Finding new customers for any business, big or small, is the lifeblood of its success and sustainability. Without new business and making new sales there is no way a business can endure.
As important as that is and has always been, the retention of existing customers and mining those customers for referrals has become much more important.
Companies are awakening to just how valuable this is, and are investing more in retaining existing customers at a much higher level of customer engagement and service. GM has put this at the top of their priority list, and is shooting for 68 percent!
Small business marketing expert and founder of the Duct Tape Marketing System, John Jantsch, talks about the 7 Steps To Creating a Marketing System. This system and these steps are fundamental to finding qualified customers and then converting them into referrals. Jantsch defines marketing as: “getting someone that has a need to know, like, and trust you”.
Developing referrals from people who have a need to like, know, and trust you should be relatively easy and effective, as long as you have a system and you are consistently earning that trust.
Fast forward to the 21st century, where mining customers and referrals can now come from social media platforms and communities, too. Yep, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Pinterest, Blogs, Podcasts all can be very fertile referral sources. Our social networks give people more opportunity to “know, like, and trust” us through what we write and say, and what others write and say about us.
Are you working both worlds to develop referrals?
Dennis McEniry, President Online at Estee Lauder Companies, talks about the role social media plays  in its brand: “The number one influence on beauty consumers in every market around the world is advice from friends. With social media, not only are they able to get timely brand information directly from brands, but also all of the validation from authorities and friends”.
Here are five things you can do to develop referrals from your community and customers.
1. Build Relationships Versus Transactions
If people do business with people they like, know, and trust, as author Bob Burg  says in his best selling book The Go Giver, then building relationships rather than having transactions is the way to do that and get referrals.
2. Use Testimonials
Use the power of satisfied customers and loyal followers. Keep updating your testimonials on LinkedIn and put them up on your Websites.
3. Ask People
Identify key people that you can ASK for referrals, a testimonial, or recommendation, who you have no problem endorsing back or referring back, and ASK them.
4. Network, Network, and Network
Blend your online and in person networking strategy and get personal with people. Meet people in person and use the social media platforms as a bridge. They will remember how you make them feel.
5. Develop the Referral Habit
Make developing and getting referrals an integral part of your daily activities. ABM—always be networking and always be requesting referrals.
The conversion rate of referrals from satisfied customers is about 50 percent. Use your existing relationships to turn customers into your sales force !
Always be asking the right people the following questions:
“Who do you know that could benefit like you have from this community, product, or service”?
“Could you recommend or make an introduction to them for me?”
Spend more time mining reliable referrals and watch what happens!
Referral  Photo via Shutterstock