific.
This matters. This is amazing. This will keep you in their minds-eye long after they are no longer a client, but hear of others who may need your services.
Now create your own simple system using these 7 pointers. Don’t make it complicated to start. Take what works and implement it.
Leave a comment below. I’d love it if you shared with me the three steps you will take to immediately get your next referral!
Seriously. I read all comments, so give this post a heart now and share it on social if you feel it may help someone who’s looking for a referral or two.
And remember, learn something today you can share with someone tomorrow.