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Acer America
Acer America Corp. is a computer manufacturer of business and consumer PCs, notebooks, ultrabooks, projectors, servers, and storage products.

Location

333 West San Carlos Street
San Jose, California 95110
United States

WWW: acer.com

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June 19, 2023 |

Can’t-Miss Customer Referral Strategies

A referral from a happy customer is still your best introduction to a future happy customer.

AFTER YOU SUCCESSFULLY help your customer, letting them help you in the form of a referral, review, or testimonial is still the best way to gain a new customer. We polled some 5-star experts for the best way to go about it.

Why Person to Person Is Still Important

A 5-star review for your service organization on Yelp looks great, but sales experts say personal referrals beat social media stars most times. However, both options have success stories. Many consider referrals placed as testimonials on social media as the best of both worlds, applying a personal touch to a social profile.

So, in this age of social media, should MSPs still care about getting personal referrals for new prospects? Yes, says Steve Alexander, president of peer group facilitator MSP-Ignite. “Most MSPs should get referrals and should be closing them,” he says.

Social media has a place in the referral process, but referrals from current clients are “low-hanging fruit” you should pursue, Alexander says. “Referrals can come from anyone, not just our clients who refer us to people as someone they know, like, and trust.”

Steve Alexander

Barb Paluszkiewicz, CEO of CDN Technologies, an MSP in the Toronto area, agrees. “Everybody ‘knows a guy’ even if just by their advertising and marketing.”

But the social media mindset has changed referrals, says Janet Schijns, CEO of JS Group, a go-to-market consultancy for the channel in Palm Beach, Fla. “Referrals are important, but they’re done completely differently in the #digitalnormal era and are now reviews. Why? Because people now trust their digital network and digital sources more than they trust the old-fashioned referral.”

Still, the person-to-person aspect is important for soliciting referrals and reviews. Two ways MSPs identify happy customers who can give referrals are to see who engages with your CSAT and QBRS programs. But you still need to speak with them, says Alexander, because “maybe they give you good scores, but don’t think to refer you.”

Paluszkiewicz goes a step further and analyzes customer engagement from emails and webinars attended, as well as monitors feedback from support tickets. When the time comes to bring up a referral, she prefers to meet with them face-to-face, or at least make a call.

How to Do the Hard Part Easily

Then comes the hard part: getting a referral, review, or testimonial. Every expert says the same thing, almost verbatim: The biggest mistake in getting referrals is not asking for them. Difficult for some, but doable by all.

Paluszkiewicz doesn’t mince words: “You never get what you don’t ask for, so go ask for them across every interaction, every time!” Forgetting to follow up after a successful project means a referral or recommendation is lost forever, so make it automatic to ask for feedback. Your service will improve, and each positive comment is a potential recommendation or review worth sharing.

Barb Paluszkiewicz

“Be genuine and ask at the right time,” adds Alexander. “Verbally is the best way and ask at a time they’re excited about you going above and beyond for them.” Keep the focus on them and your relationship with them. Don’t wait to ask for referrals until you need more business; do it when the client is most satisfied because that “glow” will dim by the time they fill out a quarterly survey. Have your service coordinator guide you to clients who just finished successful projects or cleared a ticket with a tricky problem.

Paluszkiewicz tells clients that she wants to share their story of how CDN Technologies helped them so she can help others. Her .sig file includes this: “We’re never too busy to see if we can be a resource to your friends or colleagues & we love referrals. Don’t keep us a secret.” If clients read that after a successful project, they may volunteer a referral, or place a review on their social media outlets.

Don’t ask for a referral and hope for the best. The practice now is to write the customer’s testimonial then get their approval.

Schijns suggests you close every dialogue with customers with a simple feedback score or commentary option. The answer you receive may be a wonderful review that you can use if you ask. “By asking for a review, which is simpler than a referral, you can get more content you can use to support your brand,” she says. Everyone today feels comfortable reviewing products or services, whether 5 stars for a book on Amazon or 1 star for the restaurant that served hot sushi and cold salmon.

