IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

Can’t-Miss Customer Referral Strategies

A referral from a happy customer is still your best introduction to a future happy customer. By James E. Gaskin
Reader ROI: 
AFTER SUCCESSFUL CUSTOMER PROJECTS of any size, ask for a review, testimonial, or referral.
MOVE THE FOCUS from “help us get more revenue” to “who else can we help the way we’ve helped you?”
LOOK FOR PARTNERSHIPS, whether for joint marketing or to refer your customers to prospects for their business.

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.

About the Author

James E. Gaskin's picture

JAMES E. GASKIN is a ChannelPro contributing editor and former reseller based in Dallas.

ChannelPro SMB Magazine

Get an edge on the competition

With each issue packed full of powerful news, reviews, analysis, and advice targeting IT channel professionals, ChannelPro-SMB will help you cultivate your SMB customers and run your business more profitably.