Small business owners that develop relationships with their best customers can receive excellent referrals in the form of new business as well as partnerships with other companies within the industry. Marketing can be very expensive and with limited budgets many small businesses can gain an advantage by tapping into the rolodex of their customers whenever possible. Many people that you interact with on a regular basis during your daily business activities will be more than willing to make an introduction or referral, but you have to ask. I’ve found that most business relationships can lead to at least a few new opportunities and sometimes many more so it’s wise to take the time for lunches, dinners, sporting events, rounds of golf, and other casual activities that can help build your ecosystem of business professionals willing to make introductions and referrals.
Develop Individual Relationships with Key Customers
Taking the time to build individual relationships with your best customers can be advantages for many reasons including; finding new clients, creating introductions to new business opportunities and gaining referrals that close. Every customer interaction is a potential link to a new customer so make sure you take the time to educate consumers about opportunities to make referrals and the discounts or cash payments they may receive for making an introduction or referral. A typical activity that should be done on a regular basis is to send out emails about product updates and new services that also mention the opportunity for making referrals to new customers.
It’s important that you are close with your key customers and business partners that provide the bulk of your referral business and this is best done in a setting away from the office or in traditional meetings. Key clients and partners should be wined and dined and taken care of based on the importance of the role they play in the growth of your business. There are many ways to show appreciation to a key person in your professional ecosystem. Business referrals and revenue shares are always appreciated and a great way to solidify a business relationship with a customer that helps expand your business. Additional methods for rewarding contributing players include; a nice lunch on your tab or maybe tickets to a sporting event that show your appreciation without having to directly dole out cash. Other gestures that can be much appreciated are gift certificates for nice restaurants in your local area or a weekend getaway at a nearby resort. Again make sure to reward your business ecosystem, but do so according to the value they provide for the growth of your businesses.
Ask for the Business
Many small company owners are fearful to ask directly for someone’s business when it’s actually the best way to do it. If you don’t ask, people will often think that you’re busy, have plenty of deal flow or not actively seeking new clients. Consequently the people that have great connections for you will simply not offer even though they are willing to help. Small business owners need to routinely ask customers and business associates for client referrals. By keeping a log of your communications with different customers and business relationships in your CRM system you will not need to worry about feeling like you are asking the same person too frequently. It’s critical that you remain in the forefront of your business acquaintances’ minds in order for them to remember you and your company when they interact with someone that could use your product or service. Send birthday cards, make occasional calls and drop by to say “hello” to key customers and people your business interacts with in order to keep those relationships fresh and relevant.
Every small business owner needs to maximize their business and customer relations in order to reach the next customer or next hot lead. Make sure to reward your ecosystem for providing quality leads that close and don’t be afraid to ask for business or client referrals.
Christian Fea is CEO of Synertegic, Inc. A Joint Venture Marketing firm. He exemplifies how to profit from Joint Venture relationships by creating profit centers with minimal risk and maximum profitability.
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