Before you begin to grow your business, you must first know who you plan to rely on for referrals and repeat business. You have to figure out who is already in your life and what roles you want these people to take in your life and business moving forward.
Let’s get that yellow pad or word processing document out and take some notes as we go through the next section.
Your current and past clients are the people who know your work. They have personal experience with your wonderful ability to make plumbing parts that initially appeared to be back ordered appear from the distribution center the very next day like magic.
They are the ones who know firsthand what your customer service, billing and follow up systems are like. These people will be the most effective source of referrals provided you are ready, willing and able to serve them in the most effective manner possible and have demonstrated your abilities.
If you do not have a great track record with past clients, take heart. Some clients will be willing to look past a negative experience if they like you as a person and see that you are working to overcome the things that made their initial experience with you a negative one. The key is to make sure you are investing your time in the previous and past clients who were or are ideal for your business and those who are willing to put in a good work for you moving forward.
Take the time to list all of your customers, past and present in whatever type of database works best for you. I have been using the same excel spreadsheet for fifteen years and it works just fine for my purposes. If you already have a database, make certain that it is up to date.
Everyone has relationships in their lives. Who do you spend time with when you’re not working? Do you have a group of friends or family who know what you do and refer business to you? Write them down on your list or enter them into your database.
What about loose social connections? Do your kids play soccer or do you serve on a community association board with other people? Write those names down as well. If they are on your list, there is some type of common interest between you and it is likely that some of these people will either A) be ideal clients themselves or B) be able to refer you to ideal clients.
I will never forget the dumbfounded look my remodeler friend Andy had on his face when I asked him if the other parents who he and his wife knew through PTA, soccer and softball knew what he did for a living. He and I had spent the day together talking about who his ideal clients were and where his ideal location was and there they were, serving at PTA bake sales with his wife and coaching his children’s sports teams.
One night, a few months after our chat, Andy called me to vent. “They’ve been right under my nose for seven years and I never even noticed!” He had started talking to the other parents about work and what they did for a living and casually mentioned to one or two of them that he was a contractor and liked working close to home. He had, two months after we first discovered his gold mine, already closed four contracts for bathroom remodels within fifteen minutes of his house. “They didn’t even know what I did for a living!”
Listen, I am not suggesting that you go out there and try to sell every person you come into contact with or become a walking billboard for your company every minute of the day. I think it is uncomfortable and embarrassing to try and sell friends and family on your services the minute they find out what you do. It comes off as desperate and unprofessional.
On the other side of that coin, however, we often put people into boxes and if you’re “Joe, Tessa’s dad” it might be hard for your loose social connections to put you into the “remodeler” category when the time does come and they need work done. Letting people know what you do isn’t a bad thing. Just go about it in a professional and understated manner.
Add your loose social contacts to this list or database because they will likely be one of your largest untapped resource for referrals. They already know you like and trust you; you are just going to be presented in a new light.
Who do you write checks to when you are doing a project? Who supplies materials? Who advises you when you have a problem? These business relationships, both with those inside of the industry and with other professionals such as a doctor or lawyer, may be able to pass along business to your company directly or indirectly through referrals.
Some trade professionals, such as your plumber or electrician, may be valuable referral resources for projects like a whole house remodel, repair work after a fire or flood or a roofing job. Just make sure to return the favor and bring them in on jobs where their expertise is called for.
Make a list of all of the people you work with and add them to you list or database.