Why You Need A Referral Program In Your Business Right Now

The end of summer is in sight. If you’re like me, you’re squeezing in those last few glorious beach days and soaking up the bonus daylight hours while they last. 

Naturally, sales can be slower in the summer months and workflows take on a slightly different pace. Take advantage of this time!

Late summer is actually the ideal time to develop a referral program in your business. 

Since things are a bit quieter, you can take the time to design a program that will genuinely incentivize your clients. If you put a strong referral program in place now, it will set the tone for your fall sales in a few weeks! You’ll be able to line up sales weeks in advance and feel confident as you transition back into a steady work rhythm. 

What is a referral program?

A referral program is an excellent sales and marketing tool to have in place. All kinds of businesses use incentivized offers to motivate their current and past clients to become “brand advocates.”

It’s not a bribe, it’s a reward program.

A referral program will help drive more high-quality leads your way. It will also help you maintain a strong relationship with your clients.  It will serve you immediately and for many years to come!

The Benefits of a Client Referral Program

Over the years, I have helped several of my COO clients create referral programs for their businesses. It is a powerful tool to take the pressure off your sales and marketing so you don’t have to… 

  • Subscribe to the “hustle and grind” culture
  • Take anymore of those shiver-inducing cold sales calls
  • Wonder where your next client or paycheck is coming from 

Referral programs can help you build your business with ease while warm clients roll in. 

Sound too good to be true? With the right foundation, referral programs can be a pivotal part of any business model.

The Foundation: Client Experience

I talk a lot about client experience in my work as a COO and business coach. I believe that when you focus on building an intentional client experience during and after your work with a client your business will be transformed. You will be able to build a sustainable, thriving business with regular leads. 

My equation to a successful business is the “3 R’s”: Retention + Referrals = Revenue.

But before you can expect the referrals to flow in, you need to retain and WOW your current clients. The result is more financial consistency and a strong following of people who know, love, and trust the work you do. 

If you do nothing else, take some intentional time to elevate your client experience. A strong client experience is all about making each moment with your client memorable. 

It’s not just about your product or service, it’s about HOW you deliver and delight in the process. Check out my previous post that walks you through how to curate a client experience at every touchpoint to create RAVING fans who will become your FREE marketing team. 

Once you have your white-glove client experience locked in, you can leverage your network of free sales people even FURTHER! You know I’m all about a good system. If people are already eager to tell their friends to run, not walk, to work with you, why not sweeten the pot a bit? 

Let’s dig into the power of referral programs and how you can leverage your positive client relationships to generate more sales, keep warm leads rolling in, and create a sustainable business foundation that will serve you well now and in the future.

The Power of Referral Programs

As you design your referral program it is important to understand how and why these kinds of incentive programs are so impactful. Here are the top 5 reasons why referral programs are a powerful lead-generating tool for your business.

#1 Human Nature

Humans are social creatures!

We regularly seek out ways to connect and be in community with others. As a result we naturally look for affirmation from our circles and we hope to cultivate trust from close friends and family. Sharing our resources, including business connections, helps us to feel valuable and “in the know” while also letting us flex our generosity muscles.

Referral programs help to leverage human psychology for good. We see this all the time on social media platforms and on review sites like Yelp! It encourages people to be of service to their community, large or small, while also being of service to YOU as the business owner! 

#2 More Strategic than Word of Mouth

Organic, word of mouth marketing is always appreciated. There is no better feeling than knowing your clients are willing to share their experiences within their circle. But, we can’t rely on these kinds of referrals alone. Word of mouth referrals tend to be random, sporadic, and impossible to predict. 

A formalized referral program, on the other hand, includes all the perks of word of mouth marketing in a more strategic and targeted structure. You can guide when and how your brand advocates talk about you, your services, and your products by intentionally linking your referral incentives to the current programs and offers you have going on in your business. 

 # 3 Leverage Your Elevated Client Experience

If you’re nailing your client experience, you already have raving fans. Implementing a referral program is a way for you to leverage that network AND reward your loyal clients at the same time. 

Working with you is like the gift that keeps on giving!

To elevate your client experience, you’ll want to make it a rhythm in your business by…

  • Making the experience personal
  • Communicating early and often
  • Overdelivering
  • Being a strategic partner

I dive into all the details that will help you craft your elevated client experience in this blog post. You’ll walk away ready to care for your clients in a way that leaves them shouting your name from the rooftops long after your work together comes to a close.

