Most businesses are so busy trying to get new clients or customers on their own that they tend to forget about the importance of utilizing their referral networks.  Research shows that referrals are one of the top three ways of acquiring leads and new business.
Even those who intuitively recognize the value of referrals sometimes hesitate to tap into them. The primary reasons for this are:

  • They feel as if they might be imposing upon their business friends.


  • They haven’t taken the time to research and understand who their contacts might know.


  • They haven’t thought about why their associates should refer them, and further, how they could make it easy for them to do so.

I believe that a significant issue is not having a true system in place for consistently thinking about lead generation through referrals.  Failsafe systems require consistency, rather than a start/stop mentality.  You must devote meaningful and constant attention to referrals, rather than relegating this activity to times when you are not busy or when your pipeline has dried up.  It should be a core component of your overall marketing and sales strategy.
So how can you establish an effective referral program for your business?

  1. Be “referral ready!” Deliver good value to your current clients/customers, so that they can easily speak to the value you provide.  Assist them with positive online reviews, ask for testimonials and share content with them.


  1. Determine what your ideal buyer looks like and share that with your referral sources.


  1. Create a “referral exchange program” with your customers, where you are assisting each other in a proactive way.


  1. Ask for referrals at the right time – when you can share an impressive success story with them.


  1. Always thank your referral sources immediately for their positive endorsement.


  1. Educate your customers/clients as to the parts of your business they may not be familiar with. They may not know about additional services you provide beyond those that they are currently using.  Don’t take for granted that they have a thorough understanding of your company’s total scope and priorities, and perhaps even ask for a meeting where you can get them up-to-speed in this regard.


  1. Add a link to a form on your website for referral submissions.


  1. Provide valuable content to your referral sources that makes it easy for them to share with others.


  1. Keep your LinkedIn profile updated and stay engaged with your social media contacts regularly. You can also leverage LinkedIn to discover “second-degree” connections.


  1. And most of all, BE REMARKABLE! Do great work and then figure out how to package your successes in order to make referrals happen easily and gladly.

Cathy Ackermann, founder and president of Ackermann Marketing and PR, may be reached at
For the online version of this column, please visit

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