If you've been in business for a while, you've learned to appreciate the value of word-of-mouth advertising. It costs nothing and brings in high quality prospects, already sold on your product or service.
Aaah, if only it could happen more often...
It can. With a little planning and a slightly different focus in your marketing efforts, you can develop a steady stream of predictable referrals, week after week, month after month. But first let's understand the difference between two different types of referrals.
You see, one of them just happens. The other is orchestrated. Although subtle, the difference is dramatic.
Let's start with the basics first. Where do referrals come from? From satisfied customers, of course! Or, better said, from those customers whose expectations we exceed. Yes, but what are they satisfied with? Heck, that is precisely what you have to figure out.
You have to realize that every business transaction consists of two parts. One is the product/service. Your customers evaluate quality, features, benefits, price, and how this all compares with your competition.
The second part is the experience. Customers will evaluate how easy, how fast, convenient, satisfying and how *pleasurable* the total experience of doing business with you is for them.
Do you know any businesses that deliver an inferior product, yet are able to survive...maybe even do remarkably well? Chances are that what's lost in the quality of product is somehow compensated in the quality of experience. And I'm sure you know some businesses -- maybe even yours-- which deliver superb quality products or service, but somehow are not able to attract as many customers as they could. Quite possibly, the process of buying needs some work.
Imagine what would happen if everyone doing business with you felt compelled to talk to others about your business! To make that happen you'll need a system that delivers...and delivers consistently. For starters, find out how you are doing in the area of quality. Develop a simple survey to measure both, your product and customer's experience. Rate different aspects of them on a scale:
1 - for good,
2 - for excellent
3 - for exceeding expectation
And make sure that you provide space for comments and examples so you know what specifically needs improving. Then ask your customers for evaluation.
To get ongoing referrals you can bank on instead of the occasional lead generated by worth-of-mouth advertising, you need to score consistently "3" in both: product/service and experience.
Don't fret if your first surveys come back with lackluster results. They're sure to point to some areas that need improvement. Make the improvements, then ask your customers for their feedback again. You can try another survey, or better yet a small focus group.
Most likely, your customers will jump at the opportunity to provide you with feedback - they will easily recognize and appreciate your efforts and that counts a lot.
From now on you will be on the roll and to get you started on building your business through referrals.. Good luck!
Copyright c 1999 Wanda Loskot
Wanda Loskot is writer/speaker and Professional Business Coach
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