female doctor happily speaks with elderly man

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO, once said, “Nothing influences people more than a recommendation from a trusted friend. A trusted referral influences people more than the best broadcast message. A trusted referral is the Holy Grail of advertising.” This holds true in the home care industry, where 19.3% of industry leaders rated client referrals as their top revenue-generating referral source in 2014. Acquiring a client through a client referral costs an average of $522 as opposed to $660 for a client found through the Internet. Client referrals are cost effective and generally lead to a lasting client base. To help you make the most of your client relationships, here are the basics to getting referrals:

1. Prepare

Before you start seeking out referrals, you should form a game plan. Begin by identifying your most enthusiastic and loyal clients. These clients may already be recommending you and are the most likely to offer you referrals. You should focus your efforts on them. Once you’ve identified this key pool of clients, decide who you want to be involved and which mediums you’ll use. Do you want to set up a client referral program? Do you plan on using email, letters, visits, phone calls? Work with your staff to get ideas, and once you have a plan, share it with your team.

2. Train

While you may have regular contact with your clients, your caregivers and staff work with them face-to-face on a daily basis, which makes them your greatest asset in receiving referrals. Train your caregivers to identify your promoters—clients who would be willing to recommend your company. Once they know how to recognize them, they can focus on obtaining referrals and help your other clients to become promoters. Asking for referrals doesn’t always come naturally, so take the time to practice simple ways to ask with your caregivers and to help them recognize when it’s appropriate.

3. Ask

To receive referrals you need to ask for them. While some clients will shout your brand from the rooftops, most of your clients need you to tell them that your business relies on references. Tactfully asking for referrals should be part of your company culture. Search for opportune moments to ask (e.g. right after clients tell you how much they love your services). Every time you see a client you can ask for a referral, and your caregivers should be asking at least every couple of months. Your clients will come to expect it, and if they enjoy your services, they’ll begin searching for people to refer to you on your next visit.

When you ask, be specific. (e.g. Is there anyone in your dance class who would benefit from our services?) And don’t be afraid to ask again if the first question doesn’t get a name (i.e. if there’s no one in dance class, try their book club/family/neighborhood/etc.). If the client doesn’t offer a name, thank them and ask them to let you know if someone comes to mind. If the client does give you a referral, let them know what that means to you, and let them know when you’ll be contacting their reference. You may even want to contact the referral with the client present.

4. Act

Referrals are time sensitive. If a client trusts you with a good friend or neighbor, you need to contact them quickly. Your schedule is busy, but contacting referrals should be a priority for you or someone on your staff. Waiting is a sure way to lose your client’s trust and their future referrals, so act fast.

5. Follow-up

After you’ve contacted the referral, be sure to follow-up with your client. Let them know how it went. If it went well, offer your heartfelt thanks. You may even want to offer them sort of discount or gift as a more visible token of your gratitude. If the referral didn’t turn into a client, let them know, but highlight the positive from the experience. Tell them how kind their friend was or what services you were able to recommend them. A positive follow-up meeting is one of the surest ways to receive more referrals.

6. Ask Again

Stay consistent as you ask for referrals. Maybe the client doesn’t have anyone in mind right now, but in a month they will. Former clients are also great referral sources. Though they no longer need your services they may know someone who does.

Ultimately, the greatest secret to obtaining referrals is making your company worth referring. When your clients receive high-quality service, they won’t hesitate to tell their friends about it. Referrals are the key to new long-term clients, and as you improve your services and use these steps, you’ll be ready to receive them.

For more tips on client referrals check out these helpful resources from our library: