I consider referrals as the most critical and important ingredient to my success in business. This is why I believe you need to reward referrals in a way that feels authentic and genuine to you. When a past client refers me, my programs or products, I work hard to let them know I appreciate it. Whether you have a formal referral process in place or not, I believe that a long-lasting business plan should include a way to nurture those who send you business!
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The easiest way to begin your own referral program is to start simply. For instance, you may set up a process to always send a thank you note or some kind of a gift of acknowledgement. This can easily be done from your desktop with the easy ‘click to send’ feature of SendOutCards, an online system that helps you send a paper card right from your desk top.
Try Several Referral Strategies
When I started out as a Professional Organizer, I used to reward referrals from my clients with complimentary organizing work time, but when my tax accountant found out, he made me put an end to that.
Because consultation and coaching work has such varied costs and ranges are unlimited, your time in trade for a referral is not a tax deductible item… So I began to give gift cards to referrers instead.
For my training clients, I typically reward the staff or executive who hires me with some type of consumable office gift during the holiday season (chocolate, gift towers, coffee/tea, wine baskets…) These make a nice splash, and are very well-received by most people. I enjoy giving ‘consumables’ because they are much more likely to be used. I’ve given more personal items, but most often stick to the chocolate, coffee/tea or wine gift baskets depending on the group and type of relationship we’ve developed over time.
When I became a coach, I began rewarding referrals with gifts in kind – and depending on the size of the referrals would depend upon the gift category.
Set Up An Affiliate Program
As my business has grown and my products/offers have developed, I’ve created an official affiliate referral program for my clients and colleagues who graciously refer my services, programs and products to their trusted tribes.
For instance, professionals who resonate and recommend the Time & Space Style Inventory for their clients can become a TSSI Affiliate for that product and earn 25% back on each purchase to clients they recommend the product to who purchase.
Other clients have chosen to recommend my coaching offers, training programs and launches and have earned up to several hundred dollars for one referral to a long-term coaching program.
Offer Promotions To Your Peeps
It is always easier to obtain sales from people who already know, like and trust you. By offering promotions to those people who are ‘already listening’, you can do really well to encourage them to take action and opt in to your offers.
Although promotions are not really considered a true ‘referral’ program, it is a strategy that works like one. Here’s an example of how I incorporated referrals into a recent launch of the Planapaloozah 2016. For instance, I offered a couple things:
- Alumni Promotion – All alumni of the program are given a reduced tuition to invite them back into the program again. This usually works out for those who want the accountability of a group, guidance, direction and to have the actual program ‘hold the space’ for them to do the planning. Since they are alumni, they’ve already received the value of this program in the past, so if they’re available, it’s kind of a no-brainer. I feel like since they’ve already participated, the alumni promo is just a little way of saying ‘thanks for sticking with me, I’m still here and am eager to support your business goals.’ As a result of this referral promotion, about 8-15% of my enrollment is alumni each year.
- Bring A Friend Promotion – This season, I also offered a type of referral gift which I called a ‘Bring A Friend’ Bonus at almost half the original investment. This was a referral program that worked out for everyone. When one person opted in, they could bring a second person who opted in at a reduced cost (the two could split the difference in cost for two and both benefit). Those two people received the content and course materials, and I was happily able to deliver my program to more people without really working much harder than I already had planned. Of those who opted into the Planapaloozah this year, 10% were alumni, and 30% added a friend and both received a reduced tuition as a thank you.
- Early Bird Promotion – You can also reward people for taking fast action and offer your programs at a reduced cost for opting in early. This is a referral strategy as it often sparks people to take action quicker than they may otherwise. It’s important to keep an ‘early bird’ promotion EARLY though. You can not imagine how many people ask to take advantage of the early promotion well after the deadline… So, if this is your strategy, be sure your early time frame truly is early (by about 2-3 weeks).
When reviewing results, those types of promotion programs really work! I am happy to offer a referral program because as a result, all of those colleagues who worked together to get into the program can easily now become accountability partners and keep each other on track with implementing the program content… and, potentially will return next year… and everyone wins.
One other way to add a level of referral to your program is to offer a sponsor level to like organizations and small businesses that may benefit from the same group of customers and clients. Sponsorships are typically given some time to mix and mingle with groups, priority placement on marketing materials, or some type of priority access to the attendees in exchange for their sponsorship.
Create Your Mindset to Play A Bigger Game
Of course, I have really had to work on my mindset around all of this first, and believe that (as Barbara Hemphill is famous for saying in our world): “A rising tide raises all ships”. The difficulty as a business owner (especially when starting out) is the idea that you’re ‘giving money away’ at a time when you REALLY COULD USE THAT MONEY! And, I think it’s important to note that I am in the ‘leverage’ stage of my business at this point… I’m interested in multiplying my offerings and numbers by getting in front of enough people who are ready to invest in coaching. This is no small feat in a cottage industry where the over-arching limiting belief for many is that boot-strapping and duct taping strategies will get them to their financial goals.
I’m deeply invested in systems, strategies and support to allow me to do all this with the back end processes: my Client Relations Management tools, webinar hosting site, social media platforms and other systems account for nearly 25% of my business expenses. And, when figuring in the cost to have virtual assistants, a web support team, and an on line business manager (and her staff) to help me manage, automate what we can, and implement it all, that number may actually be double!
It’s a heart-in-my-throat true fact that I’ve learned by sweating out a cost benefit analysis every time… If it’s going to cost me a couple thousand dollars to build something, I really HAVE to get enough of the RIGHT people into it to just cover the costs.
We all know that business growth takes investment, and when you want to leverage, you need to ‘broaden your net’ to find more ideal clients that are ripe and ready to work with you. If I am able to get in front of more of those wonderful, yummy clients easier through referrals from others who already know, like and trust me – then my job is much easier, and I’m happy to reward them.
Referrals Help Your Long Game
I personally believe that the top five components to long-range success are: great content/service/products/care (depending on your business), client results, referrals, consistency and gratefulness. So, the power of great referrals (and a well-thought out reciprocal strategy where everyone wins) have certainly worked out for me… so much so that I offer a training program/conference session called “How To Convert Low-Cost Networking Into Big Income” as part of my Pillar Content and as one of my Signature Talks.
I hope this helps inspire you to consider your referral gifts as a part of your long-term success strategy! Feel free to reach out off list if you’d like to discuss your referral strategy further. Good luck!