A click to forward an email, an extra business card, or a blog post worthy of sharing are all easy ways for your referral sources, whether they are clients, vendors, or family to make a quick introduction.
While it’s always better to ask for referrals in person or on the phone, it’s also important to make it easy for clients to send people your way.
The key here is to be always in referral mindset. Carry extra business cards and always give two or even three, never just one. Take a minute to email your referral source about that new blog post. She might not see it otherwise. Give your autoresponders a “forward to a friend” call to action.
These tactics are no substitute for personal interaction, of course, but when added to your overall referral plan, they can be just what your clients need to take action.
Here’s another option to make it easy: offer a referral gift. It may be an affiliate program, a “refer a friend” incentive, or just a finder’s fee, the promise of a small monetary gift can help people to remember you when the subject of coaches comes up.
But that’s not to say the reward has to be money, either. Maybe it’s an extra coaching session, or an upgraded plan, or (for really prolific referral partners) a VIP weekend. Maybe it’s just a gift certificate to a local spa.
Whatever your incentive, referral rewards can be just the push your clients need to remember you next time someone asks, “Who do you know who’s a great coach?”
Make it part of your routine
Just as you’ve documented and systematized your marketing with automated scheduling, email marketing and other hands-off routines, you can do the same for your referral generation.
Make the asking for and follow up a part of your regular marketing routine. Incorporate it into your checklists and create reminders for yourself or your team. One popular business coach follows a checklist with every call, and her sign-off includes not only a recap of the actionable items for her client to work on, but also a quick, “Do you know anyone I should reach out to who might benefit from the type of work we’re doing together?”
It’s a gentle reminder to keep an eye out for potential referrals, and it works. Her business is stronger than ever.
Remember to keep notes about who you’ve talked to as well, so when you’re headed to an event, or getting on a coaching call, you can follow-up quickly.
Once you’ve really incorporated asking for referrals into your daily or weekly marketing routine, it will become second nature.
Remember Your Manners
Getting a referral is not the end of this relationship, and the coach who believes it is will be far less successful for it.
Make no mistake about it, this is more than just “business,” and loyalty and gratitude are the keys to long-lasting, mutually beneficial relationships.
Remember, too, that by offering a referral, your client is expressing a much higher level of trust in you than she does by paying you. Even if she’s in your highest-level program, spending thousands of dollars with you regularly, sharing you with her friends is much different. Now she’s telling others that she trusts you, and that they should, too.
She’s putting her reputation and maybe even her personal relationships on the line, and that deserves plenty of thanks on your part.
We’ve already talked about offering a monetary incentive, and that’s important, too, but don’t ignore the personal touch.
Send a handwritten thank you card.
Sadly, this is a lost art, but it can be so empowering. And resist the urge to send a “fake” handwritten note through a service such as Send Out Cards. Doing that just says you couldn’t be bothered to send a real thank you, so you outsourced it. It won’t make your client feel special, it will make her feel like a commodity.
Send a small gift.
This doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive, but it does have to be personal. Rather than sending off an impersonal—if delicious—box of chocolate covered strawberries, take the time to find a gift that will have meaning. For example, if your client has recently taken up journaling as a part of her self-improvement journey, a quality, personalized journal will be much more appreciated.
Keep an eye out for items that immediately make you think of your client—perhaps a pretty bracelet or a quirky T-shirt—and start a list. You don’t have to wait for a referral, though. Surprise gifts are fun to give—and receive—for any reason, and doing so will make your clients love you even more than they already do.
Make a charitable donation in their name.
For some people, giving back is a huge part of their lives. If that’s your client, chances are she would be truly moved by a donation to her favorite charity. You get to do a good deed, plus you can thank your client in a way that means the most to them. It’s a true win/win for everyone—including the charity.
Become a Referral Machine
Whether you prefer to think of it as karma, or just know that “what comes around, goes around,” referrals do have a tendency to multiply. The more you give, the more you’ll receive.
So make it a point to refer others back to your clients as well. Perhaps one of your clients has an online store selling personalized planners, while another client struggles with time management. It’s a perfect match and one that both clients will benefit from.
Don’t forget about other coaches, though. We’ve already established that not everyone will be a great fit for you. Perhaps a potential client needs more time than you have available or faces a roadblock that’s not in your area of expertise. Don’t be afraid to send her to another coach.
Just be sure that the coach you recommend is top in her game and has a rock-solid reputation for excellence. By referring a client to her, you’re essentially saying, “I trust this person to do right by you,” so make sure you mean it.
This is why it’s important to belong to coaching groups and organizations both off and online. You’ll get to know other coaches and their areas of expertise, plus you’ll create your own referral network you can call on whenever you have an opening in your schedule.
Industry or market specific groups are ideal, so if you’re a life coach, it makes more sense to join an organization dedicated to life coaches than one for business coaches. General groups can be helpful as well, though, especially if you often get inquiries from people in need of a coach for other areas of their lives, or work with clients who need both life and business coaching.
Connect Others and They’ll Connect You
In his book, “Love is the Killer App,” Tim Sanders makes the point that if you connect enough people to one another, they’ll reciprocate by connecting you to those they know.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in the coaching industry. We’ve already talked about joining coaching organizations and groups, but there are other ways to connect people as well.
Local Meetup groups offer a great opportunity to network with people who live and work in your area, and those face-to-face meetings are often more productive and form a more lasting bond than do online relationships. Look for groups in your area that cater to those in your market. They don’t necessarily have to be coaching groups, but rather groups of (for example) business owners, if that’s who you want to reach.
Business conferences and events are another place to meet and connect with others (and be connected). In fact, any time you attend an industry event, one of your goals should be to meet and establish a relationship with at least three people in your niche.
But don’t let it end there. As we’ve said, people are forgetful.
You have to make it a point to follow up with everyone you meet. A quick note, a thank you card, or a phone call are all easy ways to stay in touch and remind people who you are and what you do. Not only that, but following up will even help you remember those you meet, so next time you’re chatting with someone who is looking for a web designer, you can easily say, “Oh, I met Debbie Designer at a conference just last month, and I think she’d be perfect for your project. Let me send you her contact info.
These types of connections are what fuel the referral machine, so take the time to spread the love, and it will come back to you in the form of more (and better) clients.
Keeping your client roster full is critical to your coaching success. While you don’t want it so packed that you have no time to think, you do want to have a steady stream of new and returning clients so that you can know without a doubt what your profits will look like from month to month.
By taking the time to establish routines, put systems in place for following up, and to practice spreading the love through referrals and connections, you’ll soon earn a reputation as the go-to coach in your market. And once you’ve accomplished that, you’ll never have open spots in your client roster again.