When I left the car dealership, my sales guy had put a little stack of his business cards in the glove compartment.
“You’re going to get attention in this car, and when you do, I’d love it if you’d share my card.”
My shiny Z3 convertible has now been replaced by a minivan, but the lesson stuck with me. (And I did end up handing out a few of those cards.)
That salesman had fulfilled my car dreams, and in my moment of euphoria, made it easy for me to share the love.
Are you doing that with your customers?
Some people are afraid to make the “ask,” thinking that it might harm their relationship or might feel weird.
I don’t know about you, but I LOVE sharing useful tips with my friends and colleagues. If there’s a technology I’m excited about, or a new movie, or a fantastic local restaurant, I enjoy spreading the word.
But there is a right way and a wrong way to ask for that referral. Let’s start with the “don’t go there” list.
The Wrong Way to Ask for Referrals
Asking before the customer has had a chance to use the product or service. It’s a waste of time to ask me to Tweet out your app before I’ve even finished downloading it. I value my relationships too much to blindly recommend something. (Yet this is done all the time.)
Monetizing the referrals right off the bat. If I feel a strong relationship with a brand, and they immediately try to make me an affiliate or network marketer for them, I almost feel insulted. Sometimes, tangible rewards can actually demotivate people who already like you.
Making me blast out emails to my contact list in an online form. If I want to email my friends, I’ll compose my own message, thank you very much. I don’t need to be strong-armed into giving up my friends’ email addresses.
The Right Way to Ask for Referrals
Catching me when I’m at maximum happiness, or I’ve just complimented you. This is the ideal time to ask me for a referral, for a written review, or a customer interview. Go for it!
Giving me a brief, memorable phrase to connect with you and your service. I need to fill my mental Rolodex with names attached to simple categories. If my friend is in need of a PR agency, I know I can send them to XYZ Agency. If someone is looking for a freelance business writer, I know so-and-so is the right person. What’s your category?
Considering the context and your relationship with the person you’re asking. The looser the relationship, the simpler the “ask” should be. There’s definitely a sliding scale between asking someone to forward your newsletter to a friend and asking them to give you their friend’s email address or phone number.
Being judicious with your requests. Treat your stored-up goodwill like “Whuffie” gold, and use it sparingly, when it will have the most benefit. Don’t hassle your customers constantly to write reviews and share your content.
Referrals can be a wonderful way to expand your business. Are you asking for them?
Image via Flickr CC: Scott Cresswell
I’d never really thought about asking for referrals. I guess I thought it would be rude or something – I mean, I figured a referral is something someone should do of their own volition, and not because you asked them to. But I also suppose there’s no harm in asking, and if you’ve been good to them, they probably won’t mind giving you a referral at all, and only hadn’t because it hadn’t occurred to them until you mentioned it.
Yep I pretty much just convinced myself I need to start doing this! Haha.
I completely hear you. I also used to feel that it might be “imposing” or “rude” to point blank ask for a referral. However, if you flip it around and think about how you’d feel if a brand or a professional you really liked asked you for a referral, then the answer becomes obvious. Thanks for your thoughtful comment!