Everyone loves referral business! Unfortunately, not everyone takes an active interest in generating referral leads. Consider the following statistic: 91 percent of consumers are willing to give referrals, yet only 11 percent of people ask for them. It doesn’t take a math wiz to see there’s a gold mine of referral dollars being left on the table.
Despite what you may have heard, referral business won’t take care of itself. In fact, drumming up referrals can be quite a challenge. You not only have to lead the horse to water, but you also have to make the water worth drinking—and that means being proactive and providing exceptional value.
Take an active interest in your clients’ happiness and they’ll be more likely to return the favor. With that in mind, try our 10-point proactive approach to earning (and increasing) referral business long-term.
Think about your past experiences—your greatest successes and your most dismal failures. See any patterns? Timing is everything, and finding the right time to ask for referral business can be a matter of trial, error and strategic adjustment.
Consider your best successes, determine when you made the initial referral request and base future inquiries on the same timeframe. If you’ve found that asking for referrals too early in the transaction puts relatively unfamiliar clients on the defensive, implement a more patient approach. Speaking of patience…
While asking for referrals in the early stages of the transaction may not yield the best results, that doesn’t mean you can’t drop a few hints along the way. As Paul Simon once said, “you don’t need to be coy, Roy.” After all, 85 percent of small businesses say word-of-mouth referrals are the number one way new prospects discover their businesses.
Let clients know that your business thrives on word-of-mouth and referral leads, and that means you’re willing to do everything within your power to make sure they’re satisfied with the transaction and willing to tell their friends about it. Planting this seed early will make the actual referral request that much easier later on.
It should go without saying, but everything we’re talking about hinges on a job well done. Anything less and you can kiss those referral leads goodbye! Pay close attention to the feedback you receive directly from customers or through online reviews and use that information to improve your services. By delivering the best experience possible, you’ll make your customers happy, and happy customers tell their friends!
Once the transaction is complete, many people pat themselves on the back and prepare to move on. This is a huge mistake. Consider the following:
A recent survey by AutoTrader.com found that 69 percent of consumers have experienced buyer’s remorse after purchasing a car.
The Washington Post reports that one in four homeowners experience buyer’s remorse after buying a new home.
Buyer’s remorse is very real, and it’s NOT industry specific. It doesn’t matter if you’re selling insurance, real estate or beauty products, your clients will likely experience a period of self doubt and regret just following their purchase.
Here’s a hot tip: It’s never a good idea to request referrals from a client in the throes of buyer’s remorse. You might not receive the response you were hoping for!
Instead of worrying about referrals at this stage, focus on keeping your client 100 percent satisfied and happy with the transaction. Following up with a customer shows them you care about their well-being and you’re available if they need you. This solidifies your relationship, builds customer loyalty and gently reinforces the client’s purchasing decision.
This is also a great time to request feedback and offer useful content such as how-to videos and articles that will further enhance the client’s experience with your product. By being there for your clients when they need you most, you increase your chances of receiving referral business later on.
Once you’ve delivered your client to their happy place, you can turn your attention to the business of asking for referrals. But don’t jump the gun! First, take the time to decide exactly what it is you’re looking for.
Traditional word-of-mouth and referral leads are a good place to start, especially when you consider that 92 percent of consumers trust recommendations from friends and family above all other forms of advertising.
Meanwhile, 88 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, making reviews on third-party sites such as Yelp, Facebook and Google invaluable.
Finally, 68 percent of consumers trust opinions posted online, which makes client testimonials valuable additions to your website and marketing campaigns.
Now that you’re in the sweet spot, it’s time to make your move. Stop dropping hints and cash in on the trust you’ve earned through hard work and dedication. Let them know how much you appreciate their business and how important they are to you. You’re happy to see them happy and you’d like to spread that same joy to their friends, family and business colleagues. Just remember to be direct, polite and humble.
