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Referral programs: get more out of 82 percent of your customers

June 5, 2014 Bradford Group Administrator

82-percent-jpgWhat do Americans who live in urban areas, people opposed to U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan and Floridians who want to legalize pot have in common?

Eighty-two percent.

Eighty-two percent of us are city dwellers, want out of Afghanistan and are pro Marijuana (in The Sunshine State, at least). You know what else 82 percent of us share?

Nationally, 82 percent of small business owners say that referrals are their main source of new business. So, it’s surprising that so many organizations have never taken the time to strategize a referral plan or actively seek out referral sources.

When you provide a customer a positive experience, it should be second nature to reach out to that individual and ask for a referral. To jump start this practice, we suggest drafting a script and decision tree for this follow-up communication that details what should be said when a customer says no, maybe or yes—as well as what to say when a customer says he or she is happy to provide a referral, but can’t think of a name at this time. Send customers a handwritten note after the call thanking them for the referral.

When you provide a customer a positive experience, it should be second nature to reach out to that individual and ask for a referral.

In our line of work, many times the primary reason business leaders search out our public relations, inbound marketing, outbound marketing and social media services is to diversify their pipeline and stop relying solely, or primarily, on referral business.

For some industries—retail, restaurant, personal services, for example—creating a formal, incentive-based referral program can be a great opportunity.

We suggest a flat incentive model. During a follow-up call/email, you can offer a set reward for referrals that result in a new sale or contract. “Reward” doesn’t necessarily have to mean cash either. You can offer gift cards, discounts on future products/services or a charity donation.

To promote your new incentive-based referral program, follow these six steps.

  1. Set up a landing page on your website—Make sure it’s laid out clearly and concisely and include an online form on the page
  2. Send initial email to all existing and past customers explaining the program—Include a strong call-to-action that brings people directly to your referral landing page
  3. Re-email past/existing customers—annually
  4. Include the information on everything you give clients: invoices, contracts, etc.
  5. Promote via social media—once a month
  6. Tie to outbound calls—At the close of a call you can take the opportunity to mention the referral program


photo credit: foto-shop via

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