A long time ago, I heard one businessman ask another, "What can I do to help you out?"
The man thought for a moment, and then said, "The best thing you can do for me is refer someone else my way."
He was probably right. Because customers value the advice of people they know, referrals are often the best leads a business can get.
What’s the best way to get more referrals for your web design business? Here are seven strategies that have worked for me in the past.
1. Produce Better Work
It might sound simplistic and you might think that you’re already doing great work, but I can guarantee that if you actually spend some time today and dedicate yourself to getting better, then you will.
Better work means better results, and better results mean better clients.
If you want clients to rave about your work and spread the message far and wide, then you need to do work worth raving about.
2. Ask for Referrals
You would be surprised how often we miss opportunities simply because we don’t ask for them.
One solution that I have found to work well is to schedule "the ask" just like you would any other business activity. Develop a checklist of items that you complete for each project. These are important things that should occur with every project you take on — scheduling milestones, invoicing, etc. — and then add "asking for referrals" to the list.
Don’t make referrals a one-off task that you do when the mood is right. Always ask for them in an appropriate manner, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the results.
3. Look for Buying Symptoms
One reason many people don’t get as many referrals as they would like is that they don’t know that they should be asking for them.
Knowing how to get referrals for your business starts with understanding how your potential customers talk.
For example, what do people say when they go to the chiropractor? "My back hurts" or "I have lower back pain," right? Those are the symptoms of someone who might buy from the chiropractor.
What are the symptoms of someone who might buy from you, a web designer? If you specialize in a certain type of client, what are those people saying before they get ready to buy?
Use the same phrases and words your clients will use, not industry jargon. If you know what potential clients say before they buy and how they say it, then you’ll be in a better position to find those people and ask for referrals.
4. Ask for Introductions, Not for Business
If there’s one thing that customers are cautious of, it’s desperation. If you seem desperate for business and willing to take on anyone, then the message you’re sending is that you must not be in high demand and/or aren’t very good at what you do.
You might be saying, "But wait, I thought you were supposed to ask for referrals?"
Yes, you are — and the best way to ask is to request for an introduction to someone new, not for someone who would buy from you right away.
5. Work in Exchange for Referrals
This may sound strange, but hear me out on this one.
Working for free and then getting a couple of excellent referrals out of the job can be a savvy move if you want to improve the type of clientele you work with. This is especially true if you are trying to get larger clients and you know one or two people who might be able to get you access to them.
There are two critical points to this strategy.
First, you can’t work for referrals all the time. Do it with well-connected clients once or twice, and you’ll be set. Referrals, after all, don’t pay the bills.
Secondly, there should be a clear understanding from the beginning that they are working with you in this capacity. They should know that they are expected to put you in touch with potential clients for the work you are doing.
6. Reframe Your Message and Enter New Areas of Business
Sometimes we focus so much on a specific niche that it feels like we know everyone in the industry and there just aren’t many more referrals to go around. If that’s the case, then it’s time to reach out to different customers.
For example, I just landed a referral recently because I branched out into a community that I hadn’t sampled before — freelance writers.
Don’t be afraid to stretch outside of your typical client base and ask if there are people you can help. It might be the perfect way to find another market that needs your services and generate a new stream of referrals.
7. Refer Other People Who Do Great Work
The strategy here is to build a network of professionals who refer each other’s services. For example, maybe you’re a UI designer and you know someone who’s great at Ruby on Rails and someone who’s great at PHP and someone who’s great at iOS app development.
Whenever it’s a good fit, you can refer a customer of yours to the appropriate person. In turn, a customer of theirs looking for a UI designer will be referred to you.
The result is that you extend your reach and have several people searching for new business instead of just one.
What about you? What are your best ways to get a referral? Share it with us in the comments.