Small Business Success Secret #1 – Know Your Referral Sources

Grow Your Business - One Relationship at a Time!


Identify Where Your Business Comes From

Know your referral sources

One of my All-Time BEST business referral source stories comes from an older gentleman that I had cultivated a relationship with.  He was not one of my top sources, but I had worked hard to get to know him and felt like he really liked me.  One holiday season, I purchased holiday cards where you could put a picture in it so that it showed through the front of the card.  I put a picture of my young family in each of these cards and sent them to all of my close referral sources including this gentleman.  It turns out a year and a half later – in the middle of July, I was sitting in this gentleman’s office talking with him when all of a sudden he reached into his desk drawer and pulled out the Christmas card I had sent him a year and a half prior and told me he could not throw it away…not only that…he pulled out the one I had sent him this year!  He told me that was the best idea ever – as he could not bear to throw those cards out!

Business Referral

Find Out Where Your Sales Come.


THIS is where you need to focus your energy and your marketing to stay in front of these valuable sources.

The BEST type of referral is word of mouth – because it is free.  If you can identify who and where these people/referral sources are, THESE are who you need to target.

word of mouth marketing

Here are some TIPS on how to cultivate word of mouth referrals AND make connections:

  1. Develop your RELATIONSHIP with these people.  Become their friends.  The closer and deeper the relationship, the better.  ENJOY these people.  Show them you care about them.  If there is any way you can reciprocate business referrals for them, do that.  In some cases, there is no way you can reciprocate, but show them your appreciation in any creative way you can.  Sometimes, you have to be careful about this depending on what type of business you are in as it could be construed as a conflict of interest.  But nonetheless, show them your appreciation in creative ways.
  2. Send your referral source HAND WRITTEN cards of appreciation.  In today’s market, a hand written note means a lot.  It means you took the extra time to jot down your appreciation.  I will provide some tips on this later.  BY THE WAY – an e-mail does not carry that much weight…it does not have the personal touch that a hand written note does.
  3. VISIT your referral source frequently.  There is nothing better than face to face conversation!  This also helps develop and deepen your relationship and reminds them that you are a real entity and a real person trying to make a living…they are helping.
  4. ASK your referral source how you can help them.  Show genuine appreciation for their help and then genuinely try to help them get business.  If your referral source does not have a business, show your appreciation by giving them creative gifts.  Take them to a ball game or get them tickets for an event.  Take them on a fishing trip.  Drop off a box of chocolates to them.  Sponsor their kids ball team.
  5. Think of things you can GIVE them to keep your name in front of them.  Things that people use all of the time such as notepads, post-it notes, pens, etc. are great items to give away.  I can’t tell you how many times I have been told by a client after I have asked them how they heard about me that somebody gave them a sheet off of their notepad!  OR – if someone is giving out your telephone number, they can quickly look on their post-it notes on their desk.
  6. READ local business publications.  Read the local newspaper and trade publications.  When you see any of your referral sources mentioned in any of these, clip it out and send it to them with a handwritten card congratulating them!  If you have access to laminate it – do that…it will be amazing what connections can be solidified by them knowing you noticed them!
  7. Help PROMOTE your referral source’s business on your social media.  Give them shout outs.  Tell your people what great people your referral sources are and send people their way.  Tell them how they have helped you solve your particular needs, etc.  (This in and of itself should tell you the value that you can provide by having a large, thriving fan base on your social media sites – SO work hard on developing ALL of your social media outlets as this can be a very valuable resource for you!)
  8. Send PERSONAL Holiday Cards.  From my story at the beginning, during the holidays, send a picture of your family (people LOVE to see the kids and your spouse in the picture!)  OR – send a picture of your entire staff.  No kids – no staff?  No worries…what about something personal about you?  Send a pic of your dog looking cute in a holiday outfit.  How about a holiday picture of you at a holiday event or in front of holiday lights or with Santa.  Send something personal.  After all – you are trying to create and cultivate personal relationships.

relationship marketing

I hope you can see how this type of marketing is the most effective way to generate SOLID business leads that are LOYAL.  USUALLY a word of mouth referral means that the client is not going to be shopping around.  How awesome is THAT?

Having deep connections and relationships with those that know you, believe in you, and trust you are the best way to build a solid business.  This type of business building also provides a hedge against economic downturns as loyal business referrals tend to look out for each other when the going gets tough.

Remember – you HOLD THE PIECE…to your relationships.  CONNECT WITH THEM!  I’m interested in hearing about your stories…share below.

you hold the key

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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