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Stefan Kazakis on 8 February 2020

How to build a referral program that gets results

We're now a week into "referral month". I hope you've been implementing some of the strategies we discussed last week to make your referral system your strongest marketing strategy! 

Having a great referral program is vital to your growth and success and many businesses - and often, the most successful - work purely off Word of Mouth Strategy. 

So this week I want to share some ideas that will get your customers talking about you.

Referrals are the most sure-fire way of turning a lead into a customer.  If someone is given a recommendation about your business from a person they trust, they are more likely to buy from you.

But, how do you get referrals?

There are all kinds of strategies you can put in place, but you need to find what works for your specific business. So be proactive and implement different ideas. Test and measure their success, and tweak and improve them consistently. 

Don't know where to start? Begin researching what similar businesses are doing around the world. And don't be afraid to think outside the box!

For example: At a restaurant in California, every time a customer goes to pay for a meal, they must pull a card from the deck. If they pull the joker, they get their meal for free.

This costs the restaurant $2 for every $100 they make, they’ve never had to invest any money on marketing, because their business is built purely off referrals and shares on social media with the buzz this simple strategy produces.


Start thinking about ideas that could work for you. For example: Are you in the landscaping/gardening industry?

Could you add some small service in addition to your regular services if they refer you to a friend within the month of February?

This might be a lawn to be mowed, a bush pruned or pressure-washing their pathways. These types of offers are a great way to encourage referrals:

By implementing this strategy:

  • You have found something that is cost-effective – it is in addition to your regular service, not discounting what you usually offer. 
  • It costs you little in time, but you gain a new client in return 
  • It's an appealing offer. It will encourage your customers to refer their friends.
  • You can demonstrate additional services you offer, and encourage them to buy those services in the future., increasing your average dollar sale.

Now that you’ve got that as an example, think about (and research!) what strategies you could use to encourage your best customers to refer you to people they know.

Now, let me get this clear: while we recommend rewarding those who give you referrals, we don’t suggest using kickbacks.

Here’s the difference, kickbacks tend to involve some sort of monetary benefit back to the person or business who deliver you referrals. The problem with this is that the referral is largely done for monetary gain, and therefore the referee will have less trust that the referral is genuine.

Why not kickbacks?

  • You don’t want to buy your customers loyalty
  • The person being referred may begin to question the motivation behind the referral – “Is this a real referral or do they just want to make money from it?”
  • You have to remember if you are providing a valuable service, you don’t want to devalue that by having to buy your customers referrals.

I’ll say it again from last week…

One of the best referral strategies you can have is providing a service worth referring.

To expand on this a little bit, I’m going to use a fictional character, let’s call him Luke.

Luke owns and runs his own business in the gardening industry, Luke has run his business for roughly 5 years now. Luke has never had any form of marketing online, he’s never had to invest in his marketing, he runs purely off referrals and return customers.

Prior to attending the job, Luke provides excellent and polite customer service.  He assures he can attend on a day that is best suited for his customer, he gives them a free quote, he explains what will be done and gives them confidence he will deliver the standard he promises.

When Luke arrives at the site, he makes sure he delivers on his promises.

He always arrives on time, with a smile, and never has to cancel or reschedule.  He is always pleasant and polite in his demeanour and does his best to know about their lives (which isn’t necessary but is a big part of the customer's experience and shows them he cares).

As for the job itself, he always completes it above the standard and makes sure the customer is happy with the work before leaving.

In the following days, he will again thank his customers for their custom and follow-up with a message or call, encouraging them to leave a friendly review and makes it easy for them to recommend him to a friend (leaving business cards and fridge magnets is a great tool to do this!)

Luke has had the same customers continue to come back for over 5 years now, every single one of those has referred him to another client – increasing his client base with great people who appreciate what he does, leading to continuous growth. As he has grown, every employee he hires is trained to follow the same process and offer the same level of service Luke does himself.

I’ll say it one more time,

One of the best referral strategies you can have is providing a service worth referring.

Whilst this is the most important part of a referral system, it is always good to have a process to encourage referrals.

Remember these 5 steps from last week that will help you get more referrals.

  1. Ask for a referral

  2. Ask customers for feedback

  3. Ignore your head trash

  4. Encourage social media sharing

  5. Position your referrals

And from this week:

Encourage referrals by incentivizing your clients (but no kickbacks!)


Thank-you and keep your eye out for next week when we discuss speed networking and teach you how to write a killer elevator pitch


 Stefan Kazakis 

CEO, Business Benchmark Group

Looking for a business coach? Find out more about the Board of Directors 12 Business Coaching Program.

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