If you run a web design and SEO business, you know how much work it takes to find new clients. That’s why when you have a client you should be doing everything you can to make them a loyal client, encourage them to refer others and provide ongoing services to them. As they say, it’s much easier (and cheaper) to keep an existing client than it is to find a new one. But when you do need more clients, encouraging your existing clients to refer others they know is a great strategy to use. Here we’ll look at how to implement a client referral program.

Especially when first starting out in business, it’s common to second guess yourself and wonder if you’re doing everything the way it “should” be done. That means we tend to over complicate things, creating more work for ourselves. When it comes to creating a client referral program there are three things I want you to keep in mind.

  1. There is no “right” way

You can design your client referral program anyway you’d like to.  This is your business so don’t be afraid to put your personal touch on it and use your own creative ideas that you think will work for your clients.

  1. Test, change, adapt

Remember you can always change your program at any time. Don’t feel like once it’s created, there is no going back. Test your offers and see what works best for your business.

  1. Keep it simple

Don’t make this harder than it needs to be. Keep the process simple for both you and your clients.


Why should you care about referrals in the first place?

Do you know what the biggest difference is between current clients and potential clients?

With your current clients you have already built trust and that’s huge. Trust helps you go from an initial conversion to a sale faster. Referrals will automatically trust you more even though they have never spoken to you because someone they already trust told them to contact you. That means it’s much easier to make a deal with a referral than it is to make a deal with any other type of lead.

So if you’re not asking for referrals you’re really missing out.

How do you ask current clients for referrals?

It can feel a bit odd at first to ask your clients for a referral. Most people don’t mind being asked and if they’re thrilled with your work, they like being able to show their appreciation with a referral. The good news…people like helping other people. It makes them feel good.

The bad news…many people won’t do it without being asked. People are busy and they may not even realize they may know someone who could benefit from your services unless you ask.

Which clients should you ask for referrals?

Every single one, right? Well, no. You should be asking clients who you have established trust with and those clients who are thrilled with your service. Those are the ones who will speak highly of you and will want to take the time to refer others.

You also want to only ask clients who you’ve enjoyed working with (“easy” clients). When you ask for a referral from a client who is a big pain, they tend to refer others who will behavior similarly.

What should your referral program look like?

Asking clients for referrals should be on your list of tasks to do when you wrap up a project. At that point you can evaluate whether or not this client would be a good person to ask for a referral.

Adding a “referral hour” to your calendar once a month or so will allow you to revisit your client list to see which clients you haven’t asked. This may be clients you have on a monthly retainer with a project that doesn’t necessarily have an end date for example.

You also want to think about how you can think someone for making a referral. After all, they are taking time out of their busy day to talk with someone about your business. This could be as simple as a thank you email, thank you card in the mail, a small gift, discount or even a commission for referring paid work. The more you do, the bigger the incentive for your client to refer people.

If a client refers someone to me, I always like to follow-up with a way of showing my appreciate even if the person referred does not hire me for whatever reason. This way I am still thanking my client for their time and encouraging them to refer others.

One tactic I like to use is to provide a signed letter that briefly introduces the client to the referral program and shows them the benefit of referring someone. This keeps it simple but makes the program look official.

Who else can I ask?

Another strategy to use is to open your referral program up to other businesses you can partner with. These businesses can refer work to you when their clients are looking for services they don’t provide. In return, you can offer a percentage of what you will earn from a project.  This is a nice way to receive ongoing clients that you don’t have to take the time to find.

There are many types of companies you can reach out to such as:

  • PR companies
  • Social media consultants
  • Web designers
  • SEOs
  • IT companies
  • Videographers
  • Hosting companies
  • Book keepers

After speaking or meeting with them to talk about the services and the results we can achieve for their clients, I follow-up with a referral program offer letter thanking them for their interest and highlighting the benefits of referring clients.

Your next steps

If you haven’t already starting asking for your referrals, you need to start doing so immediately. Start by looking at your current client list. Which clients have you built a good relationship with? Which clients have expressed how happy they are with your work? Those are the clients you should reach out to first.

Pick up the phone, draft an email or download a free client referral program template to use. And then make asking for referrals a part of your business.

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