The Humble and Oft-Forgot Referral Letter: Are You ASKING for the Business?

At the Shine conference for women entrepreneurs I recently attended, one of the sessions was about how to get more clients.  Always an important topic, of course—but one thing that was covered in that session that really stuck with me was the idea of the little old, much neglected referral letter. The idea of sending one wasn’t new to me, but for some reason hearing it discussed this time stood out.

The basic idea is that you want to reach out to contacts you already have—friends, family, former clients or anyone you have in your address book—and tell or remind them about your business and the type of client you want to work with.  It sounds like Marketing 101, and it is—but many of us (including me!) just don’t take the time to do it.  Maybe it’s because we’re busy implementing so many other business-getting methods or maybe it’s because it’s so fundamental that we overlook it.  But it might also be that we just aren’t sure what to SAY!

If that’s you, here’s what I took away from that session regarding structuring your very own referral letter:

1) Greet them and express why you are writing.

Sounds like a “duh” but the idea is that you want your note to be very cordial.  After all, some of those you will be writing to (whether via written note or email) you may not have spoken to in a while.

2) Ask for the referral.

This is the crux of the letter.  There are many ways you could phrase this—for example, you might want to lead into it by announcing your new business if you’ve just launched; or, if your business is not all that new, you could say that it occurred to you that you hadn’t shared with them what it is you are now doing.  Again, be casual and cordial.

3) Tell them who it is you want to work with.

This part is key, as it is where you will be sharing with them who your ideal client is.  Make it easy for them to send the right kind of people your way!

4) Tell what problems you solve.

This is another very important piece, and you’ll want to get very specific here.  Give examples and emphasize: “These are the kinds of issues I can help with and love to work on with my clients.”

5) Tell them what the people they refer to you receive.

For example, a free 20-minute introductory consultation with you.

6) Tell them what they’ll receive.

Incentivize–what’s in it for them if they send referrals your way?  Do they get a free session with you? A percentage of the sale?  Your undying gratitude for always?

7) Finally, include a call to action.

This is another way you can make the process dead simple for them.  Specifically, HOW should they send you referrals?

Much of this was intuitive already, but seeing it laid out step by step helped give me the nudge I needed to finally get on with sending one already! (Even though I’ve been in business going on three years.  Ah, well.  Better late than never. :-))

I encourage you to send your own letter using this framework.  We all love the newer, fancier ways of getting the word out about ourselves, whether that be via Twitter or YouTube or our blog, but sometimes our best (and the most) clients come from good old-fashioned, no-nonsense referrals.

But—we can’t get them if we don’t ask for it…so try it!

What about you?  Have you sent your own referral letter yet?

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