There is no doubt that referrals add credibility to your business and are one of the best ways to get new customers. But how do you ask for referrals for your business? And what is the best way to get the most traction out of referrals once you have them?

To understand the credibility of referrals, consider the following scenarios. As a consumer, what are you more likely to believe?

  1. Mario’s Pizzeria’s website claims that its customers love the restaurant and that they always deliver on time.
  2. A self-proclaimed frequent customer of Mario’s writes a Google review praising the restaurant for excellent customer service and timely delivery. They may even give details about the delivery person or quality of the pie.

My bet is that you chose “B.” Like many consumers, you are likely skeptical about how companies portray themselves. Reading reviews from actual customers is a much more reliable way for consumers to make informed decisions about where they spend their money.

Consider these stats:

  • 90% of all B2B buying decisions are based on peer recommendations, according to Influitive
  • 84% of buyers now begin the buying process with a referral
  • 47% of top performers ask for referrals consistently, versus only 26% of non-top performers

Doing good work and crossing your fingers that your clients will take it upon themselves to boost your business is a fool’s game. You must actively solicit referrals and testimonials — they could make a big difference for your business. Here are four ways to ask for and use reviews.

Reach Out to Clients and Colleagues

Don’t be shy about reaching out to current and former customers to ask for their endorsement and referral. Eighty-three percent of customers would be happy to provide a referral. Yet, 57% of respondents in a recent study say that they request fewer than one referral from customers per month. Forty percent say they rarely ask!

Make asking for referrals an ingrained practice once you complete a successful project. Send an email or physical letter to colleagues who don’t compete with your business to ask for a referral and explain what you could do in return.

Implement a Formal or Informal Referral Program

What are the ways you can incentivize your clients and colleagues to refer your business? If you are in a position to offer an incentive, do it. Incentives work!
Consider:

  • 5%-10% payment to referrer of project
  • 15% off future services
  • In-kind services

Ask for Testimonials/Reviews

Eighty-nine percent of B2B marketers think that testimonials are the most effective content marketing tactic, according to Ironpaper. Ask elated customers to provide a testimonial for your business. Make it a standard operating procedure to ask for a testimonial every time you complete a project or major milestone. Where can you use reviews and testimonials? The options are endless.

  • Request through LinkedIn
  • Provide easy links to Google, Yelp, Facebook (depending on your business)
  • Post on your website
  • Repost on social channels

Write Case Studies

While they can be a bit more time-consuming, case studies are an excellent way to display your work from your client’s perspective. Case studies set up the client’s challenge and the solution you provided while demonstrating actionable items that can be deployed by companies finding themselves in similar situations.

Typical case study formats are as follows:

  • Introduction: Setting up the situation
  • Challenge: Presenting the business challenge
  • Solution: Detailing the solution your company provided to your client

Additional Advice

  • Strike while the iron’s hot. Ask for the referral right after the service or work is completed. 
  • Get it on video! Videos capture more attention than a graphic or text. A smartphone camera is effective for capturing a sound bite of a happy customer on the spot. For a more highly produced video of an especially good testimonial, hire a production team.
  • Write a draft testimonial. Repeat what your customer has already said about you. Example: In an email, a client writes “you guys have the fastest response time of anyone we’ve ever worked with.” Simply reply and ask if you can use that quote on your website. You’ve made it easy on them and you instantly have a strong testimonial.

Your company works hard. You do great work. You keep your customers happy. Don’t keep it a secret! You’ve earned the praise, now use it to grow.

Principal & Co-founder at ThinkWell Consulting | lauren@thinkwellconsulting.com

Lauren Yates is a principal and co-founder of ThinkWell Consulting, LLC. Here, she writes about consulting, entrepreneurship, and digital marketing.

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