This post first appeared on our sister blog, Freelance Copywriter’s Blog, but we thought you’d like to read it too.

That is what every business owner wants, right?

Customers are what keep your business afloat, so you constantly need to be out there drumming up new business.

But what’s the best and most effective way of doing that?

Sure, you’ve got your website, email marketing, brochures and other online marketing strategies, but are they the most effective?

Frankly, no.

The most powerful tool you have in your marketing armoury is a happy customer because they’ll head off and tell their friends and colleagues about you – and that’s the cheapest and most effective form of marketing I know of.

So how can you generate more referrals? Well, the best way is to give your customers something to shout about and that comes down to good old-fashioned customer service and going that extra mile.

Education, education, education

Educating your customers is one of the best ways to make yourself stand out from your competitors. I’m not just talking about blogging and article writing here, which as we all know helps cement your reputation as an expert in your field.

Education should also become part of your company’s culture – whenever you have a new customer (or a returning one for that matter), teach them about your product, show them how to get the most of it and make sure they know you’re there for any questions they may have.

Keep talking

You’ve already shown them your door is always open; so now make sure you keep them informed about every stage of their order – when it will be received, if there’s a delay tell them what the hold up is and when they’ll get it. Keep them informed about what’s happening in your business, if you’re bringing out a new model or a new product, tell them about it.

A regular newsletter is great for this, but make sure it’s personalised and the content is relevant to that customer.

Go the extra mile

We all love surprises, so make sure you surprise your customers. It can be an unexpected gift, a little something extra in their order (it doesn’t have to be much, always send out a small bag of Haribo with all orders), perhaps a free sample of a new product you’re introducing. Whatever it is, it will bring a smile to your customers face and give them something to tell their friends about.

Make sure you know what’s happening

Too many companies grab orders, send them out and then forget about them.

Be different – follow up every order to make sure your customer is happy. If they are get a testimonial, if they’re not find out what went wrong, put it right and send them a ‘thanks for letting us know and we’ve now put it right’ gift.

Even a simple hand written ‘Thank you’ card with your order makes an impact.

None of these ideas have to cost the earth and by making it part of your company’s culture, it will become second nature.

The result will be very happy customers who come back time and time again with their friends in tow. So if you want a never-ending referral machine, start using these techniques and make your company stand out as a champion.

Sally Ormond – Copywriter and MD at Briar Copywriting Ltd