This is one of those golden rules of business—it’s true across all industries and all cultures: the easiest source of extra sales and new clients will always be the clients you already have now.
Today I want to focus specifically on the second half of that—using the clients or customers you have right now to attract new business. I’m talking about referrals, reviews, testimonials, and social proof.
I see a lot of small business and home business owners talk about referrals as something that happens TO their business, something they have to wait for.
The truth is that you can and should be proactive about bringing in referrals, testimonials, and social proof. After all, these are the most powerful marketing tools you have at your disposal, so why not learn to master them?
To help you out, I’m going to share the techniques and systems I’ve used in my own businesses.
First, though, I want to make sure we’re on the same page about “social proof.”
Social proof is the idea that people will always trust people already in their social networks more than they will trust outsiders.
This is a fundamental law of human psychology, and if you’re smart, you can use it to your advantage.
The law of social proof goes so deep that many people will trust their unqualified friends and family even more than they trust experts.
For example, have you ever seen someone with a serious medical condition ignore their doctor’s instructions and instead use some phony product their cousin recommended? That’s the law of social proof at work.
Of course, I’m going to show you how to make the law of social proof work WITH you instead of against you, so that you can get more clients or customers.
Because here’s the good news—if you can recruit your prospect’s friends and family to pitch your business, you instantly win more credibility than you could ever build up on your own (well, more than you could build up without already having decades of work under your belt).
Hopefully now you can see why social proof is so important, so let’s move onto the HOW!
I’ve always made testimonials and referrals a condition of doing business with me, and frankly, I think every entrepreneur and business owner should do the same.
I tell people as soon as they sign an agreement with me that I’m going to come looking for referrals and testimonials once I get them the results they’re looking for. This is important, because if you let people know about this ahead of time they’ll be way more eager to cooperate later.
In fact, if you let people know ahead of time, they might start composing their positive review in the back of their minds way before you even ask.
Depending on your market, your clients or customers may want to share their testimonials over their own social media accounts. If so, great! You should encourage them to do that. Still, make sure you get a written or recorded version for your own use as well.
Once you have those testimonials, you want to plug them into EVERY piece of marketing material you send out from now on. Stick them in your newsletter, share them on YouTube, put them up on your website—you want them up everywhere.
Again, this is social proof at work. Your market isn’t all going to be direct relatives and friends of the people in your testimonials, but they WILL look at them and say, “Hey, that person is just like me. Whatever worked for them will probably work for me too!”
If your clients or customers leave a positive review on a review site like Yelp, then you should share that too. Of course, in cases like that you do need to pay attention to your overall score, but again—if you approach review sites in a systematic way like I’m describing here, you can flood them with happy customers and have them work FOR you.
Testimonials are an absolute must-have for your business, so start generating them and sharing them right now.
Now let’s take a look at referrals, the other must-have.
Once again, you want to make referrals a condition of doing business with you. Tell every new client or customer right up front that you will eventually want referrals from them.
By the way, I have a little script I like to use for this sort of thing, and it goes like this:
“Hey Mrs. Jones—as you might know, advertising can be extremely expensive. Instead of going down that route, I’d rather save my money, pass the savings onto you, and invest what I have in delivering even better results and service to you. To help me do that, can you please refer your friends and family to me once I’ve gotten you the results?”
The beauty of this script is that it turns referrals into a double win for your clients—first, they get the results they’re after, and second, they get to save money. Who doesn’t like to save money?
Another system you can use for referrals is the referral contest. It’s as simple as it sounds: you announce to your clients that you are going to hold a contest where the person who brings in the most referrals gets a special prize.
You do have to be careful about one thing, though: make sure you only count the referrals that end up converting to clients or customers, and make sure you explain this rule as part of the contest.
You don’t want your clients or customers bringing in people who are unqualified or disinterested, which might happen if you only count the contest results based on people showing up. That’s why you need to count based on conversion—that way your clients or customers will bring in people who have a genuine need and desire to do business with you.