One of the biggest challenges facing most small and midsized companies is developing a continuous source for new clients. A thriving pipeline of quality leads is the lifeblood of successful businesses, regardless of their size. If you’re struggling to maintain a healthy pipeline and are wondering about how to find new clients, maybe you should check the sources feeding new leads into your company. I would venture to guess that the richest source is probably referrals—other people and companies referring potential clients to your business based on the quality of the work that you do.
The idea of finding new clients through referrals isn't new. But where I see many small businesses fail in finding new clients through referrals is by not having a clear-cut strategy around how their referral program works. Approaching referrals in a haphazard, unfocused way will most likely lead to haphazard, unfocused results.
To put finding new clients through referrals at the top of your lead-generation plan, invest the necessary time and money into developing a smart referral program. These five ideas may help your business build a robust referral program.
Find New Clients by Establishing a Referral Process and Program That Aligns With Your Company
This is an important part of your business strategy, so take the time to develop the specific details. Who do you ask for referrals? When do you ask them? How often do you ask them? How do you follow up with the referral and the person who gave you the referral? What are you looking for in a strong referral? Starting with these questions can assist you in building a strong foundation for your referral program.
Get Buy-in From Your Employees
Given the weight of a referral from a customer or partner, it is imperative that every employee is fully invested in the referral process and program. Every person on your team, no matter their role, needs to fully understand how the program works and how it helps your company find new clients. Never assume there are employees who cannot generate a referral. New clients can come from any part of your company!
Track All Referrals
This is the critical—and often overlooked—piece of your referral strategy. Establish a system to track referrals (a simple spreadsheet will do). Where are your referrals coming from? How often are you finding new clients through referrals? What kind of business is generated? These data points can enable you to focus your time and energy on the best referral sources for finding new clients.
Reward All of Your Referrals Who Help Find New Clients
Set up a rewards program for your referral sources. How will you thank current clients who refer business to your company? How will you reward referrals from employees? My advice is to offer two rewards. The first reward is given for simply generating a lead; the second reward comes when the prospect turns into a new client for the company. To keep a steady supply of referrals coming in, reward the activity as well as the outcome.
Continuously Hone Your Referral Program to Find New Clients
There are few referral programs that allow you to “set it and forget it.” In order to achieve ongoing success, you may want to consider regularly evaluating what’s working and what is not working. (Hint: This is why I suggest you do all that tracking of referrals for your business.) Don’t worry about killing one part of your referral strategy that is failing. It very well could free up more time to work on the strategies that are successful and help you find new clients for your business.
With the right referral strategy in place, your company can develop a steady stream of high-quality prospects flowing into your business, reducing the pressure of a constant push to generate new-client business.
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