Marketing Your Shop
Master the Secret of Follow-Up to Multiply Your Referrals
read time
16 minute read
Are you looking to find high-quality clients for your shop without adding a sales rep or dumping $1000s into Adwords or Facebook ads?

Let’s talk math for just a minute. If you pull a list of your open quotes and call each one of them right now, you’re going to close at least one deal. The math is not super complicated, 500 leads turn into 100 quotes which turn into 50 new orders. You know you need to follow up on these open quotes so you can convert them into paying orders, but today we’re going to talk about a marketing strategy that most sign makers or screen printers overlook.

Follow-up after every completed order.

The work that’s already out the door is the probably the last thing on your mind. If you’re anything like me (or 100s of others I’ve worked with), then you’ve got a million other things to worry about. Of the last 10 orders that you completed, though, how many did you check-in with your client afterwards?

If you said “all 10”—you’re my hero for the day. You can stop safely stop reading. If you said “none”, let’s get on to why you need to follow up on every single one of your orders.

You’re losing clients and you don’t even know it.

If you’re not a single person operation, you can’t always inspect every job that goes out the door.

Adding to your headache, sometimes the issue isn’t with the product itself. It’s with your customer service and the experience your client had with your team.

You have to trust your employees to put high quality work out the door and make the experience of getting that work completed as painless for your client as possible. Occasionally, though, mistakes will happen and clients will be upset.

There’s no quicker way to ruin your day than to have someone screaming in your ear because you used the wrong font on 20 t-shirts for a cheerleader camp. Or how about those crazy emails from the guy who ordered 150 yard signs but was missing some H-stakes?

We all hate fielding calls from dissatisfied clients. From your past experience, you may think that if something goes wrong, then you’re going to hear about it. However, the truth is you’ll never hear from 90% of dissatisfied clients—they’ll just stop doing business with you. They’ll pay their bill, take their goods, and silently move on.

Your follow-ups can save you money + make you more money

Finding new clients is more expensive than serving your existing one.

Large companies know this. And that’s why Comcast, DirecTV, and others have entire retention departments that will offer you all sorts of deals when you speak the word “cancel”.

Back in your shop—you’ve already done the hard parts.

  • You convinced your client that they did indeed need your sign or print services.
  • You set a price that they agreed to pay and was profitable for you.
  • You completed their order and got paid.

By following up, you get a chance to fix any problem before it turns ugly and you lose a client.

You to get important feedback on how you can improve.

Getting feedback from the people who pay you for your services is absolutely critical. How else can you improve?

You might have thought your company’s size was a disadvantage in the past, but it actually plays to your advantage. Small businesses can act on customer feedback much quicker than large corporations. Customers are more likely to take the time to give you valuable feedback when they believe it will actually make a difference.

You generate referrals and testimonials without a ton of marketing expense.

Landing new customers is expensive. Your potential customer has to realize they have a problem that signage or printing can solve. Then they have to find your business amongst all the alternatives, like the small shop down the street, Vista Print, Custom Ink, or one of the 1000s of other options. Once they find you, you have to establish enough trust for them to feel comfortable buying from you. That’s a lot of work for everyone involved.

Referrals and testimonials help you shortcut that entire process. Social proof is a huge driver in the buying process. Most of us don’t want to the one who gets taken for their money. We want to know that other people have tried it and liked it—that’s why testimonials and referrals are a huge lever to multiply your sales.

The absolute best ways to follow up with your clients

Visit your clients in person 

This is the gold standard—when possible follow up with your clients in person. Bring them doughnuts, cookies, lunch, coffee, a personalized gift with their logo on it.

There is no faster way than to secure your position as their “person”. Spend time building a relationship with your customer. How many of your suppliers take the time to do this? This is both time consuming and expensive, which is exactly why it works so well.

Guidelines for in-person visits

You will know when a job warrants an in-person follow up based on your client’s value. When in doubt, if it’s a key client, take the time to follow up in person.

If your average order size is less than $1000, then in-person visits probably aren’t feasible financially. Whether the math doesn’t make sense or you’re currently spread too thin to spare the additional time, this brings us to the next method of follow up.

