To be successful in the design and decorating business, nearly 90% of leads should come from referrals. Why do we constantly throw money at other forms of marketing, when a good referral system can give you the highest return on your investment and a consistent flow of leads?
You must adopt a referral mind set. Everything you do in your business should be to develop a system of getting referrals.
Ten reasons to focus on referrals:
1) Unlike advertising, your results from a referral program can be easily measured. Referrals tell you exactly who referred them.
2) Referrals are the best return on your marketing dollar.
3) With every referral, your client is giving a great testimonial on your behalf.
4) Happy clients are the best sales force that a company can have, they become your advocates!
5) Each time a client gives you a referral, you have an opportunity to make them look like a hero.
6) A flowing pipeline of referrals puts you at ease.
7) Clients feel that they are reducing their risk of making a bad decision when they buy from a referral.
8) Phone messages to a new prospect usually gets returned if it comes through a referral.
9) Trust is obtained faster through a referral.
10) Referral marketing is your best opportunity to success!
You have heard of the lifetime value of a client? Think about the value when the same client gives you several referrals over time and those referrals give you referrals.
How do we generate referrals? First and foremost you must have an excellent client fulfilment system. Unless the job is done right, even your own mother won't refer you!
Are you communicating often with your client before, during and after the job? This is critical to instilling the gospel of spreading the word, "We want referrals!"
I believe that you must get your clients to complain! If they don't complain, you won't know their problems and you can't fix it. If one client is having a problem, maybe others are too. You may need to fix your system.
Research shows, if clients don't complain, they are likely to go quietly to the competition. Unhappy clients, tell others, a reverse referral.
In order to generate referrals you must find your "center of influence," who is your target market? In our industry its women 35-65. Do you know that 85 percent of all consumer buying decisions are made by women. Your task is to find them, and to create a message that appeals to this segment.
How to find them:
1) Try Cross Promotional Networking and distribute brochures at other noncompeting businesses that serve the same clientele. Offer to cooperate and display brochures at your place too. If you don't have a showroom, create a "Friends" book of useful and referable businesses.
2) Go to networking events of where women go. Don't waste your time on trying to network to the wrong market. When you find such a group, have a great 10 second announcement to introduce yourself.
3) Offer your services as a speaker to women's groups. Prepare a non-sales, informative decorating seminar. Organizations are always looking for interesting topics for their meetings.
4) Testimonials are a must for any handouts or web site content. The challenges I have heard are, that it is difficult and time consuming to get them. It shouldn't be, in fact, the best testimonials are short quotes from your customers. "I love my drapes," or "This is better then I expected!" and so on. Record the quotes, and the name of the customers on a page and don't forget to ask for permission. Testimonials will instill confidence.
5) Print "I Love Referrals" heart stickers and put them on all your correspondence.
6) Create a Designer Referral Card System. Start with a thank-you card, a month later, send a referral card, and for each month keep in touch with your client with birthday cards, holiday cards, decorating idea cards. The more you stay in touch, the more she will remember you when someone asks for someone she knows to help them with decorating.
There are three types of referrals:
1) Unsolicited, from doing a good job.
2) Word of mouth, from people who know of you, but didn't do business with you.
3) Solicited, from your clients after a job well done.
The Advocate Referral System
How do you ask your clients for referrals?
During a visit after the installation, ask:
*Was she happy with the value you have provided?
*Is there anything where you can improve to make the experience better?
*Is there future work to be done?
*Ask her for birthdays of her family members.
*Ask her for a name of a friend or family you can call.
* Have a small gift as a Thank you.
By Neil P Gordon
Photography by Yanik Chauvin
Neil Gordon, The Designer's Coach is a coach and consultant for Interior Designers. His website, http://www.thedesignerscoach.com offers seminars, articles, newsletters as well as valuable advise for designers willing to improve their business. Please visit the site to sign up for the free newsletter