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How to Get the Referral

"We hear that you are offering some of the best customer service and high quality work! Are you available to help us out with our new project?"

Do you hear this often? If so, you are doing something right! If you're not getting phone calls every day asking for bids or estimates, don't worry, there are lots of ways you can get your name and services on the tip of new customer's tongues.

Most importantly, you should know that almost all referrals start with the same common denominator; no matter which contractor market segment (residential, commercial, industrial), you must be professional and do good work. Without these qualities, your customers will never give your name out to business contacts, friends or family. That must be your primary focus. Once that component is established, you can concentrate on using several different methods to incentivize your happy customer base to want to give your name out as a referral.

There are many things you can offer your residential clients who are looking for great deals:

  • Always have referral cards ready, whether it's a stack of your business cards or customized referral literature. Make sure all happy customers walk away with something to hand off to a friend or family member.
  • Provide free, value-added information such as "How to Care for Your Newly Painted Walls" or "Project Record Sheets" that list the colors and products used on the job. Giving customers information that they are likely to hold onto or pass onto a friend in need is a simple way to have your logo and brand messaging fresh in a customer's mind. This is a perfect way to show that you will go the extra mile to keep your customers well informed.
  • Offer gift cards to restaurants, super markets, or even Visa and American Express. When initially signing a contract, inform your customer that you have a referral program in place that offers gift cards for leads that produce new projects for your company. Telling your customer from the get-go lets your customer look for friends and family in need of your services while you still see them on a regular basis.
  • Offer discounts on current or future projects. If you see an opportunity for a profitable referral, don't be afraid to hand over a discount to a customer that can help close a new deal.
  • Partner with other home improvement service companies and offer a discount for generating leads for each other's services.

While residential referrals are quite valuable, your commercial and industrial client base incentives can often bring in some real profit. Here's how to tap into commercial referrals:

  • Offer discounts on current projects for referrals to their business contacts. Most decision makers for large commercial contracting firms have many business contacts that they have developed over their careers at other contracting companies. These contacts can help you get your foot in the door for similar or even more extensive projects.
  • Provide discounts on personal projects for decision makers. When bidding on new commercial projects, inform the prospective client that you offer special pricing for friends and family of clients. If you feel you need an extra incentive for providing a referral, you can even offer small projects for free (under a certain value), as a sample of your services. This shows confidence in your services and will further the relationship you're developing, leading to a positive review.
  • Consider providing some of the "Change Order" requests free of charge. While this may be a financial burden to you and your company, this action shows your willingness to work with your client even when the fees are justified, or an unexpected adjustment needs to be made.

At the end of the day, building quality relationships is the key to any successful referral strategy. When your work shines and you have the best customer service to back it up, you'll find that your customers can't help but rave about your exceptional work.