Pick up the phone and call your clients 

This is a happy medium for most shops. I recommend calling for two reasons:

  • Most clients are happy to hear from you. It shows you care when you take the take to call. A lot of businesses don’t even bother to pick up the phone anymore.
  • It is tough to get a sense of emotion through email. It’s also a lot harder to be rude on the phone. I’ve seen situations in the past that have turned rather nasty quickly through email due to misinterpretation. These same people were very pleasant and agreeable on the phone.

When to Call

Call several days (2-5 days) after an order has been completed (picked up, delivered, installed). This gives them time to evaluate the job. Do not call on Monday morning.

Pick one day of the week and schedule 1-2 hours to call clients whose jobs were completed the previous week.

Don’t rush this. Really focus and take a few minutes talking to each client—this really pays dividends. I did this in the afternoons because I’m most productive in the mornings after a few cups of coffee. I usually hit a slump in the afternoons and talking to clients recharges my batteries a bit. It’s important to figure out a schedule that works for you and stick to it. It goes without saying, but adjust the time you call if you know a client is busy during a certain time.

On The Actual Call

This is the easiest part. Call them up, introduce yourself, and then tell them you’re calling to get feedback on the job and make sure they 100% satisfied with the job.

Use this script as a guide.

This is Bryant with XYZ. I’m calling to follow up with you on the ____ we completed last week. Just wanted to make sure you were happy with the job. Are you satisfied with everything? Anything that didn’t turn out the way you wanted?

There are two possible outcomes to this:

  • NOOO! Your client is NOT happy. If you’ve got an unhappy client, go directly to this article—how to salvage your relationship with a disgruntled client.
  • YESSS! Your client is VERY happy. If they’re happy, great news. Be sure to thank them and let them know you appreciate their business. While you’ve got them on the phone, take the time to learn some more about them. It pays to be curious. Ask them about their business and what problems they’re having. You may discover another need that you can help them with.

Some questions you could ask:

  • What problems are you having with your business?
  • How are you promoting your business now?
  • What have you tried in the past?
  • What are you doing to stay ahead of your competitors?
  • What projects do you have coming up?

When you get people talking about their business, you’ll start to see opportunities to share your expertise.

Educate your client on what you sell

A client may not know all the products and services you offer. Despite having it clearly listed on your website, your business card, or the brochure you gave him last week, clients still need to hear “Yes, we can do that.” It’s your job to let a client know how you can help. We offered a ton of products in house, so this would happen to us a lot.

We’d sell a sign panel for a plumber’s building, but he wouldn’t realize we could print t-shirts for his employees. Don’t feel sleazy about talking about what you can do. Turn it into a conversation with a friend. Here’s a sample:

I noticed you didn’t have any lettering on your trucks. What's the reason you guys don’t have them lettered? We did some graphics for Company XYZ last week. And when I followed up a week later, John told me they already got three jobs from a clients that saw the truck.

Asking for a referral on the phone

If you’ve never done it before, asking for a referral on the phone will feel completely foreign to you. The first few times, I promise you will feel like an idiot for asking. Push through this and you will be rewarded. If you’ve satisfied your client, most will have no problems giving you a referral. The best time to ask is right after they’ve had a good experience with your shop.

The most important thing here? To actually come out and ask.

Below, we’ve got a little script you can use. Change the language to something you feel more comfortable with and sounds natural to you. Practice by yourself until it sounds less like a telemarketing script and more natural.

John, I'm really glad you like the sign. Just wanted to let you know that it’s great to work with clients like you. We get most of our business through referrals. We like to ask our clients to introduce to others like themselves. We take good care of all referrals and give them 20% off their first order. Who are one or two people you think we should reach out to?

If they decline to give you a referral, thank them anyway. But do not be afraid to ask them after the next job. If they do give you a referral, be sure to thank them and follow up on the lead. Handwritten thank you cards are a great way to do this.

Use email for the most efficient follow-ups 

If you absolutely cannot dedicate the time to call, your next best option is email. It’s good when you have a ton of sign or shirt orders to follow up on.

Email can be very effective and is a good way to practice asking for referrals. Just be aware that your response rates will be lower. I’ve found it less effective when compared to phone or in-person visits. Email is also great for extremely busy clients who may not have time to chat.

Getting Feedback

Here is a sample email I’ve used in the past to get feedback from clients. Short and sweet emails seem to get the best response.

