Why Are You Scared to Ask for a Referral?

One of the most powerful marketing techniques is getting your happy customers to recommend you to their peers.  I’ve touched on some of the reasons for this in previous posts, but it’s potent because:

1. Your customers will only recommend you to the friends they believe will enjoy/appreciate/use your particular product or service.  No-one is going to refer their granny to their tattoo artist or their son to their gynecologist.  So the recommendees are pre-qualified for you.

2. They will feel good for two reasons – they’re doing their friend a favour by turning them on to something good, and they’re doing you a favour by possibly sending more business your way.  Doing stuff for other folks makes (most) people happy.

3. You lock in your existing customer.  After they’ve told someone how great you are, they’d look foolish if they took their business somewhere else.

So why are people shy of asking for referrals?  I think there are two reasons, one benign and one more sinister.  The benign reason is that there has been such a long impregnation of “the customer is always right” that vendors have developed an inferiority complex.  They think, “my patron has already given me money, how can I ask this additional onerous task of her?”  But wait a sec – you gave her something, too.  And if it was a valuable product or service, and equitably priced, then she’s in your debt as much as you are in hers (which is to say, not at all).  So neither of you owes the other anything – you are on an even pitch.  Asking a favour in those circumstances is fair play.

The darker possible reason is that you feel you’ve put something over on your customer.  You’ve shafted them.  It doesn’t feel “right” asking them to help you after the horrible travesty you’ve perpetrated.  If this is the case, then you’ve got to improve your product until you can be proud  to ask for referrals.


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