10 Ways To Build Referral Sources That Keep On Giving

Thanks to continuous growth in the free market, businesses have to be more resourceful than ever to compete. It’s not enough to publish advertisements and hope for the best. Instead, the modern executive must direct his focus towards building referral sources that work to his advantage.  

What is a referral source?

Simply put, a referral source is any third-party person, business, service, etc. that connects your company to potential customers. Understanding the concept of building referral sources is uncomplicated, but the act of actually doing it can seem abstract and overwhelming.

To help make things more tangibly attainable, Professional Network Connections has assembled this straightforward guide to making connections, gaining leads, and expanding your customer base by effectively building referral sources that keep on giving. 

10 Ways to build referral sources:

Computer on desk with coffee

  1. Establish a routine.

Like most worthwhile endeavors, building a solid network of referral sources means consistently investing time and energy. Establishing connections and maintaining them requires effort, so we recommend setting aside a scheduled time either daily or weekly to reach out to your existing referral sources and to foster relationships with new ones. 
Take thirty minutes to respond to emails, return phone calls, and organize meetings. Set a lunch date once a month. Give yourself time to draft materials and brainstorm future incentive programs. These measures aren’t difficult, but they are time consuming; they’re the kind of tasks you can easily overlook during the chaos of your busy workweek. 
Think of your referral sources as plants. If they go untouched for too long they will most definitely wither away; therefore, routinely dedicating some attention to them is crucial to having a thriving referral network. 
  1. Make personal connections. 

Cups of coffee together
Most adults have a keen sense for knowing whether they are being used or not. If you make building referral sources about nothing other than business, chances are, you won’t get very far. Instead, consider the human elements of networking the next time you strike up a conversation with a potential business partner. 
Avoid leading with exclusively work-related topics, though doing this might seem counter-intuitive. Individuals are much more likely to want to work with you on projects if they feel connected with you on a personal basis. Rather than asking possible referral sources what they do for a living, ask what activities they enjoy on the weekends. Be interested in their hobbies, families, and preferences. Send handwritten thank you notes after your meetings, and invite these valuable people to spend recreational time with you after business hours. 
By curating friendships with your referral sources, you will create stronger bonds with them than you would if you limited your contact to emails and office visits. Stronger ties mean stronger leads, and let’s not forget, it’s natural to recommend friends before strangers, so the next time someone asks your source for a referral, your name will be the first that comes to mind. 
  1. Offer Incentives. 

Two women looking at computer
Of course, you can’t be expected to build deep, personal relationships with all the contacts in your referral network, just the most valuable ones. There are other ways to earn loyalty from your sources; for example, you can offer incentives. 
You’re probably already familiar with this idea. Companies offer discount codes and special offers to customers who bring in referrals. These are known as direct referrals because they spur existing clients to directly influence new ones. It’s a winning strategy for everyone because everyone stands to gain from the arrangement. You might also consider using tangible items like gift certificates or experience vouchers to garner attention from prospective buyers. 
For example, you could give away a package of two movie passes to a person of your choice, and instruct that person to bring a friend or family member along, your treat. Not only does doing something like this make your referral source feel valued, it opens up a dialogue between him and someone else about your generous company. You strengthen a connection and ear a new one at the same time. 
  1. Do things the old fashioned way.

While printed materials get a bad reputation for being outdated, they could be more valuable now more than ever. Think about how saturated the digital market is; every click send an onslaught of new advertisements to your screen, and you’ve become accustomed to ignoring the vast majority of them, just like everyone else. 
Meanwhile, receiving a piece of mail has become somewhat of a special experience as fewer and fewer people are getting letters, subscribing to magazines, or sending paper flyers. Therefore, investing in printed advertisements could land you more interest and customer referrals than you expect, especially if you offer incentives as part of your content.
  1. Explore digital opportunities. 

