Use Referrals to Build Business

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Referrals are when current customers tell non-customers positive things about you and your horse operation. This is often referred to as "word of mouth" advertising. But this doesn't have to be random; you can enlist the help of these people to give you referrals that you can use on your website, in brochures, on social media and even in advertisements. You don't have to be a superstar to get referrals, and the person giving you a referral doesn't have to be one either. Some of the best referrals come from people who are just like the clients you currently have. If you are building your business, you also want your customers to personally refer you and your stable to other horse owners.

What is the best way to get referrals that can work for your business?

First, make sure you have satisfied customers. If people aren’t already saying good things about you (and your business) to you and to their friends, then you need to start with better services, facilities and customer relations.

Assuming that you do a great job and all your customers are satisfied, there still will be a few who are your “best” customers. These are people (as mentioned before) who are talking about what a great job you do even when you aren’t around. These "brand evangelists" are the first people you should target to get referrals that you can use to build business.

Simply ask them if they will give you a short referral that you can use. Even better, ask them to go on your website (if you allow comments) or your social media and say nice things about you there. It would be even better if they go on their own social media channels and say something nice about you (including how to find you).

For instance, it’s okay to ask a good customer to give you a recommendation or endorse one of your skills on LinkedIn. It’s good business to ask your friends on Facebook to share information about you or news that you have. (“My trainer Susie Smith just launched her new website for her training business! Check it out here www.smithtraining.com.”)

On Twitter, you need to make sure your customers are following you (ask them to do that) and send out Tweets to your followers that are Re-Tweetable!

You also need to focus on your other satisfied customers who might need a little guidance to become brand evangelists and give you great referrals. Often even your best customers don’t think about “sharing” you and your story with their friends and colleagues. So your first task is to get them to do that. Your second task is to make sure they let you know so you can follow up!

For example let’s say you are a trainer and Jane is one of your best clients. If Jane attends shows nearly every weekend, manages four shows a year, is the president of the local dressage group, and she loves you and your services. Jane is a prime candidate to become a brand evangelist for you.

However, keep in mind that Jane is always busy. You need to respect her time when you ask her to help you. (But as the old saying goes, if you want something done, ask someone who is busy.) Even having said that, the easier you make it for Jane to help you, the more likely she is to do it.

Here are four tips to help you help Jane refer you to other horse owners:

  1. If her friends aren’t your customers, ask her to set up a meeting with some of them so they can learn more about you and what you do (stable, training, rehab, clinics). You need to determine what time works best for Jane and her friends. Bring snacks or sandwiches and drinks, or better yet invite them to your facility and serve light hors d'oeuvres or sandwiches and drinks. It’s important to have Jane there so her friends can see she supports you. And often Jane will be active as your brand evangelist during that meeting. Having other good clients there can help solidify your relationship with them, and allow them to learn to be brand evangelists.
  2. Give Jane a stack of business cards that she can hand out at her next horse show or dressage meeting.
  3. Volunteer to be a speaker at one of the dressage group’s meetings.
  4. Ask Jane to give you names and contact information for two of her horse-owning friends who might be interested in your services.

Referrals are a great way to build business, and they are a great way to have a significant dialogue with your current customers. Hearing what they value most about you and your business can help you become better at satisfying other customers.