How to encourage referrals

Yesterday I was asked what type of incentives hotels or restaurants can provide for loyal customers to encourage them to become ambassadors and drum up business for you. But before we cover that, let’s consider why and how you’d encourage this type of loyalty.

We all know of the importance of online reviews, but I’m not talking here about general comments open to anyone. And offering any incentive for positive reviews will soon get you into hot water with most of the online review sites.

I’m referring here to your regulars, those who are already loyal to you, and if given a little encouragement are happy to refer you to friends, family and colleagues.

Referrals are a great way to build your customer base – if a person comes to you as a result of a referral, you don’t need to go out and find them. This is a much easier way to market a hotel! The person who made the referral has already experienced what you offer and will do the selling for you.

Referrals build loyalty with the people who recommend you – they will want to be seen to stand by their referral by continuing to come to you themselves.

Give people a reason to talk about you

So how do you get people talking about you, and how do you get referrals? As I’ve stated before, they won’t say good things about you unless you meet and exceed their expectations. So first, do something exceptional.  Identify things that are of high value to your guests but low cost to you so you can give added value. Give people that reason to talk about you.

If you don’t ask you don’t get

But referrals won’t always happen unless you ask for them.

If you don’t ask you often don’t get. So don’t be afraid to ask people directly who else they know who may be interested in specific packages or services you offer.

The obvious people to ask for referrals are your existing guests. Focus on those guests or customers who are your ‘perfect guests’ as the people they refer will be a better match to your preferred type of guest.

Think about other people who know you well enough to recommend you. This might include colleagues, suppliers, local businesses, joint venture partners, your own team and others in your network.

This will be easier the better they know you and when they fully understand the extent of everything you offer. So let them experience this first hand. A prime example is your local tourist office – they won’t want to recommend you unless they’ve experience your hospitality first hand. The same goes for local businesses of joint venture partners, who may have customers needing a place to say. So invite them to a showcase event or to a more personalised invitation for dinner, overnight or event.

The same goes for your staff too, they need to experience what your guest experiences. When was the last time any of your team ate in your restaurant, slept in one of your beds, or was pampered in your spa?

Tomorrow we’ll look at how to make the referral process easy.

For more articles and resources http://www.naturallyloyal.com/products-resources/

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