In a world of digital marketing, it can be easy to forget the old tried-and-true way of getting new customers: word-of-mouth. The fact is, referrals remain one of, if not the most effective customer acquisition tactic. And new business that comes via your existing clientele is also more valuable. In fact, referred customers have a 25% higher lifetime value than those found using other means.

Asking for referrals, however, doesn’t always come natural. If you struggle in this area, here are a few tips that might make it easier.

Focus first on service.

Nobody is going to willingly offer up the names and contact information of other people in their network if the service you offer is subpar. If you want to increase the number of recommendations you get, make wowing your existing clientele an ongoing priority. The happier your customers are, the more likely they’ll be to sing your praises.

Cash in on compliments.

It’s easier to ask for referrals from customers you know are already happy with your product or service, so keep an eye and ear out for compliments. When a client leaves a positive review or tells you directly that he or she is pleased, tell them you’re glad they’re happy and ask if they know anyone else who might benefit from what you have to offer.

Be specific.

If your target audience is B2B, a referral for an individual won’t be worth much. Likewise, if you’re targeting people with a high net worth, someone who is not in that category may not be worth reaching out to. When asking for recommendations, be specific about who you are looking to connect with. That way you won’t have to waste time pursuing leads that won’t produce the results you’re after.

Create a loyalty program.

A little incentive can go a long way. Many businesses have been very successful implementing customer loyalty programs, through which people can earn something in return for recommending friends and family. It doesn’t have to cost anything out-of-pocket, either. For instance, you could offer a discount on a future purchase in exchange for sharing contact info. As a bonus, you’ll also increase the odds of generating repeat sales. Win-win!

Pay it forward.

In life, and in business, you get what you give. People will be much more inclined to share referrals when they’ve gotten the same from you. It may not be possible for you to provide referrals to your customers, but for your partners, colleagues and other professional network associates, it may make sense. Additionally, being reciprocal will help bolster your reputation as a whole.

Given the fact that referred customers are 18% less likely to churn and 25% more profitable per year, focusing at least some of your efforts toward referral marketing is a no-brainer. If you happen to be one of the many who struggle to come out and ask your existing clientele to consider recommending others, the five tips above should make things a little less awkward. Practice these things and over time, it’ll become like second nature.

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by Benchmark Team