Boost Referrals By Nurturing Your Community

Contributed by Jeanette Gardiner

A friend of mine recently shared this picture on her Facebook timeline with a post highlighting the business owner that had surprised and delighted her with this unexpected gift. 

I was so impressed with the handwritten note and gifts that I knew I wanted to meet Korey, the massage therapist behind the photo, and hear more about how she nurtures her community.  I define ‘community’ as anyone who can be an advocate for your business – including your customers, clients, prospects, and other business owners to name a few.

Today I’m sharing a little bit about Korey and how you too, can find simple ways to nurture your community to help boost your repeat and referral business.

As a massage therapist, Korey is a “natural nurturer” so finding ways to show her community she knows what’s important to them comes easily to her. She engages in thoughtful conversations with each of her clients and remembers details of what’s important to them. Like a client’s favorite organic lip balm, for instance. Then she’s mindful to connect with the client, often by text message. But as you can see in the picture, she also uses a more personal approach of mailing a handwritten note.

Korey admits that it’s easy for her to remember these details because she doesn’t have a huge client base, which is where she wants to be right now in her business. When new clients do find her, it’s often because of a referral.

So what can you learn from Korey to help boost referrals to your business, even if remembering the details that are important to your community doesn’t come naturally to you? Or you’re blessed with a very large customer or client base? The following steps will help get you started. 

Start by identifying and getting to know your community. 
Create and more importantly, use a simple system to capture and store information that will help you get to know who is in your community and what’s important to them. 

Listen to your community.
Once your system of capturing and storing information is in place, here comes the important part – listen to them. What questions are they asking? What are you hearing in conversations (offline and online)? What problems are they experiencing that your business can solve? And if your business doesn’t have the solution, what business can you refer them to that does?

Get personal with your community.
Korey understands and values the importance of making personal connections with her clients by taking time to handwrite a quick note. But what if you’re blessed with a large customer base? You likely have a smaller group of super loyal customers that would love to hear from you in a more personal way, such as a note or card in the mail. Identify those super loyal customers, and create and implement a plan for personally connecting with them on a regular basis. 

Surprise and delight your community.
When you understand what’s important to your community, it’s much easier to know what will surprise and delight them. Keep in mind this doesn’t have to be expensive. Here are a few suggestions to springboard ideas for you:

o    Make a quick phone call, or send a quick text or email to let a customer know you have a new product you know they’d love (and offer a discount to try it out). 
o    Choose a select group of customers to try and review a new product.
o    Share an article, information or other resource that you know a customer will appreciate or value. Send it electronically, or print it out and mail it with a short handwritten note.
o    Feature a “Customer of the Week/Month” in your e-newsletter, on social media and in your business. 

Remember that your community is more than the customers who purchase from you.

As I was talking with Korey, she mentioned that many of her clients are artists or small business owners themselves, so she always listens for ways that she can help promote them. She takes time to get to know what products or services they offer so that she can send referrals their way. 

Invest some time to get to know your business neighbors. You can create a formal referral process, but starting out with an informal process is just as valuable and builds rapport. And keep in mind that offering referrals is a value-added service to your community, so listen for opportunities. 

I want to leave you with a final thought. Don’t overthink this entire process. It doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. In fact, the more complicated or expensive you think it needs to be, the less likely you will do it all.

So here is your action step for today. Take a cue from Korey and just listen to the customers that come through your door (actually or virtually). Who are they? What’s important to them? How can you better serve them? 

About Jeanette Gardiner

Jeanette Gardiner lives in Palmer, Alaska, and is the Owner of SeaStar Strategies LLC where she helps time-strapped small business owners discover the gift of time by streamlining their administrative and marketing systems. Learn more at