Once your client experience is in place, a referral program is a natural next step. Convincing current and past clients to join in on the referral fun will be easy.

# 4 Accelerate the Process

Word of mouth marketing has no timeline. Referral programs, on the other hand, can be carefully crafted to fit into the rhythms of your business, help you combat seasons of low sales, and allow you to promote featured products or services. You can also build in a sense of urgency with timelines or milestone goals that will encourage your brand advocates to intentionally spread the word.

#5 Higher Quality Leads

You might find your clients love working with you SO much they’re sharing your name with anyone and everyone who will listen. 

While this does feel nice, it doesn’t actually move the needle in your business. You don’t want your clients to send just ANYBODY your way. You want them to send the RIGHT people to you. 

Referral programs incentivize your brand advocates to not only send you referrals, but send you referrals that you can close. Your brand advocates will be much more invested in helping you secure the new client. They will also be driven to help their contact achieve the same transformation they did. This means they are more likely to go above and beyond by introducing you to their referral personally and answering any questions their contact might have. Basically, they do the selling for you beforehand so all you need to do is be introduced, give the details, and focus on delivering the MAGIC your business has to offer!

BONUS: Save Money

As if you didn’t already have FIVE benefits of a referral program to work with, I HAD to throw in one more just to drive the point home. Referral programs are a game changer for your business and your marketing budget!

At the end of the day, it comes down to dollars and cents. 

You could spend hundreds if not thousands on…

  • Facebook and Instagram promotions
  • Print ads
  • A professional marketing team

…OR you could leverage the power of your FREE marketing team, AKA your clients. While some of your referral incentives may cost some money or resources, they are miniscule in comparison to traditional marketing costs. Plus, you can offer incentives in ways that encourage your clients to continue working with you in the future. Spend a little, earn a LOT.

On top of that, when you do pay your brand advocates you only pay them for the referrals they send along that actually convert. So, when you pay them for a referral that converted, you more than offset the cost with the new sale! Talk about a great return on your investment (ROI)!

Referral Program Models

You might be thinking, sounds great, where do I sign up? Before you jump in, you have some decision-making to do. Referral programs can help you reach your goals and leverage your raving client fan base if done intentionally. 

First, set a goal and decide how you can best leverage a referral program. This will help you identify which of the models will fit your needs best. 

Second, consider WHO can participate in your program. Some referral programs are only open to past clients, while others are open to anyone including Instagram followers, business besties, past and current clients, influencers, and more! There is no right or wrong choice, but you will want to get clear on what works for you.

Knowing your objective and audience will help you select and roll out the perfect referral program for your business. 

Without further ado, here are some of the best referral program models that you can implement in your business. Get those raving brand advocates working for you ASAP.

The Give and Get Model

Hands down, the Give and Get Model is my favorite! I love this referral program model because it works universally. No matter what industry you’re in or what kind of business you own, the Give and Get model is effective across the board. 

It benefits everyone involved: the person giving the referral, the person who received the referral, and, of course, you! 

I call it the “Give and Get” Model because you empower your audience to gift an incentive. They serve others while serving themselves and receiving their own incentive. 

The person who was referred to you is incentivized by a reasonable discount for a service or a bonus feature. Plus, the person who gave the referral is incentivized for making the connection. Often they get a cash or gift card reward. The incentive can also be in the form of a discount applied the next time they purchase from you.

You’ve probably encountered a similar referral program at your favorite hair care site. You’re scrolling through products and a pop-up appears with a Give $10, Get $10 promotion. You were already planning to buy your friend a gift, and now you can also get something for yourself in the process! 

Restaurants do something similar. You might buy a $25 gift card as a gift and get a $25 gift card for yourself in the process! We see these kinds of promotions a lot during the holiday season, but they really can be used any time of year.

COO Tip: Leverage the incentive for your referrers even FURTHER! You can generate more income and revenue for your business by giving them a bigger bonus if they re-enroll or re-purchase from you instead of just taking the reward and walking. For example, your incentive could be that they receive $100 cash if they refer a new client your way. OR they can get $150 toward their next service or product with you in the future. Not only will you get a new client, but you’ll also ensure that your past clients are more likely to reinvest in you. Hello, client retainment strategy!

The Bonus Model

Offering free bonuses can be an excellent way to leverage your existing content and offers and increase your conversion rates. This is an especially good option if you don’t want to use cash or discount incentives. Do you already have resources created that can serve both your new referral and the client who sent them your way? This can add value and is another touchpoint to show them your expertise and commitment to service.

