How to Create a Client Referral Program

Client Referral Program

How to Create a Client Referral Program

Whether you’re a creative professional just starting out or a well-seasoned service provider, having a referral program in place is a quick, intelligent way to grow your business.

Why Should I Start a Client Referral Program?

Testimonials can only go as far as your website. Having a Facebook page with 1000 fans isn’t all you need. A referral program gives your existing clients and your colleagues a way to help you spread the word about your business without you having to lift a finger from a marketing standpoint. Plus, it adds serious credibility to your business—the power of word-of-mouth!

For startups and creative businesses, a client referral program is truly essential. You need to build business quickly, and word-of-mouth is the absolute best way to help you generate buzz as a professional while simultaneously building capital.

Do I Need to Offer an Incentive?

It’s generally believed that offering some kind of incentive is a way to make your client referral program successful and, in turn, to grow your business faster. Common incentives might be 10% off a future service or a coupon to purchase products.

To determine the best incentive for your referral program, look at the return you can expect. Offering an existing client 10% off a future service pretty much guarantees they’ll do future business with you. A coupon works the same way. Always consider that you’re factoring that incentive cost into the cost of doing business. If the incentive is too high, it will eat into your profit, so be smart when deciding how you want to reward that business!

What Is a Referral?

Having a structured referral program sets up an expectation for anyone who sends business your way. You can set rules about what constitutes a referral. For a business like ours, we only reward referral incentives to business we contract. Your referral program should reflect specifically how you will determine which people have earned referral rewards.

How Can You Promote a Client Referral Program?

Again, depending on your type of business, simple ways to implement a referral program typically include a business card–sized referral card and a landing page on your website with a form where clients can share your name with their friends. You might also have a custom tab on your Facebook page.

Then use email marketing or a personal email sent out to your clients—past and present—telling them about the new program and inviting them to participate.

You can also run special offers relating to your referral program. For instance, for a limited time, you might encourage referrals by offering a group of people an increased incentive. This is a particularly good idea when you’re anticipating having slower months and want to increase cash flow or contracts beforehand.

Do you have a client referral program? What types of incentives do you offer?

Photo credit: David DeHetre via Compfight

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Sarah Williams

Founder & director of 816 New York and passionate about all things strategy and unity.

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