You can talk to anyone from new business owners to seasoned business executives and they will tell you how important word–of–mouth buzz is for their businesses. Word of mouth or testimonials are verbal proofs of why potential customers must trust your business. It is a direct way of sending them your way.

If you can get people talking about your products, services, and ideas — and, more importantly, referring potential customers to you — then you can grow your bottom line at an alarming rate.

But how does a business get more of referrals? Here are some ways.

Ask for social media recommendations

If your client likes your services, ask them to write about it on social media sites. This is an excellent way to promote your business and could result in some good leads coming into your business without you lifting a finger. Ask them to recommend you on LinkedIn, tweet about you on Twitter, “Like” you on Facebook, or post a description of what you’ve done for them and how happy they are on an appropriate message board.

Pay for customers, not leads

The classic referral strategy is simply to ask for someone to send you a lead. “Do you know anyone else who might be interested in my services?”

The problem with leads is that they aren’t paying customers, they are potential customers. That means sometimes they buy and many times they won’t buy. Some businesses try to increase referrals by paying for leads. Instead, we suggest that you pay for customers. If you are thinking of incentivising your referral system, then give the referrer the incentive after his lead has actually made a purchase, or visited your store. Referring is too easy – it’s getting them to buy which is actually the harder part.

Don’t underestimate the power of thanking old customers

If you have an old, tried and tested client, chances are, because he/she knows that you are “always around,” he/she won’t think that you still need new referrals. But sometimes, it takes iron guts to suddenly call them and ask to be referred to new clients. So how do you solve this? Thank them for their loyalty to your business, and then subtly segue into updating them about your new products and services. Tell them frankly that your business, like many other businesses, runs on positive word of mouth. And if you did a good job for them, you’d be most appreciative if they’d refer your services to some of their friends or business associates. You would be grateful if they could come up with the names of three people who could also benefit from your services. This way, you set up an expectation that you will be asking them. Hopefully, this will also get them to start thinking about people they could refer to you.