How to Develop A Bullet Proof Referral Strategy
- Business Tips

How to Develop A Bullet Proof Referral Strategy

How to Develop A Bullet Proof Referral Strategy – Identifying Individuals and Fields For Your Referral Network

All businesses need a steady flow of clients to stay afloat. Referral programs are one of the best ways to bring in new and retain existing clients. With a strong referral program, you’ll have clients from multiple sources to support your business growth.

What Is a Referral Program?

Referral programs are defined processes that reward existing clients for referring others in their networks, such as family, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances. You’re leveraging word-of-mouth marketing, but you’re encouraging clients to refer to your business by giving them an incentive.

This works because of authenticity. People put more trust in others than they do in ads or other marketing communications, and referral programs leverage this to attract new clients.

Referral programs have numerous benefits, including:

  • Authenticity: Existing clients have already experienced your business or your product or service and can share that experience with their social network. If they’re recommending your business, their friends and family have an inherent trust in that recommendation.
  • Transactional value: With referral programs, the client making the referral and the client they referred are rewarded. This can be in the form of rewards points, discounts, coupons, gifts, cash-back offers, or any other incentive of value that’s relevant to a business.
  • Trust: Advertising comes from a business directly, so consumers are inherently wary of it. When a recommendation comes directly from a trusted source, like a friend, people are likelier to trust their experience and take the recommendation.

Clients are at the forefront of referrals, but they’re not the only ones who should be part of a referral network. Non-competing businesses and others in your professional network can be valuable for your referral program and build your client base.

Sources of Referrals 


As mentioned, existing or previous clients are the best company advocates. They aren’t part of your business or invest in its success, so they’re offering genuine and influential support. Sure, they’re getting an incentive, but if they’ve had a bad experience, a gift wouldn’t be enough to tell a friend or family member to go to you.

Your referral program may include your current clients or your past clients. Clients may only need your services once for some businesses, such as prenuptial agreement law firms. If you leave a good impression, they’ll probably be happy to become a referral source to help you attract more clients.

Your prospects are another valuable source for referrals. They may not be your client yet, but they could’ve had a positive experience with your business while researching their options. Or perhaps they had a consultation, and the circumstances changed, but you stayed top of mind if they need similar services in the future.

Friends and Family

Next to clients, your network is an excellent source of referrals. Your friends and family are invested in your success and would probably come to you for their own needs (assuming no conflict of interest) and recommend you to others.


Employees have insider knowledge of a company and can be leveraged as brand advocates. For most, they already answer questions and offer information to people about the business, so making them a referral source only incentivizes their efforts.

Here are some options for your employee referrals:

    • Your sales team: This team has to bring in qualified leads and follow up with prospects. As part of a referral network, they can build referrals with clients, leads, and professionals in complementary industries.
    • Your marketing team: This team has a passion for your business, understands what you’re trying to accomplish, and understands the decision-making processes your client experiences.

Considering a big company, consider other options like customer service, human resources, and accounting. These teams are excellent for your referral program and would be proud advocates for your company.

Business Partners

Companies and charities affiliated with your company may be beneficial for influencing purchase decisions and building your referral network. Best of all, both parties have something to gain from referrals.

Consider these questions when choosing your referral sources:

    • Do you have companies with complementary products or overlapping audiences? An example would be a spa and a beauty salon with different services but significantly overlapping clientele.
    • Do your target clients interact with partners in a professional capacity?
    • Do your target clients belong to certain organizations?
    • Do you work with businesses that have coordinating products? For example, a client getting landscaping may also need other home contracting work.

Building a referral network with business partners or complementary businesses is a little easier since you and the other business benefit from the partnership. There are plenty of opportunities for each of you to promote one another.

For example, a landscaper may be completing work in someone’s yard when they ask about a good roofing contractor or bathroom remodeler. The client wins because they get a recommendation from a business they already trust, and the contractor has an opportunity for a new client relationship.


Influencers can be helpful for word-of-mouth marketing. These brand advocates extend a business’s reach to a broad, targeted audience according to their industry or niche. In addition, you can build relationships with influencers on social media to pitch a partnership in the future.

It’s important to understand that influencers are paid advocates, however. Therefore, you need to consider your marketing budget before hiring an influencer and whether the return on investment is worth it for your business.

How to Craft Your Referral Program

When you’ve rounded up your referral sources, you can create a strong referral program with incentives. This should include:

  • A valuable product or service
  • Exceptional customer service
  • An incentive for referrers and the referred, such as exclusive access to a product, gifts, or other incentives

Build Your Referral Network

Referral programs are a powerful tool to attract new clients and build a steady flow of new clients, all using word-of-mouth marketing authenticity. After you choose your possible referral partners, you can build a strong referral program that works well for everyone. 

Maxwell Hills
Maxwell Hills

Author Bio: Maxwell Hills is the founder of Hills Law Group, a premier Orange County divorce lawyer law firm concentrating on high net worth divorces. Max’s entrepreneurial career stretches back to his teenage days when he had his music used in Grey’s Anatomy and ESPN. Today, Max has used that experience to build Hills Law Group with 0 customers and $0 in revenue into a respected firm in the industry.

How to Develop A Bullet Proof Referral Strategy

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