Hi John, Just wanted to follow up and make sure you were 110% satisfied with the signs. Were you satisfied with everything? Would love to hear your feedback - even if it's just one line. Thanks,

If they respond, typically you’ll get something back like “The signs were great. Thanks again.” If I get a positive response from the email, I like to send back another email asking for one of two things—a referral and a testimonial.

If they respond with negative comments about the job or express dissatisfaction, call them on the phone ASAP.

It’s very difficult to resolve issues like this through email. You could wind up trading emails back and forth for days. Do yourself a favor—suck it up and call them. Then read through our guide on how to salvage relationships with upset customers.

The Ask—Asking For A Referral

Depending on what you sell, you may offer a free product or discount for the referral. People give referrals when it’s in their best interest to. Always give the client a reason to give you a referral. If you’re looking for a specific referral to a company or person be sure to include that in the email. Steal the template below, but be sure to change the wording to match your business and personal style.

John - really glad you like the signs. Enjoyed working on this project with you. As you may know, we’re a small shop we get do get most of our business through referrals. Referrals allow us to work really hard to deliver 110% to our clients. Since your happy with the job, I'd like to ask you to introduce us to others like yourself. Who are one or two people you think we could help? We primarily serve small businesses, so it could be a friend who runs a business, one of your vendors. We take special care of all referrals. We give you 20% of your next order. We also give them 20% of their first order I appreciate your help. Thanks,

The Ask—Asking For A Testimonial

95% of the time I write the testimonial myself for several reasons:

  • Writing a sample testimonial saves your client time
  • They always have the ability to change the wording if they want
  • It allows me to really gear a testimonial towards a particular industry or product

Here’s a sample template for your email:

John - really glad you like signs. We really enjoyed working on this project with you. Would you willing to let us feature your signs in our portfolio with a testimonial from you? We’d be happy to promote your business and provide a link back to your website. Would the testimonial below be alright to use? Testimonial: "When I needed signs, the guys at SignShop had my back. I told them what I needed and they had a proof back to me within 24 hours. I loved the design they created. I received the signs within a week and was impressed with the quality of the printing. I'd definitely recommend SignShop for anything sign related."

Thank Them

If a client says no to giving a referral or testimonial, thank them anyway and move on. If a client does give you a referral or testimonial, it very important to thank them.  How you should thank them depends on how well you know them and your budget. I’ve sent thank you emails, called and thanked them, sent thank you cards, cookies, books I think the client would enjoy.

As a general rule, the more personable and valuable to them, the better received the gift will be. In the case of referrals, make sure you follow up on those leads.

The Importance of Asking for Referrals and Testimonials

If you’ve done your job right and made them happy, clients are happy to provide referrals and testimonials. A lot of us inherently avoid selling ourselves, fearing we’ll come off like a sleazy used car salesman. I used to think this way myself. It took me a while to develop the courage to flat out ask for referrals through email and phone.

It’s important that you develop the confidence to ask for testimonials because they really are one of the most cost-effective ways to grow your business. A referral gives you instant credibility that you just can’t buy with a brochure or website. Referrals take a shorter time to sell and are half as likely to try to haggle with you on price.

Think of testimonials as Amazon reviews for your business. Picture the last time you bought something on Amazon—you searched for a product. There were 3 or 4 options that are very similar. You read a couple reviews for each product. And then you purchase the one with the most 4 and 5 stars reviews. This can work the same way for your shop. If a client visits your website and sees a lot of glowing testimonials, it makes the sale that much easier.

Key Takeaways

  • It’s always cheaper to keep a current client than to have to find a new one.
  • Follow-up on completed jobs on a weekly basis—in person, by phone, or through email.
  • Do not be afraid to ask for referrals and testimonials.

Action Steps

  • Look at your calendar and schedule 30 min of your time to implement this strategy.
  • Call or email 5 clients about the last order you completed for them. Ask for their honest feedback.
  • If they were happy with the job, ask them for a referral or a testimonial.

Bryant Gillespie

In my 10+ years in this industry, I’ve made all the mistakes they tell you not to. For 5 years, I was second in command at shop that doubled in revenue from $500k to over $1mil in sales. Over the last 3 years, I’ve help 100s of shops streamline their workflow, improve their businesses, and grow sales. My goal is to help you grow your business. To help you spend more time with your family. To make sure you finally get to take that long overdue vacation.