Over the last 17 years, I’ve had the privilege of working with many local businesses. In most casual settings and without fail, the topic of marketing wiggles its way into the conversation. Either I provoke it (frankly, I just love marketing that much) or the business owner assertively inserts it themselves.  

It’s the question of “How do I make my marketing better?”  

Since all businesses are different, I initially was surprised they often omit the same critical marketing planning exercise. One that could supercharge not only their marketing, but their revenue.  

Almost all don’t have a referral or repeat business system.

When that’s the case, I insist they do one thing first: Before focusing on new business, find referrals or repeat customers. 

Why Referrals/Repeat First? 

Assuming you’ve done the hard work of getting your first few clients under your belt, structuring this self-sustaining part of your business is crucial.  

Referrals and repeat customers are always cheaper to acquire than spending cash on Google Ads or boosting Facebook posts.  

Why not make this a substantial  business driver? If you’re dying to get into the paid online media mix, a stable referral base could finance your dream online campaign, complete with boosted content, Google Ads and, yes, TikTok ads. 

What You Need to Build Referral/Repeat Business 

Communication 

How you communicate with clients is different for every business, and often is different for each client. To ensure the client takes your call, you must reach them on their preferred channel. 

After all, we all have our own preferences, and getting a call when you just want an email could be a major turnoff. Ask early how a prospect/customer would prefer to hear from you and stick to it. This will make it easier to start the necessary dialogue that precedes a referral or repeat business. 

Communicating regularly during the service or sales process is a given. However, continuing that communication after the sale is equally important.  

If you haven’t kept up with clients after the sale, start now! Even if it’s been a while, the longer you wait the more jarring it will be when you ask for a referral.  

Do your best to organize the channels so you don’t text someone who avoids them or send an email to an inbox they never check. 

Organization/Documentation 

To really make the request effective, you’ll want to recall as much as possible about the customer and the job you did. Did you do it well? How quickly did you get paid? Did they mention any other services you might be able to provide? Did they leave you a review?  

All these questions and more can help personalize your outreach to a prospective referral or repeat customer. It truly pays to leverage a documentation system so you have all this information in one place. 

Automation 

This shouldn’t be mind-blowing. There are several easy-to-use technical solutions that can automate the communication, documentation and outreach of repeat business and referrals. Having a system to remind you to reach out after a period of time could relieve some of the stress about remembering.  

You could easily set a reminder to reach out in three weeks to follow up on repeat business. Or you could try a software platform that automatically stages this.  

Imagine if you didn’t need the reminder, but the system would automatically reach out for a review, a referral or time-based repeat service on your behalf. Instead of a grueling one-email-at-a-time campaign, you could have folks ready for your business every time you open your inbox. 

Once you have the referral and repeat business humming, you can now further invest in marketing to new customers. In fact, the referral and repeat business could be a selling point in your marketing materials.  

Think: social proof! Testimonials or statistics on repeat services, reviews or referrals could be the perfect edge against your competition.  

And even better, you’ll be able to do more with your marketing if you have more money to put behind it. 

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