Once your client agrees to help you out, it’s impolite to leave them hanging – and the longer you wait, the more likely they are to lose interest. Have a process in place to accommodate eager clients. Have business cards at the ready for face-to-face interactions. If you’re asking for an online testimonial or review, make the process easy. Send them interview questions or links to sites like Yelp, LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+. Anything you can do to make the referral or review process simple and convenient will improve your chances of success.
So you’ve gotten what you want and it’s time to move on, right? Wrong! You’re in this for the long haul. You never know when and where a referral opportunity will occur, so it’s important that you nurture client relationships to maintain trust, encourage customer loyalty and earn ongoing referral business.
This is where content marketing is critical to the referral process. Instead of simply promoting yourself, focus on providing content that will be valuable to your clients. For example, a client who’s just purchased a home doesn’t want to be inundated with new listings and mortgage rates.
Instead, send something of interest, such as helpful home maintenance tips or information on DIY upgrades that will enhance their home’s value. This type of content not only shows you’re interested in maintaining a relationship, but it also paints you as an industry expert and trusted professional.
Building your reputation through great content is only half the battle. You also need to remain top of mind so that clients will remember your name months or years down the road and continue to recommend your services. This is where email marketing and social media come into play. The numbers speak for themselves:
By giving past clients multiple opportunities to engage with your brand and content in their inboxes and social feeds, you stay top of mind when referral opportunities arise.
Quality business referrals are born out of customer loyalty, which has to be earned over time. By maintaining contact with past clients and continuing to provide them with valuable content, you strengthen your relationship and build a solid, mutual sense of trust. This earns you the right to occasionally ask for a favor, and ensures your clients will be happy to oblige!
What kind of experiences have you had with referral business? If you have an interesting success story – or an educational story of hard-fought failure – share it in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you! And be sure to sign up for our Sunday Edition.
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Still Thinking About Going Responsive?
Did you know that over 1.2 billion people access the Internet from their mobile devices? Mobile internet usage is increasing steadily and being used for almost everything, from web surfing and online shopping to banking and finding love. Around the world, smartphone users increasingly depend on their devices for instant information in the palm of their hands.
Click Here Find Out If Your Website is Mobile Responsive
The odd thing is that despite the millions of mobile visitors, a majority of websites have not optimized their pages for mobile use. One solution to the problem is to create separate device-specific HTML sites specifically for desktop users and mobile users. But a better and more versatile solution is Responsive Web Design. A single design pattern which adapts to all kinds of screen sizes of different devices, serving the same HTML code on the same URL for both desktop and mobile devices. Internet tech company, Google, has officially recommended that websites use a responsive web design.
Having a single URL for multiple devices-optimized layouts has many benefits. For starters, it makes sharing and linking to the site easier using a single link through social media or email. It also makes discovery of content more efficient as Google won’t need to crawl multiple pages. According to Google’s official webmaster blog, the search engine service “wouldn’t need to crawl a page with the different Googlebot user agents to retrieve and index all the content.” Since the same coding is used for all devices, it requires less engineering time from the developers to maintain multiple pages for the same content.
In creating a single shared site using responsive design for both desktop and mobile, Google suggests websites pay heed to the following guidelines:
Pages should be rendered legibly at any screen resolution and size.
The same set of content should be viewable on any device.
No matter the window size, there should never be a horizontal scrollbar.
A responsive design gives users of all platforms a better and more satisfactory reading experience. On mobiles, you won’t need to pinch and zoom to adjust the text into a readable format. The website automatically presents itself into a mobile-friendly setting for smartphone and tablet users, and in a wide screen layout for desktop users. There is a 61% chance dissatisfied visitors will go visit a competitor’s site, if they are not happy with your mobile website. So putting time and resources into developing a site which is compatible on all devices is an investment, increasing visitors’ time spent on site, loyalty and recommendations.
With Googles new algorithms for searching and indexing sites in place, if your not mobile responsive you will lose ranking. My advice is to get with your website manager and ask if your mobile responsive and if your not, get responsive. It’s not a choice any more.
