Organic growth is vital to the lifeblood of any business, and referrals are one of its key drivers. There’s an art to generating referrals — one which remains a mystery to many business owners. Demystifying this all-important process is the vital first step to earning more referrals, broadening your customer base, and ultimately boosting revenues and profits.

Deliver Exceptional Customer Service

Providing your customers with outstanding service is one of the oldest and most reliable way to earn referrals. When people have a good experience, they tell others about it — word of mouth has always been extremely important to business growth, especially for small, locally based businesses.

Genuine friendliness, honesty, sincerity, and attention to the customer’s individual needs are the hallmarks of exceptional customer service. Make sure all your personnel are striving to incorporate these principles into their work, and good results will follow.

Stay Visible

To earn referrals, your business has to be a fresh part of your customers’ consciousness, and that means you need to find a way to stay visible. In years past, fridge magnets and calendars were the staples of business visibility. While there’s still a place for those tried-and-true strategies, social media has risen as the single most important visibility forum in the contemporary age.

When using social media, don’t focus on promoting yourself. Offer value to the end user, in the form of helpful tips and information related to your products or services. Be sure the people in your social media networks know about new offerings or upcoming events so they can pass that information along to any friends or family members who might be interested.

If the situation warrants it, and if your customers have given unsolicited contact the green light, send out emails from time to time. Again, it’s better if you don’t have an agenda — simply providing relevant information or thanking them for their business will do the trick. Sharing online articles and resources that your customers may find helpful is also a winning strategy.

Appreciate Your Customers

Just as your staff will do a better job if they feel appreciated, customers are more likely to return — and refer others to your business — if they feel connected and invested. Beyond verbalizing it when customers are in store, there are a lot of creative ways to show appreciation. Offer special discounts to returning customers or referrals. Give them advance access to in-demand products. Have “secret sales” that only they know about.

These strategies all have one thing in common: they put the customer in a position of privilege. That, in turn, makes them feel appreciated, which is a feeling they’re likely to reward.

Give in Order to Get

Depending on the nature of your business, you may find yourself in a position to give referrals to other businesses. If so, that’s a strategy you can use to your advantage.

Broker understandings — formal or informal — with other businesses. If a customer or client comes in looking for something that you know a certain proprietor or professional can provide, point that customer in their direction. In turn, that person can refer people to you whenever his or her clients and customers need the products or services you offer.

Reach Out

Again, this strategy depends on the nature of your business, but if it’s appropriate to your line of work, simply reaching out to your clients and customers to see how things are going can win you a lot of goodwill. Insiders often term this approach the “how’s things” call, and it’s an art form in and of itself.

Examples of situations where a “how’s things” call could be very effective:

  • You are a real estate agent who has recently sold a client a house, and you want to see if everything is working out in their new home
  • You are a business or a management consultant who has recently provided services to a client, and you want to see if they’ve had a positive impact
  • You are a vendor or supplier who has recently equipped a business or sold products to a homeowner, and you want to make sure your client is satisfied with their purchases

During a “how’s things” call, don’t sell services or push products. Simply connect with the client and encourage him or her to talk about relevant issues. However, you need to be careful not to overdo it. People are busier than ever these days, and you don’t want to pester someone over what amounts to some self-promotion.

Incorporating these strategies doesn’t require a heavy investment or a lot of extra effort. All you need to do is take the time to make them part of your regular routine. Over time, chances are you’ll start seeing your organic growth trending in the right direction, and that’s the name of the game.