Most business owners are justifiably concerned about online reviews. But many of these same entrepreneurs spend very little time or energy intentionally developing positive referrals from existing customers. When you create a brand intentionally you are far more likely to get the results that you want. If you wait for people to write their own reviews — positive or negative – you are leaving your business in the hands of other people who have their own opinions and agendas. Business owners who make it easy to give a referral simultaneously expand their customer base and enable the most effective type of brand communication — the personal endorsement. This is another action tied to the development of a strong brand.
Referrals: Don’s Donut Shop
To create a stronger referral network, Don’s Donut shop decides to create “Tell-a-Friend Tuesdays.” Each Tuesday morning — the slowest day of the week — Don makes several batches of mini-donuts in the three most popular flavors. He prints tiny boxes with the logo, URL and the message, “I love you so much I’m giving you Don’s Donuts!”
Everyone that comes in on Tuesday and purchases a dozen donuts receives one of the small boxes to give to whoever they want. A boss might pass it on to her assistant; a husband may give it to his wife. Everyone wins: the donut giver gets brownie points and Don gets a personal referral with lots of brand awareness. He also associates his brand with the positive emotions that we all feel when we receive a gift from someone we love.
Referrals: Harriet’s Hamburgers
Many businesses offer referral programs, but too many of them are difficult, requiring the existing customer to “prove” that they referred the new customer before receiving a small benefit, usually nothing more than a discount. Harriet, the owner of Harriet’s Hamburgers, decided to turn this complex back-and-forth procedure upside down, making referrals easier and more compelling.
Harriet produced ads describing many of the things she’s proud of, including the quality of the food and how they source local ingredients, but at the end of each ad she says, “Let my staff know you’re a friend of mine and your fries are on the house!” While the ads are running, Harriet makes a point of spending each day in the restaurant greeting those customers who come in and say that they know her, making the statements instantly true and creating deeper, more personal relationships with her customers. In a few minutes she builds a relationship with each person at the table, taking the time to learn more about what her customers want — valuable data with more depth than any survey could produce. And, of course, the customers love the free fries.
By creating a more personal relationship with her customers Harriet creates referrals herself rather than waiting on existing customers to create referrals for her. She can see for herself how effective the ads are, and can even pinpoint which outlets produce the most customers. Word gets around, of course, as existing customers tell their friends to come in and say they know the owner.