Asking for reviews and referrals is a business necessity that undoubtedly requires a bit of tact and some best practices.
Have you had a customer make a point to let you know they were pleased with your work recently? Have you gone above and beyond for a customer when you knew it really mattered to them? These are just the type of customers you want to ask for a testimonial or quote to put on your website or in your marketing materials. They are well versed in your abilities and business practices, and are very likely singing your praises to their neighbors already. All you need to do is make it official. The next time you speak- whether that is in person, via e-mail or otherwise, take a minute to ask for a sound bit to help attract new customers. All you need are 1-2 sentences that capture the sentiment that may help sway a potential contract.
Ratings (and more reviews)
Ask customers that you have a casual business relationship with to review your business on websites such as Angie's List, HomeAdvisor, Facebook, and so on. They may have found you in the first place on a local rating and reviews site, and may be happy to revisit for your cause. Obviously, the higher the rating the better, but do not forget the positive influence of any one glowing review and, even more importantly, the negative effects of a lackluster one. Often shoppers and potential customers begin their ratings and review search with the lowest reviews. You may not be able to remove a negative review, but you can counter the bad by making sure that you have greater positive feedback in your reviews.
It often makes the most sense to ask for a referral from a long-time customer about how they think you are measuring up.
Create a referral program with an incentive, such as 1/2 off a plow service for referring a new customer- if using per push plowing structure- or a certain discount off their next contract. To track the discount a customer is due, you will need to set up a place on your new contract form to ask whom they were referred by and follow up accordingly. You may also want to take the extra step and put a process in place for tracking sales from new customers that came aboard as a result of the referral incentive and discounts given during the program. This will help you calculate the ROI of the incentive at the end of the season.
To get the ball rolling, it may be helpful to get coupon or even business cards made that highlight your chosen incentive and help keep it top of mind. Something that the current customer can pass along to a potential one that includes your company name and contact information will fit the bill.
Email is another great medium to communicate with current customers. You may already be using email to connect with your customers after a job is finished or when it is time to renew a contract. Checking in with the homeowner or business to see if expectations were met may also provide an opportunity to ask for a referral. If you are hoping to follow up on performance after a couple of plows, some online survey creation websites like SurveyMonkey and Qualtrics will allow you to create a template and send a certain number of emails for free. Embedding a link to a follow-up survey in a professionally created email will show the customer that you hold their satisfaction in high regard and may tip the referral scales in your favor.
You might also consider using a professional online program, such as Hubspot or Constant Contact, to create visually appealing emails to send to your contact lists. These could even come in the form of an advertisement for a referral incentive or a coupon to print out to hand out to neighbors.
Consider this- your current customers already know what you have to offer other customers just like them and can do much of the selling for you. Why spend advertising resources on other groups that necessitate casting a much wider, less targeted net. Use these referral best practices to get your current network working for you.