Best use of your marketing dollars? Use these tips to improve referrals

Tailgate Talk

Last month we discussed how too many contractors do a great job completing their work but make a big mistake by failing to ask satisfied customers for referrals. It?s pretty easy - you just have the ask! - and you should ask with a pen and paper in hand to write down any leads you might get. And as long as you?re asking, why not ask for an e-mail address in this age of quick type-and-response communication?

This month I?ll offer a number of other proven steps you can take to improve your success with referrals.

Invite Customer?s Friends to Job Site

This technique is especially good if you have discovered in your selling process that your customer mentioned other friends of theirs with similar problems or desires. During this type of discussion you might ask your customer what he knows about his friend?s problem or want.

Then, as you get close to finishing your customer?s project, invite your customer to ask his friend over to see your crew?s results. Always invite on the finishing-up side so the customer sees the ?good stuff,? not all the torn up effort and debris. Often a live visit from the customer?s friends may win you more work and is clearly a referral building effort.

Give Away 3 to 5 Business Cards

This is an old sales technique that still works. In this high-tech world we live in it is funny how many customers still ask for business cards. So, always give your customers more than one card; give three to five.

While a few might be thrown away a few cards might also be given away to friends when those friends ask about the great job that was performed. Giving cards away to your customers allows them to become salespeople for you. Again, this is a solid referral-driving technique that can land you work.

Follow-up with Referral Requests

It is good salesmanship to always send a follow-up note to a customer after the completion of a project. Use this same opportunity to ask for the names of three to five friends or work associates who could use your company?s services.

I recommend enclosing a half page where your customer can easily write down a few names and contact numbers. Always include a self-addressed envelope with a stamp to make it easy for the customer to just drop in the mail. You may not get many to respond to this effort but for those few who do it more than pays for the postage.

Offer a ?Commission? for Referrals

A final technique that has been quite successful for many contractors is offering a commission to customers who refer you to other prospects that lead to a sale. I?ve seen residential contractors give $50-$100 to customers who gave them a lead that turned into a sale.

This might not be appropriate with commercial customers, but sending gift certificates, tickets to ball games, wine packages etc. are all examples of a ?commission? that might be used.

One note of special significance is the impact of referrals on your bottom line. Working your current customers to gain new business opportunities is the best possible use of your marketing dollars. Such an effort literally costs nothing! What this means to you is increased profits as you have little to no costs associated with landing the new business. Thus, you can afford to spend a little money on postage and even giving away a few free ball tickets.

Realize that you?ll need to use more than one of the suggestions listed earlier. Be creative in your offerings but more than anything else I can suggest, get into the habit of asking for referrals every time you close out a job. Be proud of your company, your workers, and your production results. Good luck!