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Developing an effective referral program that creates enough excitement to convince customers to simply hand over their business contacts can be a struggle for managed service providers.

Many have been disappointed after what they think is an awesome referral strategy falls flat on its face. Why didn’t it work? After all, doesn’t everyone want a new iPad or a $10 Starbucks gift card? Let’s be honest. Not really.

Referrals from clients and colleagues should be treated like gold, and sorry to disappoint you, but tricks to get them to hand over this valuable information involves something more priceless than an iPad.

Turn customers into advocates

What inspires your customers to share your name with their most trusted colleagues, friends, or family? One small phrase nets massive gains: “Service the heck out of them.” Providing a high level of service goes much further than gimmicks or trick plays.

How you service your customers ties directly into the quality of referrals you receive from clients, prospects, and colleagues. It’s a pretty simple concept: Provide the best service possible to turn your customers into raving fans who can’t stop talking about you!

If you don’t service the heck out of them, you will suffer the adverse effects:

  • Your customers will never talk about you, and you will be left scratching your head as to why you don’t get any referral business from your client base.
  • Your customers will go elsewhere to find someone who will provide them the level of service they desire.

This doesn’t just apply to current customers, though. Even if you don’t have a working relationship with someone yet, you can still win points with the quality of your sales, marketing, and communications. By becoming a source of valuable information and the go-to resource on anything related to technology, you can turn prospects, colleagues, and associates into huge supporters of your managed services business.

Three letters that get results

How do you get referrals from your clients? Three letters — A S K. Yes, ask for them. Referrals should happen naturally, but if they don’t, you should ask customers if they know anyone else who could use your services. Customers are busy, and sometimes they just need that extra push

Sounds simple enough, right? After all, if you are providing a high level of service, you should already have a good relationship with your customers, and they should be happy to help. The worst thing that can happen is they say no. Then, you just need to figure out how to take that no to a yes.

Show your appreciation

When you do get referrals, don’t forget to say thank you. It is the first key step to getting customers to make more than one referral, but don’t stop there. Compensate customers for a great referral by giving them something that makes them say, “Hey, did you see what my IT company did for me?” In other words, make them say wow.

No one knows your clients like you do, so do something that matters to them. Here are some ideas:

  • Do they have a favorite sports team? It would be a treat to get a couple of 50-yard line or center ice tickets as a token of your appreciation.
  • Do they have something near and dear to their heart, like a favorite charity or non-profit organization? Try making a donation in their name.
  • Do they have a favorite restaurant? Take them out for a great lunch or give them a gift card. Nothing says “thanks” like great food!

These are just some ideas for small gestures to say thank you. The opportunities are endless.

Get started

So if you aren’t getting as many referral leads as you’d like (or any at all), start putting this advice into action. Make sure you’re providing a high level of service to your customer base, as well as your prospects, associates, and business colleagues at your Chamber of Commerce. And, don’t be afraid to just ask. You’ll be surprised how effective these two simple strategies can be.


Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at


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Stuart Crawford

Posted by Stuart Crawford

Stuart Crawford is the CEO and Creative Director with Ulistic. Ulistic specializes in working with IT service companies globally helping them connect with their markets and achieve stratospheric success. Need help? Please feel free to reach out to Stuart and his team at Ulistic. Every day, they help managed IT services companies overcome many of the challenges they have with marketing. Learn more about Ulistic at or call 716-799-1999.

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