Click Here Find Out If Your Website is Mobile Responsive
Facebook has a lot of limits on a lot of different elements of their site, and it can be a giant pain in the ass to dig through their terms of service, their community guidelines, and their advertising documentation just to find some vague mention of these limits. It makes sense that you would want to turn to third parties to do the work for you and give you a simple answer. There is indeed a simple answer to this simple question, but I’m going to give you a bunch of extra context and advice, in typical marketer fashion.
Pages Vs. Profiles
Some people don’t realize there’s a difference between a Facebook page and a Facebook profile. Usually these are casual users, but sometimes novice marketers and even some experienced marketers get the terminology mixed up. So let’s clarify a few things.
First of all, there are pages and profiles, as separate types of entity. Profiles are personal accounts, and are what you make if you create a new account right now. They have the ability to message people, to friend each other, to like pages, and to join groups.
Pages, meanwhile, are another type of entity on the site. You have to have a profile in order to make a page, and all pages have at least one account managing them as an admin. You used to be able to make a business page as a stand-alone account, but Facebook decided this wasn’t the way they wanted to organize their site, so they changed it.
Pages have access to all of the powerful marketing tools, like post targeting, scheduling, and team management, but they have limitations on functionality. They can’t message a user who hasn’t messaged them first, they can’t follow other pages, and they can’t join groups.
It is against the Facebook terms of service to make a profile to represent a business. You can, however, make a page to represent a person. George Takei is one famous example; he uses Facebook like a personal profile, but it’s actually a business page. In fact, if you use a profile the way a business might use a page, or Facebook thinks you do, they will forcibly create a page out of that data and make you use it, under penalty of banning.
The Simple Limits
There are simple, easy to state limits on both profiles and pages.
As far as profiles go, you’re only technically allowed one. Some people get away with running more than one if, for example, they’re running one for a family member, but it generally has to be attached to a real person. This makes it easier for Facebook to justify removing duplicate profiles, fake profiles, and bot accounts.
As far as pages go, there is technically no limit to the number you can own. One profile can have as many pages attached to it as you want.
The Agency Situation
The reason there’s no limit to the number of pages you can own is because Facebook is well aware of the existence of marketing agencies. There are companies that specialize in creating and managing Facebook pages, and they do so under the central control of one core admin profile. That profile creates pages for each brand they want to represent, adds moderators, editors, and other admins to the page, and runs it they way they see fit.
In a related situation, other marketing agencies don’t create the pages, but get themselves added as an admin or ad manager to the pages that already exists. Both this situation and the previous situation result in the same thing: one profile account with dozens or even hundreds of pages it has added as an Admin.
I say that there is no limitation to the number of pages you can own as a personal profile on Facebook, and this is true. However, there is a sort of “soft” limitation, which is the time involved in managing a page.
Pages take a lot of time and effort to manage and maintain. If you want to create, grow, and build a page, you need to invest in creating content, figuring out your audience, marketing both on and off Facebook, running Facebook ads, and generally doing everything a marketer needs to do on a daily basis. Depending on what your situation happens to be, you might be spending 2-4 hours per day on your page.
If you own two pages, that number doubles. If you own three pages, that number triples. The more pages you own, the more time you have to spend managing your pages every day. Eventually, you simply run out of time to run those pages.
This is a bad situation, because then you’re down to three options, only one of which is good. The first option is to drop a page, which means all of the time, energy, and money you have invested in it goes to waste. The second option is to cut back on your page management, which means you’re spending less time and energy on your pages. This doesn’t seem like a bad thing, but it does mean your page will grow more slowly and will be less effective as it runs. You might also be tempted to turn to shortcuts that can get your page suspended.
The third option is the only valid option, which is to get other people to help you manage your pages. You can add people as editors to manage your content, or as advertisers to manage your ads, or as moderators to manage your community. Each page role has different functionality and different limitations as to what it can do, and it’s generally a good idea to keep the admin role to yourself, just to avoid possible issues where someone tries to steal control over your pages.
