iStock_000013292595XSmallAs a small business owner or sales professional you realize the value of referrals, but are you actively seeking them from your customers?  It’s not enough to wait for referrals to come rolling in, you need to be proactive and incorporate a plan that helps send referrals your way.

Referrals come in a number of forms.

Requested Referrals occur when someone discovers a problem or need and turns to those they know and trust for a recommendation.

Testimonials are indirect referrals. They express satisfaction with your product/service and suggest others will benefit as well.  Video testimonials are particularly powerful and can be embedded in websites, blogs, newsletters or sent as video email for maximum reach.

Conversational Referrals take place during normal exchanges between people and often follow an outstanding experience with a business.

Online Reviews are sought by consumers before making purchases and can have a profound effect on their final decision.   The more positive reviews your product has, the greater its chances of being selected for purchase.

Referrals provide exposure to potential new customers and come with the added bonus of personal recommendations, a perfect primer for gaining business.  But, to make referrals happen consistently, you need to ask for them.

Businesses can cultivate referrals in a number of ways.

Sharing – Make it easy for people to share webpages and blog posts.  Add ‘share’ buttons and encourage people to share your content with their social networks.

Email Signature – Include a line or two in your email signature asking for referrals.

E-newsletters – Ask people to forward your e-newsletter to someone who might benefit from the information or have an interest in your business.

Ask for Testimonials – Look for opportunities (successful support call, positive purchase experience, product surveys, etc.) to ask customers for testimonials.  As mentioned above, video testimonials are highly effective.

Forum Engagement – Encourage customers to mention your product (when applicable) during forum or other online group discussions.

Incentives – Offer incentives to customers for referring friends.  Discounts, freebies and other referral enticements can convert ordinary, happy customers into raving fans.

Finally, be an amazing business that goes above and beyond customer expectations and they will happily promote your products and share their experiences with others, in-person and online.

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Jamie Bidwell is a team member at www.covideo.com. Covideo provides video email software that helps companies build relationships quickly and reinforce their brands more effectively with easy-to-make video emails that truly communicate. jamie@covideo.com.