You are a new or small business, you are running a tight ship when it comes to expenses, yet you need to get the word out there.


The best place to start is with your happy returning customers and to rely on good old-fashioned word of mouth - it’s effective, fluent, and free!


A recommendation from a reliable and trusted source - otherwise known as a referral - is one of the most powerful tools in a small business owner's hands.


Asking for referrals can prove to be tricky, however simple the process may seem. Often we let pride or ego get in the way or we are unable to tactfully phrase the request, and back away in fear of alienating or even losing customers.


Practice some of these tips when asking for referrals and you should see results:


1. ALWAYS ask face to face. In this digital world it may seem easiest to shoot off a quick email or text, but underestimating the time it takes to make the request automatically devalues the referral itself. Schedule a coffee or lunch meeting, your treat and make the customer understand that their words carry weight and you value them. Clearly, the average value of the transaction will determine just how you approach this.


2. Be clear in what aspects you are looking to promote, and why you are choosing them for the referral request. Highlight the positives in your relationship and bring to the surface some suggestions for talking points. Making it seem easy is your job.


3. Don’t combine the request with another less meaningful task. This takes away from the importance of the referral request, and it is tactless. Never drop an invoice and request a referral!


4. Instead, time your request with a positive note; strike while the iron is hot, so to speak.


5. Be prepared with a laundry list of why a customer might refer you - yes, it’s up to them, but it helps to provide them with notes. Referrals are very personal; the notes should be more of a prompt, encouraging engagement and trust.


Now that you have made the requests, make sure you know your role in the process. You MUST follow up with referrals. People get busy, time slips away. Be the reminder that they need, or your customer’s kind words will go unnoticed!


And always, without fail, thank your referrer.