I frequently participate in forums on Alignable, asking and answering marketing questions. I occasionally bring bits of the forum here to the blog. Today, I’ll be expanding on a conversation I had with a bookstore owner about how to generate referrals.
Bookstore Owner : Looking for advice as to how best to market my audio bookstore to the local neighborhood and online. Here’s my issue. Our business model, that makes us unique to bookstores, is that we offer audio books for Rent. I believe we give a great value to our customers for the price we charge. But I have tried everything including radio ads, print ads, Facebook Ads and writing articles. Yet, most people find the store by accident. After 9 years in the same location, people still walk in and say to me “Wow, I didn’t know this place existed”. Thanks in advance.
Brianna at One Step: Do you have any sort of referral or rewards program? Often the best marketers are those clients who already love your business. Maybe you could offer a free month’s membership or a free book rental if they share your Facebook page, bring a friend to an event, tell a friend about your business, etc.
Bookstore Owner: We have tried several types of referral plans. Giving $5.00 credit for each referral. Offering a 1 Free month to our customers if they get a customer to sign-up to a plan. We usually advertise these referral programs for three months in a row. Out of the 300 customers we sent the offer out to only less than 1% referred anybody. That’s not say that we don’t get referrals from our customers, because we do. They just happen to be given organically. I don’t think our customers which skew in a older demographic care so much about getting a free month or receiving a dollar amount for each referral. Plus our business is so unique, I don’t think most people are thinking about it when they are out with friends.
Brianna at One Step Services: Rather than trying 3 month plans, I recommend thinking of ways that you can consistently and constantly remind your clients to refer you. You may be right that they aren’t interested in rewards and that organic referrals are best for your clientele. However, there is nothing wrong with reminding them to make those organic referrals. Many studies show that the more you remind or ask people to do something…refer you, like your social media post, write a testimony, etc…the more likely they are to do it.
So to increase those organic referrals, consider including a referral card in every book you mail out. Just a little something that a client could pass on to a friend with your info. Keep those same handouts near your cash register so people can grab them on their way out. Every time you send an email, make sure there is an obvious link so they can forward it to a friend. If you’re on social media, about once a week make a post asking for referrals or asking them to share your post/page with their friends. Here at One Step, we send out handwritten welcome notes to new clients and we include referral cards. We also send handwritten notes to our most consistent and loyal clients, people we think would speak highly of us.
It may sound obnoxious, but keep in mind one single person will probably only pay attention to one of these touch points. And it’s critical that you constantly stay top of mind to get those organic referrals. This is not a three month program, but something that is part of your long term marketing strategy. And I do think that you are off base in saying that your service is so unique people don’t think about it when out with friends. Media is a very popular topic amongst friends and movies, music and books are easy conversation starters. Your clients will refer people if you tell them to.