Referrals from satisfied customers are fuel to your business's engine. Yet statistics show that the average satisfied customer tells only five other people. You can increase those numbers by giving clients an incentive to talk about you.

First, create a referral program and immediately enroll every person who patronizes your business. Introduce your clients to the program through a letter sent out a few days after they're served by your firm. Explain in the letter that your business is built on providing quality service, which leads to repeat and referral business. Include some business cards for them to distribute.

Second, add some pizzazz to your program with incentives. A percentage discount on future purchases or a commission fee on leads that turn into actual sales are tried-and-true offerings. A few other real-life examples:

  • Host an annual referral drive. One bootstrapper offered $1,000 to the customer who brought in the most referrals during a given period.
  • Surprise your best customers when they least expect it. A guerrilla marketer mails lottery tickets to her best customer every time the jackpot hits $5 million. This unusual gesture generates a lot of goodwill and keeps customers talking about her.

Third, continually nurture your program. Pay attention to what your customers say about their interests and needs, and use this information to create new and useful incentives.

Remember: what you're giving away in incentives pales in comparison to what you're gaining in additional business. Give your clients something to get excited about, and they'll get excited about referring people to you.

Copyright © 1999 Kimberly Stansell. All Rights Reserved.