Are you benefitting from business referralsDo you benefit from business referrals? If so, how often do you get them – regularly, once in a while, seldom, never?

Business referrals should be one of the easier ways to gain new clients as it’s one of the most powerful marketing tools in your belt. But how often do we concentrate on this form of marketing?

My answer: not enough. How about you?

Let’s take an everyday example. If you’re looking for someone to fit a new bathroom in your home, would you give that business to someone who has been recommended, or would you use a company completely unknown to you? I’m pretty sure you’d all choose the person or business that was recommended. Let’s face it, we’re much more trusting and comfortable dealing with a business somebody has already used and been pleased with the results.

So why is it that we don’t tend to focus our efforts on receiving more referrals? We blog, do social media, get involved in forums, go to networking events (both on and offline), but miss this massive opportunity.

Here are 5 ideas to increase your business referral rate that won’t take up too much valuable time.

1. Ask your existing clients.

This is the most obvious and easiest of all. I always send out a short feedback form to my clients after 6 months of working together. Of course you can send one out much sooner than that, but I tend to wait until then as I feel it gives a good amount of time for us both to have settled into a routine and have formed a strong working  relationship. Ensure that one of the questions on the form relates to referrals and whether they would refer you to their contacts. If the answer is yes this will hopefully prompt them to do so. But don’t be afraid to check back in with them at a later date to ask if they have. Even better if you can give your client(s) some business cards that they could give out on your behalf whilst attending their own networking events.

2. Tap into your contact list.

It’s said that we all have a network of around 250 people, and that these 250 people know 250 more people. This means that you potentially have access to up to 62,500 people. With a conversion rate of just 0.01% you could pick up 6 new clients!

So speak to friends, family and past colleagues explaining what services you offer and ask that they refer you to their contacts. Use LinkedIn – this is the perfect channel for tapping into contacts of contacts. Take a look through each of your contacts and see who they’re connected to. One of those may be a great match for your services. Then all that’s needed is for you to ask your contact if they can make an introduction.

3. Speak to other VAs.

Something that worked well for me when I was starting out was supporting already established VAs. They want to grow their business further so are happy to have associates assisting them, and you get guaranteed work whilst building your business up. Be open and agree to sign a non-disclosure agreement which will help gain trust that you aren’t looking to poach their clients. They will refer any work on to you that they can’t manage.

4. Reward.

Offer your existing clients a reward for any referrals that convert into new business. This could be X number of hours free, 50% discount off your standard rate for X number of hours etc. Hopefully your clients will happily refer you on to others if they are pleased with your work, but offering a small incentive for taking the time to do so will perhaps provide a little further encouragement.

5. Refer others.

Arguably the most influential of all referral options is to refer other businesses. Any time you’re in a position to recommend a business to another, or even better bring 2 business owners together, they are likely to respond in a similar way when an opportunity arises.

Referrals really are your strongest form of marketing so spend a little time every month doing the above and see if your client numbers rise.

Oh and don’t forget to thank those who do refer you – send a card, gift or take them out to lunch, the new client you’ve gained will cover those costs and much more!