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Referrals: Your Best Clients Yet

| Blog | February 1, 2011

Referrals: Your Best Clients

This insightful article is from our Premiere Sponsor, Sequoia Legal Marketing, who develop and market search-engine friendly websites for the highly competitive legal industry.

Getting your first client will seem like the hardest challenge when starting a new business. By the time you launch your business, you should already have the word out among family and friends to let them
know you will be looking for new clients. Don’t just ‘hint’ that you want clients – ask for a referral! Consider writing a letter or hosting a dinner or cocktail party for your friends and neighbors. Let them know what service or product you offer and consider giving a “friends and family” discount to those who refer you new clients and for the new clients themselves. Customers who are likely to buy your product or service will undoubtedly at least try your business if they have a financial incentive to do so.

Referrals: Your Best Clients

When you are servicing your first clients, remember that each relationship you build will bring you more business. Let your customers know that you appreciate their business. If a client offers you a compliment on your start-up, say “thank you, I hope you’ll let your friends know you enjoyed your service here.” By planting this seed, people are more likely to remember your business the next time a friend asks for a recommendation on a great new restaurant or for low-priced printing services.

By continually going above and beyond for your clients, you will keep them coming back – and a returning customer is much cheaper than always looking for new clients. Here are some tips for helping your start-up stand out from your competition;

  • Remember and use your customers’ name in person and on the telephone.
  • Surprise a repeat customer once in a while with a small “free-be,” such as a free drink (for the restaurateur), a few extra prints (for a
    photo printing shop) or a basket of annuals (for your regular landscaping client).
  • Send personalized holiday cards, perhaps even a gift basket to your top clients.
  • Ask your customers how you can improve. Don’t waste their time with a survey – Ask them on the way out of your shop and in person if
    they have found everything they needed and let them know you welcome their feedback.
  • Educate your consumer. If your product is more expensive than your competition, make sure each potential buyer knows why yours is worth
    more. Is there a warranty? Is it made in the USA? Is it of a better quality? Don’t expect your buyer to understand or know why one product
    or service is superior.

“A happy customer tells one friend, an unhappy customer tells everybody”

Make Your Customers Happy!

Take customer service seriously, all the time. If a customer is unhappy, don’t expect your hourly employees to care enough to retain that customer; handle the situation yourself and make sure they walk away happy. In some cases, this means taking a financial loss. If an appliance wasn’t installed properly – get it done right. They might not return to you in the future, but it is much less likely they will tell anyone NOT to consider your service.

Here’s one woman’s story of great customer service at the apple store ; Long story short, they took her laptop in for repair and she was told it would be ready in 5-7 days. When she called back to check in after 7 days, they found the laptop still hadn’t even been shipped out. To both parties dismay, it would be over 2 weeks before the laptop could be serviced and returned. The store GAVE the woman a brand new laptop and a heartfelt apology. Not only did Apple retain a customer for life, they also received an amazing amount of PR for the stunt (Yahoo! shows over 4,000 links to her story on the incident).

If you have or plan to have employees at your new business, make sure to carefully instruct them on how to prevent and deal with customer complaints and how to retain clients. In today’s society of automated answering centers and online shopping, you can bet that building a relationship with your client is more important than ever.

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16 Responses to “Referrals: Your Best Clients Yet”

  1. Great reminder, we could all utilize our personal networks better in order to get more leads or sales.

  2. This is so true, I put up my blog design services page only two days ago, never even promoted it and already have 4 orders from recommendations from past clients that noticed I put the page up!

  3. I remember reading once that a happy customer will tell 1 friend, but a unhappy customer will tell 7 friends- something to remember when deciding if that once client/customer is worth the effort!

  4. I recently put a question in my ‘submit a letter’ form because of this post- thank you by the way- and it simply asked how did you hear about us? Many say google but I am finding a LOT of the new letters being submitted are saying it is because a friend told them about the site. I would have never known how many of those writers were there because of other writers without this post!

  5. I believe the main reason we had to shut down our (brick and mortar) scrapbook store was because of a lack of attention in this area, I was so busy with paperwork and inventory I didn’t train or supervise staff on this and later I find out that when a customer had a complaint they literally brushed it away, sometimes being rude and seeming to have the mindset that it’s just one customer….

    but when your business is so niche targeted the customer base is not large enough to loose even one, and by the end I seemed to only have a few left that were not pushed away by my employees… lesson learned for sure.

  6. That apple example is powerful, with social media today a blogger or facebooker can make a HUGE impact on a companies PR… great article!

  7. I am in the process of planning my new business, it will be a mix of online and an actual store- sadly this is one thing I had yet to put into my plans, I appreciate the reminder! That would have been a possibly fatal oversight!

  8. I love the personalized card idea! I will have to start using that at my diner! Thanks!

  9. Love these tips- I had not thought of how much a customers experience could affect future sales from other customers!

  10. The ‘planting the seed’ idea is great, I always assumed they would tell their friends anyway, but your right, they need to hear it to think of it.

  11. Training the employees is key- I know a business owner here in town that has NOT done that and the employee is always talking ‘down’ to people- it is sad to see it happen

  12. I really like it when businesses offer an incentive, I will do almost anything for money or freebies these days!

  13. There are a few businesses here in town I refuse to shop at- either because I had bad service, or someone told me about their bad service- a good impression is key- down to the minute details of having a clean bathroom and clean employees

  14. Wow, apple did a great job at averting that crisis, it could have easily gone the other way and she could have written a bad post that got twice as much attention!

  15. The name has always been a problem for me, I run a restaurant so we don’t always have a chance to get names- let alone remember them- any tips on that?

  16. I don’t sell my friends and family!

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