Sunday, March 25, 2007

Week 30 - Not All Customers are Created Equal

Your existing happy customers should be your number one source of high quality referrals. They should be sending new customers to you on a consistent basis but not only that, the right type of customer. You might already have a referral plan in place but let’s have a look at some rules for attracting the best prospects consistently:

Rule 1 – Know exactly which type of customer you would like to serve and therefore attract.
Rule 2 – Be crystal clear about the experience that you provide. Create awesome experiences every time a valued customer deals with your business.
Rule 3 – Always follow up making sure to thank the referrer for their gesture.

Asking for a referral is a bit like asking someone out on a date. Many people find it uncomfortable so the question becomes, “how can you make it a pleasurable experience?” Let’s take the date analogy one step further and assume the person you want to ask out is a friend of a friend. Now just asking is one thing, you certainly won’t get anywhere without that – but what about the role that your immediate friend plays? Their perception of you and your suitability for the person you want to ask out will probably end up being the determining factor about whether the date happens or not. The same goes for referrals in business. If you have a strong relationship with your customer and provide them with awesome experiences every time they walk through your door would they really see the request for referrals as rude or unwarranted? No.

Now let’s get back to the rules. First of all, what will happen if you tell your friends you just want to date anyone? That’s right; they will send you everyone and anyone. What if you said you were looking for a well educated, funny person with blonde hair? You can see that knowing who you are trying to reach is very important – otherwise your referral system will end up driving you mad because the people calling will not be the “customers” that you seek!

Second rule: Generally speaking your friend has to know you or what “experience” you will likely provide – otherwise why would they give you their friend’s contact details? When I say “experience” I am using the business analogy. What I mean is they know you and your personality and they probably know the impact you would have upon meeting the other person. Have you ever asked someone you knew only slightly to list five of their best friends with phone numbers so you can ask them out? I don’t think so! But every day businesses try this cold approach. Tell us who your friends are and we will bug them for you – we will even tell them it was you who gave us their number! Dumb.

Final rule: Let’s assume the date was a screaming success. Would you normally call your friend and thank them for the introduction? Again in business we tend to take this area for granted – we are happy to hear that our new customer came from the same place (again), but often doing little or nothing for that person. Now recognition is a powerful thing. You don’t have to pay the referrers. Unlike business to business referrals, personal customer referrals should be based purely on your customer being so thrilled with your service they are desperate to let others know. Your challenge using the rules above is to guide them so you get the best referrals for your business and then nurture, thank and recognize. Then the cycle begins again.

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