Referrals are a relatively easy way to expand your shop’s account list. Yet, many business people shy away from this form of business development because they feel awkward asking for help from their customers.
Don’t be one of them!
Business has been built on connections since the beginning. Here are five ways you can leverage this time-tested approach to grow your operations.
Your existing customers are your best source of new business. Whether it’s connecting you to fellow engineers at their company or passing along your information to a friend in need of a widget, your customers represent a near limitless source of potential leads for your shop. Here are a few easy ways to start the conversation with your existing customers.
After a successful job, follow up with a note, thanking your customer for their business. Be sure to let them know you’re looking to grow. Kindly ask for an introduction to a co-worker, friend, or other contact, or have them pass along your information.
If a referral comes through with new work, follow up with the original customer with a thank you note and consider offering them a reward in the form of a gift card, branded company swag to keep your business top-of-mind, or a discount on future work.
LinkedIn has become the go-to social networking platform for B2B decision makers. It’s focus on professionals makes it a great place to connect with your existing customers as well as find new ones. LinkedIn is a great place to send those thank you notes mentioned above, ask for introductions, and make strategic connections with future customers.
To fully leverage LinkedIn for your shop, you’ll want to do two things: build or update your company page and flesh out your personal page. If you’re new to LinkedIn, or want some insider tips, we’ll go into more detail in a future blog post about fully utilizing this platform for your shop. If you’re already on LinkedIn, make sure to connect with your existing customer base and let them know you’re looking to grow your business.
“Social proof” represents the confidence of your customers in you and your business, and the likelihood of referring your or introducing you to potentially new customers. A key to building your social proof is to share evidence and examples of your success as a shop.
To start building your social proof, ask your happy customers if they would be willing to share their story on your site, either in the form of a simple testimonial or a more fully-featured case study. When you receive these testimonials, be sure to share them on your social media channels, especially LinkedIn!
You’ll also want to curate a short list of your best customers that can act as references for you and your shop should a new customer want to talk to them before working with you. This is especially important if you’re a smaller shop looking to take on some work for larger businesses who might not be immediately confident in working with a smaller supplier.
If you want to take your referrals to the next level, consider installing some form of a referral program. These programs are a dime a dozen. A lot of companies have built a structured referral program that offers incentives for returning customers and connections that lead to contracts.
To start building your own, check out what your competitors are doing or have a look at a referral program you might participate in and take notes. Be sure to ask your customers what incentives they would like and would encourage them to refer more.
Consider your shop’s internal capacity to take on and manage a referral program. If you don’t feel you have the capacity, there are plenty of online platforms that can make this process less time consuming and easier to maintain.
Those who refer, get referred. A great way to build trust and confidence with your customers is to help them with your own referrals for their business. Ask your customers and vendors about the customers they seek, listen closely, and make relevant connections or introductions. By being an active referrer, you're showing your worth to your customers beyond just being an amazing machinist or fabricator.
The need for remote selling and networking is on the rise due to COVID-19 and making connections is more important than ever for a competitive advantage. Building a loyal network of fans and friends who want you to be successful is key as prospective customers are more likely to trust their connections than they are your marketing.