5 Creative Ways to Get More Referrals

referral bonusThe first step to getting more referrals is to be more referable. No matter what you do to motivate your referral sources if they don’t trust you’ll do a good job, game over. But, even if you are highly referable there are things you can do to motivate your customers to willingly participate in your referral system more fully by simply adding a few creative ideas that spark their participation.

Over the years I’ve seen hundreds of ways that businesses from all industries have approached this idea and, a bit like a squirrel collects nuts, I’ve collected dozens of them and put them in my new book The Referral Engine – Teaching Your Business to Market Itself. Below are a few of those nuggets.

Heating and air conditioning contractor—During the sales process they used testimonial letters from satisfied clients and then asked the clients if they would be willing to provide a similar letter if everything worked out as promised. The customers and technician agreed on a quoted price, the technician completed the work, and then before collecting payment, offered an additional fifty-dollar referral fee if the clients wrote a letter on the spot. It worked every time.

Financial planner—Created his very own referral and lead network by sending a letter to ten other professionals whom he had worked with and felt comfortable referring business to. This letter informed them that he was creating a unique referral network of one hundred of the area’s top professional services providers and was inviting them to become a member, but that he needed them to recommend ten others who should belong to this exclusive group. He then created a resource directory and Web site that featured all one hundred professionals. The entire group promoted the directory and Web site and referred business to each other. As a result, other professionals begged to be allowed into the group. The strategy was so powerful that many of network members did no other form of marketing.

Software training company—Partnered with complementary businesses to provide training classes. A local print shop received all kinds of very poorly designed business cards, brochures, letterhead, etc. It partnered with a computer training company to offer its customers graphic design classes. Eventually they expanded it to marketing, Web design, and specific software applications. The key is to look for businesses where you can offer a natural extension of their product or service.

Attorney—Sponsored online teleseminars and invited well-known authors and speakers by allowing them to pitch their books or other products. Targeted clients lined up to hear the prominent speaker and provided their names and e-mail addresses to get on the free call. The teleseminars became so popular that the attorney recorded each call and created an entire library of products that he used for other marketing efforts. By sponsoring the well-known authors, the attorney created a very high-profile referral network.

Remodeling contractor—After this upper-end remodeling contractor finished a project, he offered to throw an open house party for friends and neighbors. The homeowner invited everyone to “come see what all the fuss was about” and see the new home. The remodeling contractor made a very small presentation and then passed out cards. This worked particularly well when he added a cigar tasting, a wine tasting, and a golf demonstration to the event. Of course, he also took photos of the homeowners enjoying their new home addition and mailed it around the neighborhood.

What creative referral ideas have you witnessed or participated in yourself?

Image credit: AchimH

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  • Lateefivy

    I built a new technology for my friends who own businesses to automate the process of requesting and tracking referrals from their customers. Testing starts this week!

  • http://www.marsdorian.com/ Mars Dorian

    I'm in the middle of creating my own ideas, and I base them on two things –

    1) doing something amazing and inspiring

    2) making sure my service is remarkably good

    I'll see how it goes !

  • http://www.ducttapemarketing.com/blog ducttape

    Mars – absolutely a great start for any referral idea. If you pull off both points people will talk and your lead generation will come from within.

  • http://www.ducttapemarketing.com/blog ducttape

    I would be interested in learning more about this technology at some point.

  • Lateefivy

    I'd be honored to show it to you, and I can demonstrate it in 3 min. Email me at lateefATdeckertonDOTcom with times that work for you.



  • Lateefivy

    I'd be honored to show it to you, and I can demonstrate it in 3 min. Email me at lateefATdeckertonDOTcom with times that work for you.



  • http://www.thatbookkeeper.com thatbookkeeper

    These are great ideas. I'm going to forward the first tip to my brother-in-law who runs an HVAC company. I may end up using the 2nd tip for myself. This would be a great way to bring several complimentary businesses together to strengthen their market presence.

  • http://commonground.edrnet.com/pages/0a5d38ee2d/pages/3b8b026878 Mark Wallace

    Great and timely post. We have been talking about the importance of referrals with our community members for some time now. Given that it is how we all generate business, and how important we think it is to help them, we just built a new environmental and CRE services provider directory on commonground where their customers have the opportunity to review and rate them just a few weeks ago. We have already heard from customers who are using it to get business. If they win business, then we win too.

  • elainefogel

    Great advice, as usual, John. I'm linking to your post in my June business marketing newsletter. Thanks!

  • http://coachradio.tv/ Justin Lukasavige

    I love it John. I see people out there trying to get referrals, all the while not realizing they're not very referable. If we focused on that, almost by default they'd start coming in.

    Becoming remarkable first and foremost is how to make that happen. Get people talking.

  • http://JasonWheeler.biz/ Jason Wheeler

    These are some great referral ideas John. I recently wrote an article on reciprocity in business and how it leads to more referrals. This it the first time I've seen your blog. I will add it to my reader and keep up with you.

  • http://www.direct-marketing-rx-copywriting.com/ ElizabethDMRx

    Love the referral tips. Your soda can reminded me of the re-labled bottled water I got from a local business. Unfortunately for them they missed out on referrals by not having any bonus/reward for doing the referring. And I spent 5 minutes talking to the biz rep and she never offered me a business card or asked for my contact info. Not only did she not want to ask for a referral she didn't ask for my business!

  • http://www.designtorontoweb.ca/ Teena

    Great ideas you have here, mere referrals from friends is not enough..it's time to set the mood for a new referral scheme.

  • http://JasonWheeler.biz/ Jason Wheeler

    What about good old fashioned networking and community involvement? That is where I've seen great results.

  • http://promodsharma.com Promod Sharma

    Paying $50 for a referral letter probably works, but what about authenticity?

    I'd feel duped when I found out the testimonials were bought. Making the discount conditional on receiving the letter does not feel right.

    How about giving the discount or a gift unconditionally before asking for a recommendation?

  • Jessica

    The best referral deal i have witnessed was at a tanning salon. I joined a tanning salon last year and they informed me if I brought them a new customer they would give me a tan for free. It was worth it to me to find a friend willing to go and take them to go tanning in order to get that free tan especially when tanning for college student isn't in the budget but so worth it in the middle of December at -40 degrees.