Your best 25 clients?
Even your best 10 clients?
Naturally, we’d all welcome these new customers, and we’d all make more money if this was the case. Well...have you asked your best clients for these referrals? As simple as it may sound, very few businesses have a standing referral-generation process in place! This process can be as simple as just asking one simple question: “Who do you know who would also benefit from our lawn service?”
This article is meant to be a basic primer on how to capture one of the most lucrative and easily-accessed market segments out there – the referral market.
Rule #1 for gaining referrals: give extraordinary service.
Ask yourself this: would you rather have a satisfied employee, or a loyal employee? Would you rather your spouse be satisfied, or loyal? There’s a big difference between loyal and satisfied isn’t there?!
Loyal clients will give referrals; satisfied clients might not. To build loyal clients, we need to provide extraordinary service. ‘Extraordinary’ service is just ‘ordinary’ service plus that little ‘extra,’ that extra mile that means so much to clients in today’s business world. This above-and-beyond are actions such as: a personal phone call in place of an email, a handwritten ‘thank-you’ card, a personal visit while you’re in the area to drop off next year’s price schedule or a complimentary coupon booklet, or spending an additional 5 minutes to clean up branches from a portion of the client’s yard that perhaps isn’t a part of the service arrangement but that you know they’d like to see cleaned-up. This uncommon level of service doesn’t necessarily require a lot of time or effort, just a thoughtful “how can I better serve my clients today?” mindset. When we give extraordinary service, our clients aren’t just satisfied, they become loyal. Loyal clients will jump at the chance to give a referral because they know that whomever they refer us to will receive the top-notch service that they’re accustomed to.
Rule #2 for gaining referrals: ask!
Almost no matter how much a client likes your services, almost no matter how great someone’s lawn looks or how much time or money they’ve saved by working with your company, relatively few people will refer clients on their own initiative. They need a little nudge from us. We need to ask the referral question. The more naturally, and more mixed-in-with-regular-conversation that we ask the referral question, the better our results will be. Even when asked bluntly and clumsily, however, the worst the client can say is “not really,” and we might be surprised by how many of them respond with, “well, actually, I do know someone who might be interested…”
Ask this question often, create your own phrases that fit your business and your own personal style so that asking becomes natural. Be tactfully persistent but not overbearing, and be sure to follow up when someone replies that they need to “think about it.” Also, keep in mind that certain customers will not give referrals no matter how pleased they are with your service, and that others will give you names even if they’re only satisfied and not yet loyal.
One more tip when it comes to asking: be specific and mention the unique ways you’ve serviced clients’ lawns. For example, “Who else do you know whose lawn is as difficult to mow and as thick as yours?” or “Who else do you know who’s got hills and uneven turf in their lawn, like you do?” This type of specific question will not only remind them that their lawn is tough and time-consuming to mow because of all the hills, and thank goodness they have your service that takes care of it, but it will also get them thinking about specific people they know.
Many successful landscaping businesses offer incentives to their clients who give them referrals, such as $10 off a service, or for every certain number of clients referred they receive a free service. Such incentives aren’t essential, but can be very lucrative to the business when used properly! To make the best of these types of incentives, make sure that the primary focus is on the customer’s referral receiving stand-out service, and that the reward for the client is of secondary focus. Some referral-focused companies prefer to not even mention the incentive until after the referral has been given. This approach can even garner an additional referral or two when the client gets that credit applied to his account or that $10 bill in his hand. Remember to deliver tangible, hard-copy referral rewards in-person, and notify the client with a personal phone call if the gift is non-tangible, such as a credit to their account. As you give extraordinary service and ask, ask, ask, you will build your customer base and your bottom line.
Who will you ask for a referral today?