I write quite a bit about asking for referrals, but there are numerous other ways to use your clients for obtaining more prospects. Keep in mind that “use” is not meant to be derogatory, but beneficial. Happy clients are your best friends in business and can be the gateway to a flood of endless leads. Tapping those leads is sometimes difficult but here are a few examples of how you can.

When you have clients that you want to tap for referrals or future business, make sure that they are in fact happy with your service. As part of my daily marketing plan, I send out emails to at least two clients I have performed work for in the past. This email includes a simply “hello” and reminds them that I am here if needed. The reply from these clients lets me know who I can ask for additional clients. The ones quickest to reply are normally the clients that like to talk (to their clients and hopefully recommend me).

Here are four methods I use that are likely to help you as well:

Ask for referrals:

The most obvious way to obtain more clients is to ask for referrals. This is something that I do on a daily basis and it always leads to fresh prospects. In most of the emails I send to clients, I thank them for using my services as well as remind them of services that I offer (that they are not currently using) or ask them if they know anyone who could use my services. This may sound like a pushing salesperson, but if you do not ask, do not expect a return. Make sure that you are subtle and non-aggressive. A simple sentence in a longer “thank you” email can do the trick.

I will not go into detail about offering referral fees. However, I will quickly state my opinion. Referral fees can be good if you are a B2C company offering the referrals to your customers. However, I tend to find that B2B compensation is a little tacky and as such I don’t do it. What I do like is providing a referring client with some type of free service such as linking to them from my blog or mentioning them in my email newsletter (more about that below).

Have them open their Rolodex:

Take the number of clients you currently have and multiply that number by itself. The result is the potential number of leads you could have if you were allowed to access your clients’ email lists. As an example, let’s say that you have 100 clients and each of those clients has 100 clients (or 100 people they do business with). That means that there are 10,000 potential leads at your fingertips.

There are numerous ways to have a client open their Rolodex. NEVER ask them to provide you with a client list. This is not only unprofessional, but flat out unethical for even asking them to give up their clients’ privacy. What you can do is tap their strengths. Do they have a newsletter? Ask them to mention you there. Do they have a website that advertises services? See if they will put up a link to your website. Are they a writer? See if they will use you for a quote in an article they write.

Depending on the work you did, you can even ask to brand yourself with them. For instance, if you designed a website, see if you can put “designed by ???” at the bottom with a link to your site. Or, request to guest post on their blog about the work you performed. All great ways of accessing their client database without invading privacy.

Partner with a client:

This is one of the most beneficial ways to earn referrals from clients as well as build lasting business relationships. If you offer a service that you can combine with a service offered by one of your clients, consider reaching out to them for a partnership. Here is an example of what I do which should help you come up with some ideas of your own.

In additional to content marketing, approximately 70% of my business deals with Wikipedia editing. It was difficult for me to find people to partner with at first as I wasn’t sure how to combine my services with what they offered their clients. Then it came to me, literally. I became overwhelmed with emails from brand management companies wanting to subcontract Wikipedia articles they were hired to create. As these companies are generally unfamiliar with the numerous guidelines that restrict Wikipedia editing, they found it easier to contract that work to me.

Now, I partner with many agencies who incorporate my services into their brand packages. I provide a special price to these companies (my clients) who in turn offer my services, masked as their services, to others (their clients). It’s a win-win situation and has provided a steady stream of new prospects.

The type of services you offer will determine who you partner with, but you can see this all the time in the B2B marketplace. Another example is how webhosts such as GoDaddy and Hostmonster partner with web design companies and vice versa.

Get the reference, in writing:

The last thing I want to mention is to get references from clients. I recommend doing this at the time you complete the service and obtain it in email along with their permission to use the reference (e.g., testimonial). Make is clear how you plan to use it (email, on your website, etc.) and then do so regularly. People looking to use your services will often ask for references and it is always nice to have that list ready to provide at a moment’s notice.