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2 Secrets to Maximum Referrals There's more than one way to generate customer referrals. Here are 2 smart tips that can help increase your referral rate.

By Shaun Buck

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


In No B.S. Guide to Maximum Referrals & Customer Retention, business coach and consultant Dan S. Kennedy and customer retention expert Shaun Buck present a systematic approach to help you keep, cultivate, and multiply customers so you replace income uncertainty with reliable income through retention and referrals. In this edited excerpt, Buck describes two different ways to make getting referrals easy.

A mentor of mine, Bill Glazer, once said, "The single easiest way to double any business is for each customer to bring a customer." Take a second to imagine what your business would look like if you could get every customer to bring a customer. Imagine the positive impact that would have on your business.

But we need to make the process of referring easy, both for the person giving the referral and for the person acting on the referral. One of the best ways to do this is to offer information that your customer or referral partner can give out that allows you to control the story being told about you while being helpful to the person receiving the information.

Many times this information comes in the form of a free report, white paper, or even a book. Information is much more interesting than a sales presentation to the average person. Customers are far more willing to give their friends information, or send them somewhere like a website to get information, than they are to directly push a friend to call you or to go to your place of business. People are more receptive to being given or told about information than they are when being pushed to do business with you. And people are more likely to act on information because they perceive it to be nonthreatening.

A few of my favorite examples of this come from a friend of mine, personal injury attorney Ben Glass. Here are the titles of a few of his free reports that are available to help his customers refer:

  • Get It Settled -- The Accident Victim's Guide to Settling Your Case Without Hiring a Lawyer
  • Why Most Medical Malpractice Victims Never Recover a Dime
  • Five Deadly Sins That Can Wreck Your Injury Claim

When you look at these titles, you can see genius at work. All of these reports answer questions or handle concerns for people who may need the services of a personal injury attorney. They also make it easy for his clients to refer. In times of need or when a suitable conversation occurs, Ben's client says, "You should get this free report about winning medical lawsuits" and never has to say "You should call my attorney."

That's a much easier and more pleasant conversation for both people involved, and best of all, we've allowed the person being referred to take an easy step toward possibly doing business with Ben and his firm.

Another friend of mine sells inbound marketing services for businesses. He wrote a book on the topic and offers it for free to referrals. He also created a simple landing page that he asks his clients to send referrals to. At last count, he was getting a 70.7 percent opt-in rate for the referrals that hit that page.

Every kind of business can and should create some sort of free report, book, CD, DVD, "most incredible free gift," or trial offer that they can promote but, more importantly, makes it easy for their customers to refer to.

A lot of referrals from a customer, fast

Remember, asking a customer to refer is asking him to remember to do it, to do it when an opportunity arises, and to do it capably. It's asking a lot. And it's very random. There's an alternative that gets you introduced to his entire circle of influence all at one time. If most business owners took a good customer to lunch every week and laid out this plan and asked the customer to do it, and half agreed, they'd probably increase their business' new customer flow by 2 to 20 times that year.

You'll get a lot of referrals from one customer, fast, when a person or business agrees to send a letter or email to everyone they know or to all of their customers, as a way to introduce them to you. They may offer a special, on your behalf, to their friends or customers. They may offer some free information available from you. Maybe the letter does both. There are three primary ways to use this strategy, typically called "The Endorsement Letter Strategy."

1. Family, friends, and neighbors. I recently set this up for a friend of mine who owns a new and growing lawn care company. Here's exactly what I did:

Step One. I wrote the letter for one of Bud's happy cus­tomers, to come "from him." It described his initial skepticism and his and his wife's happiness now with their magnificent lawn and garden, perfectly maintained every week. It said they used to get warning letters sev­eral times a year from their homeowners' associa­tion, but since putting Bud in charge, no more notices. Their lawn also made their neighbors green with envy. The letter referred to and was sent with it a limited-time special offer just for the neighbors of Bud's happy customer. Also, a separate offer to go to Bud's website and download a free report about having weed-free gardens was included. I also suggested that when Bud sent out the letter, he include a picture of the per­son's house and their amazing-looking yard -- a nice little ego stroke for the customer and a piece of proof for the recipient.

Step Two. I wrote a simple script Bud could use to ask happy customers if they wouldn't mind allowing him to send out a version of this letter, customized for and approved by them, to all of their neighbors. My suggestion was to use this script anytime he got a compliment, either in person or over the phone.

Step Three. Bud bought the list of names and addresses for all the people who owned a house in his happy customer's subdivision and mailed a letter to all of them. He also got from the customer names and addresses of all his friends and family members who lived anywhere in Bud's service territory and mailed to them, too. The sender name and address on the envelope was Bud's customer's, not his or his companies.

Bud's new lawn service almost instantly maxed out with the number of customers he can handle by himself, and he's looking for his first employee to help out. If Bud delivers good service, and if Bud hires wisely, and if Bud follows up on prospects that these mailings created but that did not immediately become customers, and if Bud uses this mailing as often as he can in the future, he'll grow a very big business with just this one strategy.

2. Business to consumer. Another way to use the Endorsed Letter Strategy is to work with a business that has customers who would also make good customers for your business. In this case, you create a letter from the business owner to their customers where the business owner is introducing your business and presenting a special offer for just his customers. This allows you access to all of that business's customers and/or prospects, which, with the right list and letter, is an easy way to get a massive number of referrals, fast.

3. Association to members. Another great source for endorsed mailings and one that adds considerable credibility to you is an association or other membership organization. Obviously any industry association has considerable clout with its member base. By bringing them a free information gift they can offer to their members, you give them value to deliver absent cost.

Shaun Buck

Entrepreneur, Speaker, Author, and CEO of The Newsletter Pro

Shaun Buck is the co-author of No B.S. Guide to Maximum Referrals and Customer Retention (Entrepreneur Press, March 2016) as well as CEO of Boise, Idaho-based The Newsletter Pro, the largest custom print newsletter company in the world—printing and mailing millions of newsletters annually for diverse industries all over the globe.

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