Ways to win customer referrals
Active outreach and promotional swaps are among the techniques these companies use to find and keep happy customers.
(Fortune Small Business) -- Smart entrepreneurs have long worked to win referrals from happy customers, and some have found ways that don't require surveys.
Some entrepreneurs shower their biggest fans with material about their companies.
Betsy Weber, 34, is chief evangelist (yes, that's really her title) for TechSmith, based in Okemos, Mich. The company (2007 revenues: $30 million) makes Camtasia Studio, a kind of VCR for your PC, capable of recording a sequence of screen shots. Weber spends her days scouring the net for people who have raved about TechSmith, perhaps on a blog or at a trade show.
To those enthusiasts she sends packages that include a Power-Point presentation about Camtasia Studio, T-shirts, one copy of the proprietary software (retail price: $300) as well as many 30-day trial versions. She follows up with a phone call. Says Weber: "I give them whatever they need so they can spread the word about us." Sales of Camtasia are up 41% so far this year.
Aaron Day, 32, founder of Tangerine Wellness, has turned one of his happy customers, Rockford Acromatic Products of Loves Park, Ill., into a reliable rainmaker. Tangerine, based in Boston, offers weight-loss programs to the employees of big corporations. In 2006, Tangerine asked Rockford to provide testimonials about its service at various conferences. Since then Tangerine has signed up scores of customers in 26 states, and Rockford has played a role in about 10% of those deals, says Day.
Tangerine doesn't pay Rockford. So what's in it for that customer? The 60-year-old company makes parts for specialty vehicles such as ATVs and motor homes. Many of the pitches are to Tangerine prospects who have the potential to become Rockford customers too.
"It's a win-win," says Day.