Lately I have had the privilege to watch a friend’s new business grow, and I have learned something about referrals that may seem obvious to the rest of the world, but was somewhat of an epiphany for me. Before I say what it is, I will start off by saying that I think there are two scenarios in which a referral might happen, and both involve friends and family (or people we trust).
The first way is that a friend or family member tells us out of the blue about a business they worked with that they loved. Now when a person that we trust tells us to try a particular business, we trust their word that it must be a reputable one, and we most likely will try it when we need that kind of service in the future. The other way that referrals often happen is when we happen to need a particular service, but we’re not sure who to call for it. What do we often do? We call our friends and/or family and ask them who they might use for something like that. Oftentimes, if the referral sounds really strong, we end up getting in touch with that same business. In both of these scenarios, the friend or family member is only going to recommend someone that they trust, that they have built a good working relationship with. It all comes back to trust, which is really the backbone to any good relationship.
If I could boil my realization down to one statement, it would sound something like this: referrals always come back to relationships.
When one is starting a new business, they have to keep this truth in mind, and let it guide the way they treat customers. If they treat them and their needs like work, something to check off of their list of things to accomplish that day, then the customer will not feel cared for. Even if the quality of work was really good, they might not go the next step and actually refer that business to someone they care about. If, however, they were treated like people, and formed a friendly, positive relationship with the person or people that they worked with (and of course, were pleased with the quality of the service they received), they will most definitely tell their family and friends.
As I stated above, every good relationship is built on trust–so building a relationship with a customer not only involves treating them like a person you care about, but also being trustworthy. This means being reliable, responsive, and doing what you say you’re going to do. Old-fashioned principles like keeping your word and being honest are extremely important, and they make a lasting impression. As a result of practicing these time-honored principles, your business will tend to stick out in people’s minds, which will cause them to refer you to people they know.
Am I saying you have to become best friends, on a personal level, with each and every one of your customers in order to get referrals? Of course not. What I am saying, though, is that you should be thinking about the relationships you are forming. Because without positive relationships, a business will not get very far. Every relationship you form has the potential to branch out into many more in the future–and that is how a business grows.