As a proud owner of a small business, you will most likely spend a lot of time working on providing the best possible customer service. You put everything you can into making sure that your customers or clients are pleased with your work, and feel like they’ve gotten top quality service and good value for money. Those clients say they’re happy, and they may even write great testimonials for you if you ask them to, but are they referring new business to you? Having a strong client base is an important part of preventing a crisis for your business, so if you aren’t getting new leads from your existing clients, maybe you should stop to think about why.
Referrals can be brilliant for business. They’re even better than “hot leads” – your sales team don’t have to do any selling to get them as customers, because they come to you already knowing that they want to buy. If you have to then turn them down, because you’re too busy, out of stock, or simply know you can’t deliver on the deadline they want, then when you tell them that, they’ll be impressed by your honesty. Instead of looking unprofessional, you’ll come across as exclusive. That’s something that money can’t buy.
You can’t force people to refer their friends, but you can encourage it. The best thing to do is to pick your best customers – the ones that provide regular orders, pay on time, and seem switched-on and in touch with the business world. If you’re working for several people, and some of them are older clients you picked up when you were charging low rates, don’t look to those people for referrals. They’ll tell everyone how cheap you are, and the last thing you want is more people buying your services based on price alone.
Once you’ve picked out the quality clients, ask them if they’d be willing to spread the word about your business. If you’re embarrassed about asking, then put together a small promotional pack, and include a special offer with it. This doesn’t have to be a huge discount, but even something such as “refer a friend and you both get 10% off our standard price next month” will help to generate some buzz.
Track Your Leads
Once you have a marketing plan in place, don’t just leave it at that. If you want to make sure that your new plans will work as well as possible when it comes to preventing a crisis, then you’ll need to have as much information as possible available to you. Good marketing and effective crisis controlrequires knowledge of every part of your business – including which of your customers have been the best advocates, which companies tend to talk to each other, which times of year are busiest for you, and which times are likely to be quiet.
Remember that the customer/supplier relationship is almost symbiotic. If you need a customer to survive, then you should try to make yourself indispensable to them too.
This post was written by James Harper on behalf of Insignia who provide training on crisis control and preventing a crisis. James writes on matters relating to businesses large and small.
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