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Listen in! Pick up some expert advice to a reader's question that we selected from CyberSchmooz.

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Featured Biz Question

Advertising is so costly. I'd like to develop a strong referral base. I have had hundreds of customers but few referrals. I'm an independent paralegal, preparing noncontested paperwork for people representing themselves in a court of law. What do people want so I can get referrals, should I be sending them printed ink pens or what?

Answer from our Guest Expert Kent Capener of Capener Consulting

Don't we all want to eat where "they" say is the best? Just like that fine restaurant, the best way to build your base of customer referrals is from the very beginning with your first customers. Then you can go from there.

referral Strategies for Your Small Business

Presuming you're using some kind of method to determine your fees in advance -- say, an uncontested divorce is $500 -- make an offer up front to new customers that offers them a discount with a referral. Divorce isn't the best situation to deal with, but I think you get the idea. As a paralegal, be vigilant as to how you approach this. I can't picture you standing up and giving a two-minute high-pressures sales pitch and then a dance number. I can, however, picture a paralegal saying, "I'm offering an X discount if you refer other customers."

Your customers are probably individuals and companies, and trying to determine their needs is crucial in developing a strong customer base. This can be tricky, sometimes, especially when evaluating individual needs. For instance, asking for a referral from a customer dealing with a property tax protestation might not net you much. However, making a relationship with the local tax protesting organization and putting up posters, for example, may make more sense. The idea here is for you to examine your needs too -- just like your diet and nutritional needs! If you can determine that the work you want to do originates from targeted groups, such as real estate developers, community groups, political action organizations, then create a menu of services for these prospective clients. Once you make an entry, then you can build on referrals from the group. (continued)

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About the Expert

Kent Capener
Owner of Capener Consulting

Kent Capener

Kent is an expert on marketing; advertising; print, radio, and TV production; biz plan writing; trade show services; and direct response television. He relishes helping start-ups grow. more