With so many devices pushing information at us today, it’s no wonder many people feel bombarded with communication overload. That means people have less mindshare than ever to give to YOUR business.

So the question becomes: “How does my business stand out from the ‘noise’ and get through to people?” Your job is to be like a hot knife through butter – and cut through.

That’s where customer recommendations come in. When you’ve got truly happy customers, they like telling their friends about you. Then those friends become customers.

4 Different Types of Customer Referrals and Recommendations

Luckily, today there are more ways than ever to take advantage of customer recommendations.  The Web actually expands the traditional customer recommendation in important ways.  Let’s take a look at four different types of customer recommendations.

  • Social media — Social media has made referring a business to others easier than ever for customers. A simple tweet or a Facebook post are fairly fast and simple activities for a customer to complete.  The downside to them is that they may only be seen by others who happen to be viewing the recommender’s feed that day.  You can expand that by retweeting or sharing the mention on your own Facebook Page.
  • Online reviews — A review on Yelp or your Google Local page is another way customers can recommend your business. The added benefit is that when others are searching for a vendor is when they are likely to see the review. And here’s one of the biggest benefits of an online review: it can be seen by potential customers who have never stepped foot in your business, and who don’t know anyone who has shopped with you. Think about how online reviews can dramatically widen the circle of those who might shop with your business. Talk about scaling up!
  • Person to person mentions — Then there’s always the old fashioned customer referral: literal word of mouth. When a friend asks another where she got her hair done, she tells her. The friend then books an appointment with the amazing stylist.
  • Customer testimonials on your website — Another way to get recommendations is through customer testimonials. Ask a few customers who you know genuinely love your products and ask them to write a paragraph or two about their experience. Then post these testimonials to your site. That way, anyone visiting your site to check out your business can see firsthand what customers think of your brand, service and quality.

Asking for Recommendations and Referrals

With one exception that I will mention below, it’s important to ask customers to tell others and recommend you.

Most happy customers would be glad to tell family, friends and colleagues about your business.  They’d be happy to share something online, too. A gentle prod and reminder of your social presence can be the impetus they need to socially share their love of your business.

Some businesses even pay a referral bounty for referring a new customer to you.  A referral bounty can be contained in a flyer that you give to customers, put into your monthly newsletter or other communications.

If you ask for a review at the point of sale in a retail business, there’s a good chance a customer will forget before they’re in front of a computer. Send an email after the initial sale with a link to your Yelp, Google +, or any other review site you care about, and encourage your customers to check you out on those pages. The simpler you make it, the better the results.

Now, here’s the exception I mentioned above when it comes to asking for reviews.  Some sites like Yelp actually warns against ASKING FOR REVIEWS.  What Yelp allows is simply pointing out your Yelp page and encouraging people to visit it.  More here.

One more bit of advice about review sites:  don’t forget to claim your business on review sites, and actively participate.  Make sure information is accurate and complete.  Respectfully respond to reviews. It makes a difference when a business is actively engaged in review sites, in a polite and helpful way.  When you are absent from review sites, negative reviews will fester and tend to get overweighted because you won’t have the opportunity to counter their effects.

If your customers love your brand, they’ll market it for you. Be proactive. All you need is to guide them to the appropriate channels for reviews and referrals.