When it comes to marketing, few things compare to referrals. They are often considered the single most effective and trusted means of acquiring new customers. But unlike campaigns, they’re not simply turned on. To generate referrals is like building trust, where it’s earned as opposed to being launched.

To boost your referrals, there’s no better way than leveraging your strongest asset. It’s your customers that have this power, and when you exceed their expectations, you create opportunities for your business by generation word-of-mouth referrals.

It starts with good customer service

It starts with customer service, where good enough never is. Great companies earn referrals by not settling. Going above and beyond is easier said than done. To create a lasting impression, it’s the overall customer experience that provides positive sentiment towards a company.

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When you’ve created a strong customer experience, you’re setting yourself up to create loyalty, retention, and in many cases customer advocacy and referrals. But to wait for your new found fan base to leap into action isn’t a strategy to rely on. If you want referrals, you need to be proactive.

Creating superior customer service is a process. And how it’s measured often varies per individual. It’s not just front-line employees that carry the influence either, although they do have the most. But since the customer experience involves so many aspects, consumers can be influenced by people answering the phone to the people in shipping.

Then you have to ask

Simply by asking for referrals and asking for reviews, promptly after a transaction, you’re capturing the opportunity and the optimal time, thereby increasing the likelihood of acquiring a positive review. The sooner the better, which increases your odds, and a day or two is often acceptable.

According to a Nielsen study, some 92% of people trust recommendations from friends. It’s referrals such as these that not only provide social proof but also come with a vote of confidence and trust in a company. In other words, consumers trust word-of-mouth more than just about anything else.

While the customer experience can unlock the possibility of referrals, how you use any goodwill that’s earned often decides your ability to create measurable next steps. Your next course of action is to request online reviews from customers so that others can see the social proof often required to persuade them to choose your business.

Why reviews matter

Consider that for nine out of 10 consumers, research begins online. About half of searches like these are related to local products or services. Within their research, it’s review websites that occupy most of the results. And those reviews can become referrals.

The term reputation management conjures up many definitions. But it’s essentially ensuring your business shares a favorable opinion for others to see. For businesses that do not monitor or manage their online reputation, they’re likely losing potential customer referrals to competitors that do so.

From positive customer experience come positive online reviews. And that form of word of mouth and referrals can reach beyond the social circles and personal networks of your customer base. Thus, creating an exponentially larger reach.

The power of influence

Many believe the power to influence is one that few have, but that’s where you’d be surprised. Everyone has the capability within our own social circles, and under the right circumstances, to influence. From movie or restaurant referrals to an assortment of product or services. Our opinions get shared with friends, family, colleagues, and others. This word of mouth referral marketing provides the best opportunities. This is because influencers pass along a degree of trust when speaking of your business.

“A trusted referral influences people more than the best broadcast message.” Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook

Don’t underestimate the power of word of mouth referrals. According to McKinsey & Company, it’s said to influence up to 50% of all purchasing decisions. Some studies mention that as much as 97% of consumers factor customer reviews into their buying decisions.

Few opportunities compare to referrals and reviews for driving new business. Yet, only about a third of businesses make use of them. Online reviews might be the digital alternative to word of mouth. So they present many opportunities for businesses that check, manage and make use of them.

Businesses that emphasize on delivering a great customer experience, tend to see more growth. It’s those happy customers that can boost your referrals. But, as mentioned, it all starts with managing the customer experience to earn them.