There is no bigger source of future revenue and profit than the Ideal Clients you have now—at least the ones you really like to do business with, who don’t beat you up on pricing and who pay on time.

We want you to write a personal note to every person you deal with at every one of your Ideal Customers, thanking them for their business and asking for a personal meeting. At that meeting, present a customized overview of how you are going to focus on the one thing that’s most important to them. You should offer very specific new ways you are going to do this.
At the same meetings, launch your Referral program.

Say, “We ask ourselves every day, what can we do today to get XYZ Company (the one you are meeting with) to recommend us? Would the improvements we have presented to you today convince you to recommend us to other companies who need this approach?”

When they say “Yes!” (they will), say “In that case, we are delighted to offer a Referral Price to you: at the end of our fiscal year, we will rebate 2% of the value of all revenue directly attributable to your referrals and introductions.” If you have a better idea, go ahead, offer it.

Here’s the real secret to a powerful Referral Program

Your Referral sources will feel reluctant to actively recommend you, even though they like the work you do and they’ve promised to help. Why? Because who wants to risk making a recommend that may turn out to be a disaster! And furthermore, who can remember to look for opportunities to recommend you.

Most of us ask for a recommendation and then wonder, usually about six months later, “Whatever happened to that recommendation so-and-so was going to give us?”

This Referral plan will not run itself. You will need to tell your referral sources exactly what will happen when you contact one of their recommended colleagues or friends, so they trust you with that precious information.

Assign someone to getting case studies and written recommendations from your referral sources, following up every month to remind people about the program (a combination of phone calls, e-newsletter, and personal meetings).

Ask for introductions to colleagues at trade events or fund-raisers. Ask to be invited to club meetings. Ask to be invited to join organizations you need to be sponsored for. If you get a referral, make sure you let your referral source know you contacted the referral and what happened.

This looks like work, and it is. But it’s also about 75% less work, and a lot less money, than cold calling, or selling to prospects without a recommendation. And it works.

Our favourite referral event for a home improvement company is the open house the homeowners host to show friends and neighbours their new space. Another is a technology consulting firm which assigned an account executive to manage their partnerships with big software vendors like Microsoft, and tripled their leads.

Elizabeth Walker (thinking and words) and Ken Burgin (creative genius) are the Marketing Masters. They are both Duct Tape Marketing Authorized Coaches. Liz leads seminars in business strategy and communications at the Schulich Executive Education Centre, York University. We are thrilled to be working with small businesses and entrepreneurs everyday, and derive considerable joy helping them build busy businesses.

Elizabeth Walker and Ken BurginElizabeth Walker and Ken Burgin

Ken Burgin and Elizabeth Walker are the Marketing Masters, a full-service marketing and advertising partnership that helps build busy businesses.