The Art of the Referral

Word of mouth marketing is the answer…even if there is no question.

It’s no secret that word of mouth, or referral marketing is an extremely effective (and often cheap) form of marketing. It’s been documented and proven. People are more likely to believe what they hear from friends, and more likely to believe what they hear from real “customers” that aren’t necessarily friends of theirs, than they are to believe your brand or anyone that works for you.

Marketers themselves (I’m including myself in that group) have created a distaste for what the general public refers to as “marketing”.

So if referrals and word of mouth is so important to us, why isn’t there more focus on it? Why isn’t the primary responsibility of the marketing department at any company to increase the number of referrals?

The answer is because so much of word of mouth marketing is outside of our control. But there is a formula that your company can follow to help push the scales in your favor.

Step 1 = Make a great product

People are more likely to recommend things that work and things that they like. That part is obvious. But most companies stop there.

Step 2 = Deliver great service

Customer service is an oft-overlooked factor when it comes to referrals. Get in touch with new customers early and often. Ask them if they have any issues instead of waiting for them to come to you. And if anything goes wrong, an apology goes a long way. People relate to other people more than they do products, and a positive interaction with someone from your company can leave a lasting impression in the hearts and minds of your customers.

Step 3 = Ask

The biggest mistake that companies make when it comes to referrals is that they don’t ask for them. It seems silly to think that such an important part of marketing just goes by unnoticed by so many. The primary reason is that companies are either afraid to ask the wrong way and annoy people, or choose not to ask at all thinking that referrals will happen naturally.

The truth is, most customers with a positive experience are happy to recommend you to others, but they won’t do it on their own.

Use follow up emails to ask if they are satisfied. If so, tell them you’d love a positive review on Twitter, Facebook, Yelp, Google, etc. Direct customers to a referral program on your website that offers discounts or cash back to people they refer.

We all know that peer-to-peer referrals work. People trust other people more than they trust brands. But many still need an extra push to spread the word. When you give them that push, you will be creating a referral network capable to adding real growth to your business.