Word-of-mouth is a powerful marketing tool for independent consultants—when potential clients hear about your qualifications directly from people they know and trust, it lends credibility to your reputation. But there’s an art to asking for and receiving referrals.
Follow these five tactics to go about getting client referrals and recommendations in the right way.
Impress a client with your talent, skills, and professionalism before asking for a recommendation. Some independent consultants and small business owners ask for referrals shortly after landing a new client. Unfortunately, this method can often come across as pushy or presumptuous—personality traits that don’t make for a good first impression. Your client will feel much more comfortable recommending your work once they have concrete, positive feedback they can share with their contacts.
When it comes to relationship management, timing is key. Asking for a favor at an inappropriate moment, such as when you hand the client a bill, can lower the chances of them following through with your request. If a client comments on how well the project is going and how pleased they are with the results, this could be the perfect opportunity to thank them for the compliment, and mention that any recommendations would be appreciated. On the other hand, if you’ve fallen behind on a deadline or hit a snag in the project, wait to ask for a referral until you’ve resolved the problem.
If your consultancy provides a product or service that is likely to create repeat customers, offering incentives in exchange for putting in a good word can be an excellent motivator. Incentives could include a discount or credit for each successful referral a client sends your way. Expanding your network is typically well worth the cost of discounting services for a repeat client.
Appreciation can go a long way towards maintaining a strong relationship. If you receive an endorsement from a current or former client, take the time to send a hand-written thank you note. Doing so lets them know you appreciate their actions, and they may be more likely to recommend your services in the future.
The direct approach of asking clients for recommendations can be extremely effective, but it’s not the only method. Proactively sending referrals or leaving detailed reviews for your clients can be motivation for them to return the favor. If you don’t have specific contacts for referrals, leaving a positive endorsement on social media sites such as LinkedIn or Yelp can have a similar effect.