shoutWord-of-mouth referral is powerful as we can attest to – the question is how do we make it work for us more often? Frankly, we have to use times of year for the opportunities that present themselves, like the holidays, when your former customers are expecting to hear from old friends and colleagues. 9 out of 10 people are going to simply send out typical gifts like popcorn and gift baskets.

However, let’s be honest – will a gift like that automatically trigger someone to call you up to thank you? We’d like to say the answer is yes but the safe bet is that they’ll simply be appreciative of it. Not that it’s a bad move, but you can do more. So try a few tactics like these:

#1: Make It Personal
Nothing, absolutely nothing, may go farther with former customers than a personal note mailed to them. Hand-written is a nice touch but even if it’s an email, include the specific aspects of the job that show that customer how much you remember them and how much their business mattered. You could leave it at that and include a business card, but we’d like to see you take it one step beyond this, which is where #2 comes in.

#2: Include A Special Holiday Referral Gift And Offer
A personal note by itself is nice but doesn’t give the recipient a next step action. A special offer by itself can be nice but even more effective when personalized. Combine the best of both by including a code or separate card in your personal note that offers a gift for the former customer referring you and a discount to the new customer. We recommend offering it for a limited time, thus the holiday theme and timeframe. This can be done as a physical piece that’s mailed or included in an email message – just remember to do your part upfront on the personal side so they’re feeling as though they’re receiving something just for them, which they should be.

#3 Don’t Forget Your Database Cleaning Opportunity!
Make sure your note includes this phrase somewhere toward the end:
“One more thing, John – I have you at the following email and phone number as I’d like to keep in touch. Is that still correct?”

By adding this little, innocent enough question, you’re setting the table to have a follow-up conversation via phone or email to ensure your email database of customers and colleagues is fresh. It doesn’t mean that you’ll bombard them with emails every week after that asking if they know anybody to refer your way (really, don’t do that). But it does mean that you could easily and comfortably send them some email correspondence through offers or an eNewsletter once a month, which is not a frequency that offends many people at all. If you’ve done a good job for them and continue to showcase your work for others, you’re reminding them of your reliability on a consistent basis 12 times a year. The holidays could be the perfect time to ensure their contact information is up to date so you can roll into the new year knowing you’re sending messages out that are going to be received.

Give these tactics a try now. With any luck, you’ll discover the holidays are a gift that keeps on giving referrals all year round.