Hand holding cellphone
Don’t misunderstand, digital platforms provide advantages that print materials can’t: analytics, geofencing capabilities, and user profiling algorithms that allow you to easily refer ideal customers to your business. 
By utilizing Google ad-word, Facebook, and other customizable campaigns, you can select specific traits members of your target audience may share to yield the best possible viewing results. In essence, these digital channels become automated referral sources for your company., and many of these tools are relatively inexpensive. 
Also, we recommend that you find ways to be present on customer review boards and Q&A forums. Encourage previous customers to post feedback about their experiences with your company. These online comments serve as valuable referral sources for countless, anonymous web browsers in search of the most promising goods and services. Though left by total strangers, customer reviews act as either warnings or assurances for potential buyers, so stay on their good side. 
  1. Research paid lead services. 

Money in wallet
When all else fails, there’s no shame in investing some capital with lead generating companies. It might take some digging to find one in your industry that quotes rates aligning with your customer acquisition costs, but partnering with a group that provides you with quality leads can be a smart move. 
Just be sure the leads you are paying for aren’t being sold to other parties and that the bulk batch of contacts you receive is comprised mainly of solid referrals, not a lot of dead ends. Keep in mind too, following up on each prospective customer takes time. If it’s a resource you have little of, consider taking a different route; otherwise, you’re paying for a service you’ll never fully utilize. 
  1. Be involved in your  local community.

Hands in circle
One of the most holistically beneficial steps you can take for your business is to embed it deep within your local community. People support companies that support them, so sponsor sports teams. Work events. Donate to raffles and silent auctions. Do whatever it takes to get your name and logo in front of people while making a positive, lasting impression. 
Consider this strategy the long-game; you may not see a huge turnout for your merchandise booths, but that doesn’t mean you’re wasting time by manning one. Oftentimes, people visit events with a mission in mind. They may not stop by your vendor stand to chat or make a purchase, but they are seeing you and making a mental note of your existence. These remembrances convert to future sales when your company is the first they think of in the face of difficulty. Not to mention, even if your business has no life application for an event attendee, he may refer a friend with a problem you can solve.
  1. Attend networking events. 

People talking at event
Most professionals have an inkling that they should be attending more networking events, but for many people the prospect of actually doing so is daunting, if not terrifying. However, making a point to attend at least one event per month could drastically impact referrals. 
Don’t overthink it. You don’t even need business cards because let’s be honest, most people fail to keep track of them after meeting you anyways.  Instead, offer to exchange phone numbers or emails on the spot. Once you’re contact is saved in someone’s phone, it’s unlikely he will go through the trouble of deleting it later, and then when you follow-up, everyone will already know who’s calling. If there’s a name and face attached to that call or email, you’ll probably get a response. You might choose to exchange social media account information as a substitute for personal contacts. 
We also advise you to invite a friend along to share the load and cut back on social awkwardness. Choose someone working in a different field if possible, and take turns making introductions for each other. You’ll be surprised how many of these handshakes turn into future referral sources, but the key to being memorable is authentic connection. Avoid the pitfalls of asking generic questions. Be inventive. Ask about passions, vacations, personal interests, and be prepared to tell more about yourself than your job title and marital status. 
  1. Engage bloggers and influencers.

Girl with camera
Never limit your referral sources to your existing industry. Be bold, and branch out to businesses that might have nothing to do with yours except for a mutual target audience. Partner with the people your customers like, including bloggers and influencers. Even if you don’t see the appeal of lifestyle blogging, believe in the power of their following. 
Explore hashtags your customers use in posts about your brand to seek possible allies in this area. You want to look for bloggers and influencers in your area who would be willing to write posts discussing the value of your goods or services who seem to have a large fan base of people who match your customer profile. Reach out, and begin negotiating a price. Keep in mind that you can sometimes convince these talented folks to accept a smaller payment by compensating them with social media shout-outs, services, discounts, or merchandise. 
  1. Be a reciprocating asset. 

street sign arrows
All of us are looking for ways to earn new referral sources, increase profits, and gain momentum. However, people generally respond best to others who reciprocate favors. Consider it a “you scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours” mentality. In the same way that you receive referrals from others, be mindful to send your clients to your partners whenever possible. It’s good business etiquette and makes you an asset worth maintaining. 

Building referral sources will help your business thrive, and now, you have all the necessary tools to make that happen. There’s no pressure to employ all our tips right away. Instead choose a few that you suspect would work best for your company’s situation, and save the rest for later. You can combine multiple approaches, or test them one at a time. Whatever you do, we wish you success in your efforts! 

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