As owners and leaders in our companies, we are always seeking ways to attract new customers and retain those we have already worked hard to earn. Every day, We are bombarded with so many ideas–AdWords, SEM, SEO, social media, email marketing (please make it stop!)–that we barely have time to actually deliver our products or services to consumers. one route to a healthy pipeline of sales leads may be as old as Commerce itself and requires few technical skills.

Referrals and networking are powerful ways to generate leads of people who need your product or service. The principal is really pretty simple: you like a service, so you refer your friends to it. Studies show that 83% of consumers are willing to refer your business after a positive experience and people are four times more likely to buy when referred by a friend or trusted source. clearly, consumers have confidence in their friends and other trusted sources to help guide their purchase decisions. Our challenge, then, is how to channel these good feelings toward new sales opportunities.

So, where do you start?

Customers don’t want to give recommendations to businesses that they just feel “okay” about. If you want to create fans, take time to review and improve your operations to ensure that you’re delivering fantastic world-class customer experiences.

So, if you are confident that you have provided an excellent experience for your customers, the time is right to ask  them to refer your business. You’ll be surprised to know how many people will be happy to refer others to your business if you just go ahead and ask!

Next, make sure that you’re making it easy for customers to share a referral with you. add a link in your email address, website, or Facebook profile. Give customers something they can easily share through text or email. Consider going through your order history and find your most loyal customers. Send them a short And honest email. Tell them that you’re trying to grow your business and that any referrals would be appreciated.

A note to tourism-impacted businesses: TripAdvisor, Yelp, and other consumer rating websites are critical sources for referrals. In some cases New York State tourism will not include restaurants and lodging establishments with poor ratings on those websites. Subtle encouragement by you may elicit good reviews from satisfied customers.

You may wish to offer an incentive for referrals. Be careful here. You ideally want customers to refer you because you are amazing, not because you pay them for each referral. Yet, offering incentives–discounts, gift cards, etc.– can dramatically increase your flow of referrals.

Networking, through Chamber sponsored events or community organizations, can also be a powerful tool for generating referrals. We’ll look at ways to build your professional and personal networks in my next column.

In the meantime, start with these low-cost steps and you may create a scalable referral channel that will grow your sales pipeline. Asking for referrals is worth it when you have a product or service to which customers love referring.