Word-of-mouth referral is one of the best strategies to employ to keep your service business full. The best way to manifest these referrals is by creating "cheerleader clients", or those clients who think you're the greatest thing since sliced bread and eagerly and enthusiastically tell everyone they meet about you and your services. The one trait that all of my clients seem to have in common is a sincere desire to help others. They're all fairly well connected, and when someone in their networking circle talks about their frustrations with their Internet marketing efforts, my client recommends me right away. Not all of the referrals are ones that I take, as many times I don't have the time to take on another client or I don't think it's a good fit for some reason, and I refer them on.
The part I do play in this referral piece, however, is in how I treat my clients, which makes them enthusiastic about working with me and willing to tell everyone they know about me. The traits I possess that turn my clients into "raving fans" are: 1. Being in a true long-term collaborative partnership with my clients. I've gotten to know them and their businesses well and serve as another set of eyes and ears for them. Anytime that I am reading something that I think one of them might use, I forward it to that client, with a "I thought you might be interested" note attached.
I occasionally even do this for clients with whom I'm no longer working. 2. Practicing the "Golden Rule". I treat my clients the way I would want to be treated as a business owner, which means if I know of a better/cheaper/faster way of doing something, I tell them about it.
The final decision still belongs to my client, but I know I have saved my clients lots of time and money over the years and earned their undying gratitude in the process. 3. Taking initiative in my relationship with clients. I'm an INFP in Myers-Briggs terms, which means I'm a big picture person. Seeing what comes next as a natural progression of things comes very easily to me, and this gift enables me to help my clients clearly map out the road ahead.
Keeping my clients organized and accountable is of great benefit to them, and having discussions about what comes next helps them in their planning processes. 4. Never telling my clients "no". If my client asks me to do something and I either don't have time to do it or don't how to do it, I try not to counter with a "no" but instead with an option of a later time to do something, another resource they can use to get it down, or an offer to use my contacts to find out how to get it done.
To the point that you're able, try to never tell a client "no". 5. Being an expert problem-solver and idea generator. One of the things I love to do is brainstorm with my clients, and I tell them that I'm not offended if they don't take my ideas if they're not offended that I keep offering them. Over the years, I've probably had as many ideas rejected as accepted, but it continues to be a fun experience for me, and my clients benefit as well.
6. Playing to my gifts and talents. I've come to realize that there are things I absolutely love to do as a coach and an online business manager -- anything to do with Internet marketing and writing, along with the opportunity to solve problems and generate ideas. I stick with what I do well and what I enjoy, and that's where I shine with the client, so the payoff for me comes when the clients refer me to friends like themselves who need very results for their businesses. It's like a never-ending circle of referrals for me, and who can argue with that? To create your own cheerleader clients, ask your clients who absolutely adore you to send out a letter to their contact database.
Offer to draft this letter, outlining the benefits that the client has experienced as a result of working with you and how his/her business or life has changed as a result. You ask the client to sign off on the letter and to provide his/her contact database, and you pay for the printing, sending, and mailing of the letter. This has worked extraordinarily well with colleagues of mine, and I think you'll begin to see the magic happen if you request this of your clients.
Copyright (c) 2007 Donna Gunter.
Online Business Resource Queen (TM) and Online Business Coach Donna Gunter helps independent service professionals learn how to automate their businesses, leverage their expertise on the Internet, and get more clients online. To claim your FREE gift, TurboCharge Your Online Marketing Toolkit, visit her site at www.OnlineBizU.com. Ask Donna an Internet Marketing question at www.AskDonnaGunter.com.