Referrals always begin with providing your current customers with prompt, reliable, quality service. If they’re happy with you, they’ll be happy to spread the word on your behalf—often without you having to ask.
Ask your current customers if they know of any colleagues who are looking for the kind of service you provide. Follow up with a call or letter to those businesses. Make sure you get your customer’s permission to cite them as a referral source.
If a customer compliments you on your work, ask them to put it in writing for use as a testimonial in your marketing materials. Again, make sure you have their permission to use their name for that purpose. Always acknowledge a customer’s referral with a thank-you note or phone call. If you send a card, consider including a coupon to a popular restaurant or a discount on a future purchase.
Many retail and service businesses lend themselves well to formal referral incentive programs with cash, gifts, or discounts. Make sure these "rewards" fit into your budget, and that you have clear rules and guidelines (e.g., only one referral reward per customer during a defined period).
Ken Yancey CEO SCORE Washington, D.C.