The Giveaway Model 

Giveaways are another great way to get new referrals. You are not giving a reward for every referral. Instead the people who refer and promote you are entered into a giveaway. The more referrals, the more entries, and the higher the likelihood they will win! 

You’ll want to choose a giveaway prize that appeals to your ideal client and relates to their business needs. It could be a complimentary coaching call with you, access to your signature self-paced course, or one of your best-selling products. 

Your giveaway prize could also be a highly-coveted item like tickets to an event, tech like airpods or an iPad, or a larger gift bundle with high-ticket items that your audience will drool over!

You can actually use this model to get your social media followers to promote you as well. They may not have invested in working with you yet, but they’ve been following along and are big fans of the amazing content you provide so they are willing to spread the word too!

The Thank You Gift Model

You can always give a gift to a previous client who referred a new customer. Consider your capacity, what you can afford, the level of the referral, and what feels appropriate. 

You could give a standard gift to all clients who provided you with referrals. Depending on your audience, you may choose to give things like artisan olive oil, handcrafted soaps, a favorite nail polish set, high-quality water bottles, notebooks and pens, luxury candles…the list goes on and on!  

You can also hand select gifts as a referral thank you. This works best when you know the person well. If this person is a client you chat with often or part of your close circle, you can tailor their gift to their current interests. For example, if you know this client is an avid yoga practitioner you might gift them a few yoga classes on the house. Have they been telling you about that fun new restaurant in town they’ve been dying to visit? Maybe you decide to send over a gift card for a nice evening out. Going the extra mile to gift something specific will communicate to this person how much you value them, not just as a client or a referral, but as a person. 

Remember, a gift can also be something as simple as a handwritten note expressing your appreciation or shouting their business out on social media! It’s always the thought that counts!

The Tiered Model

I’m sure you’re familiar with those “frequent flyer” punch cards that your local ice cream place hands out. Chances are you have one sitting in your wallet right now! Each time you visit and buy an ice cream cone, you get a punch! Once you fill up the card with punches, you might get a discount or a free cone!

You can use a similar structure for your own business referral program. You can include a tiered system to further incentivize referrals. 

Your tiered system could include a gift or financial kickback for every 3, 5, or even 10 people a client sends your way. The reward for referring 10 people should be the most desirable goal.

What I love most about this model is you can further incentivize your clients to work with you. How you do this will depend on your business and your budget. Here are two great ways to optimize this Tiered Model:

  1. You can offer a cash payout of a certain amount OR the option to apply a larger amount as a discount on their next purchase. For example, you could offer $100 paid out now OR $150 off their next purchase.  This option is similar to the Give and Get Model, but in this case they GET more if they apply it to your services rather than cashing out.

  2. You may also choose not to offer a cash-out option at all. Simply offer a credit toward their next purchase with you (i.e. $100 off your next purchase). This will encourage client retention and persuade your raving fans to continue to reinvest in your business!

The Affiliate Program Model

In the online business space, you’ve likely encountered affiliate programs. These are sometimes referred to as Ambassador Programs. Affiliate programs are unique in many ways. Businesses only extend these incentives to a hand-selected group of affiliates. This makes it an exclusive opportunity. Affiliates have the opportunity to get a commission for referrals that convert, sometimes upward of 25%.

For this reason, affiliate programs are typically (but not exclusively) used for high-ticket programs, services, and products.

You might choose an affiliate program referral model if you are looking for volume and you are trying to drive traffic to your offering. This is an excellent strategy for a big launch. Affiliates can be super proactive for you so that you can feel confident in the success of your launch and can reach a wider audience.

While affiliate programs can support your business goals, they do require a good amount of planning and maintenance. If you choose this model, I recommend investing in one of the many software platforms available to help track and manage your affiliates. 

If you’re looking for a more strategic, intentional, and exclusive referral program model, this option is for you!

Let’s Sum It Up

With your kick-ass client experience as the strong foundation of your business, you can feel confident that you have a free marketing team full of raving fans. Designing a referral program for your business will help convert those raving fans into brand advocates who are willing to spread the word actively. Building in incentives will help to motivate your current and past clients while also encouraging new, warm leads to jump on board and experience the transformation you have to offer. 

If you’d like to chat through the different referral models to decide which one is best for you, my door is always open! Shoot me an email or book a free 30-minute strategy call with me, and let’s put a plan together!

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