In addition to limitations on time and chronology in our causality-based universe, you might also have to contend with technical limitations. Now, managing a page through Facebook directly is simple, but it’s not the easiest thing in the world. Often times a lot of the more advanced features you want to use are scattered around or buried in menus, and it’s easy to lose track of them or not know where they are in the first place. It ends up taking a lot of time just navigating between items you want to use.
You can use a Facebook Manager to manage your pages, and it will give you access to the best and most common features all in one place, or at least in a more easily navigable space. However, many of these management applications have limitations on the number of pages you can link to their service.
For example, one of the biggest page managers is Hootsuite. Hootsuite’s Professional-level manager only allows up to 10 social profiles, and that’s across all social networks. If you want to manage up to 50 pages at a time, you need their Business plan, which starts at $500 per month. More than that and you need to talk to them directly for a customized solution, and it’s definitely going to be even more expensive.
- Sendible also has a limit: the base version is $50 per month for up to 20 pages, and for 300 pages you will be up to $500 per month. They also have the custom scaled solution for more pages, and more money, as well.
- Buffer’s “Awesome” tier is $10 monthly for up to 10 social accounts, which means 10 pages if all you’re doing is Facebook. They scale up to 150 accounds for $400 per month.
- Sprout Social is $100 per month for a meager 10 social profiles, and their “enterprise” offering still only allows up to 20 social profiles for $250 per month. Of course, their service is more about all kinds of reports, monitoring, scheduling, tracking, and analytics rather than simple management, but it’s still not feasible to use dozens of pages with the service.
- Agora Pulse starts at $50 per month for a whole three pages, though you can add pages for $15 per additional page. When you pay for a higher tier account the number goes up but the cost for additional accounts goes down, so you end up at $300 per month for up to 40 pages, but only pay an additional $6 per page as you scale it up.
So you can see how it quickly becomes a matter of money and scale to manage so many pages at once. If you’re trying to manage a ton of different pages at the same time, you want time-saving tools on your side, but those tools are going to cost you a lot of money.
Duplicate Pages and Other Restrictions
I say that there’s no limit to the number of pages you can own, but there are restrictions on what those pages can be.
First of all, you need to abide by all of the standard Facebook guidelines. That means no pornography, no violent content, no hateful content or hate speech, and so on. If your page has to do with a restricted but not banned subject, like Alcohol, you need to make sure you’re using the right age restrictions. Certain subjects, like dating sites and health supplements, need prior written permission from Facebook to be created, and without proof of permission your page can be shut down.
There’s no rule against making multiple pages about the same subject, in a general sense. For example, there are probably hundreds of pages out there that have something to do with doughnuts. I’m not just talking about business pages for doughnut shops; I mean pages like the vaguely nws Hotdogs and Doughnuts, the broad and empty Doughnuts Community, and the strangely political Anti-Doughnut Party.
However, you are forbidden from making actual duplicate pages about the same business. If you run Bob’s Bait Shop, you can have one page for your shop, and that’s it. You could have a second page for a community or event, but not a second one for your business.
The exception to this rule is franchises. Dunkin Donuts is a national chain, and every individual shop can have its own Facebook page. They can all be owned by one central person, with individual managers for each franchise added as admins, or it can be left up to the individual store to create their own page.
It’s also against the rules to create a duplicate page of an entity you don’t represent or own. I couldn’t go and create a Dunkin Donuts page for a store that already exists, or a store that doesn’t exist, because it’s just impersonation.
If you happen to have more than one account representing the same entity, it’s entirely possible to merge them. All you have to do is follow the steps Facebook provides, which we cover in this article.
You can also sometimes claim existing pages you didn’t create, or get them removed, if they’re interfering with your business. This is an individual situational judgment, so you’ll need to report the offending page and see how Facebook deals with it.
Regardless, there’s no actual limit, mechanically, to the number of pages you can create and own. If you really wanted to, you could just spend all day creating page after page, to see how long it is before Facebook stops working when it tries to load your entire list. I wouldn’t recommend it, but it’s perfectly doable, albeit a waste of time and space.