“Remember,” says Schijns, “if you go the extra mile for a client and don’t charge them for it, ask for that review and recommendation because those are worth gold to your business, since that’s where buyers go to check out your firm and you personally.”

Referral Reciprocity

Should you consider using “referral reciprocity” and refer your clients to other clients in different areas? Paluszkiewicz includes a call for this in her .sig file: “If I ran into a good prospect for your business, how would I know it and how would you like me to introduce them to you?” Even showing reviews and testimonials is a form of reciprocity by showcasing a client’s business with free advertising, and positioning them as a successful, growing, and forward-thinking organization, she says.

The average midmarket client has five to eight partners, besides you, working with them, whether advertising, telco, insurance, and so on, says Schijns, and you can all work together to help the client. “That means you should absolutely be asking for referrals and giving referrals to these parties,” she adds. She suggests you connect with all the digital marketing agencies in use by your common clients and craft a referral agreement. “It will pay off in a big way for your business,” because they are an ever-increasing lead and revenue stream for that client, and you could service some of those clients as well.

When Alexander meets with a client, his goal is to make sure he spends all his time talking about their business and what they need. That includes finding out everything he can about their business and how he can help them, including who he can refer to them. “We should always think about how to make ourselves more endearing to our customers,” he says.

The Modern Referral: Online Reviews

To use reviews effectively, focus on the social platform(s) where your clients consume them such as LinkedIn and Facebook. Schijns gives special weight to LinkedIn, because “they spend substantial money to come up first in search engines, and more than 75% of people google someone when they are going to meet with them about a potential purchase.” If your personal and company LinkedIn profiles include recommendations and testimonials, it shows the potential customers that “you are the real deal.”

Every marketing and salesperson dreams of more reviews appearing on Google’s first search page, says Alexander. It will help total strangers, he says, but he teaches that an increase in LinkedIn testimonials will help more, because the people who already follow you, or search for you when referred, will see them. “Marketing is getting strangers to notice us,” says Alexander, and LinkedIn is both a marketing and a relationship tool that moves prospects toward sales.

Janet Schijns

“Everything I post on social media, and LinkedIn particularly, is just an electronic billboard,” continues Alexander. Unlike those on the highway, this billboard will display to prospects multiple times. “Reaching out on LinkedIn is about relationships first and later sales, as long as you wait to be invited to discuss sales.”

For your social media marketing efforts, Schijns suggests you ensure your service and sales follow-up procedures include asking customers for reviews and recommendations every single time. Then use those snippets of reviews or review trends (“90% of our customers…”) in your marketing. “Lead with what your customers say about you rather than what you say about your business in your marketing, and you will win,” she adds.

One of Schijns’ clients started a drive for reviews, including a QR code app, to identify how they could better serve their customers. “They started getting 5-star reviews consistently and noticed each one gave them an uptick in their website traffic,” she says. That upped their SEO rankings to land on page one for search results. “Within 90 days of their program launch, referrals were up 61% and requests for information on their site rose 48%.”

Social media thrives on video, so feed that need too. Even Zoom meeting recordings or phone video will impress some people more than the most eloquent written review.

Marketing and outreach efforts to prospects can be expensive, so a partnership may be in order with providers from a different but complementary industry that targets the same type of business you do. Working together signals a strong referral for your customer to that partner business, and vice versa. Joint efforts make excellent business sense when they have a large prospect list of people you don’t know.

Paluszkiewicz advises clients to look at the industries or locale they serve and identify the key influencers, especially the ones their customers point to as having an effect on their purchases. When they identify a person or a company, she suggests you, “Go and hire them to market for you.” Having someone clients rely on offer your services is an excellent way to turn a referral into revenue. “Let them talk about your firm versus you talking about your firm.”

To Gift or Not to Gift?

Offering bonuses or gifts for referrals won’t get you any better-quality recommendations than waiting for the right time to ask, says Alexander. However, Paluszkiewicz sends thank you and welcome gifts to the referrer and the new customer to maintain good relationships. And maintaining good relationships with satisfied clients is a great first step in finding more organizations that can become satisfied clients.

Image: : iStock / Artur Charkin


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