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Getting Referrals When You Can't (or Don't Want to) Offer Incentives for Them

Learn what you can do to naturally encourage referrals when your industry won't let you offer incentives.

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Referrals are the best type of new customers. Every study I’ve ever read says they are worth more, easier to sell, have a higher lifetime value and make the person who referred them more loyal. Most businesses (often incorrectly) use incentives (e.g. free services, $25 gift cards, etc.) to get new referrals.

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But, what happens if your industry won’t let you use an incentive to get more referrals? How do you entice people to talk about you and share your services without risking losing your license or business or even getting jail time in some cases?

The good news is, all is not lost. The even better news is, once done correctly, you can actually end up getting referrals for less per new customer then some of the best incentive programs. The bad news is, this isn’t easy. Sorry.

Related: 4 Ways to Market Your Business for Free

The first place to start is with information. I don’t know of a single industry that can’t give out information as a lead magnet to get a referral. Here is how this works. Let’s assume you’re a physical therapist and you accept Medicare, which basically means you have limited options for gifts for new referrals. You can hold seminars (which is a great idea and totally works) or you could offer an incentive in the form of information, for example, “7 Home Remedies to Relieve Lower Back Pain.” This could be a DVD, online video series or eight-page workbook.

This "free information" tactic is also an excellent approach for lawyers, who deal with heavy-handed restrictions on their marketing campaigns. I work with several who offer information on what to do after being injured in a car accident, how to settle your own case, and behind-the-scenes of the struggles with medical malpractice cases. There are so many options! Check out my business partner, Ben Glass's, Free Reports page if you'd like more ideas on how to present and market your lead magnets.

Once you’ve created your content and a landing page or mechanism for people to request the information (free recorded message lines also still work), you now need to promote the offer.

The best way to promote this offer is in a newsletter (if I do say so myself), but emails also work, as well as postcards to clients past and present offering the info or even simple business cards that you pass out to everyone you treat that day.

Related: Use These 5 Steps to Create a Marketing Plan

The goal here is for you to make the information available and have one or two things happen. Either your current patients raise their hands for the service or they give your information to someone they know who has a lower back problem and could benefit from “7 Home Remedies for Lower Back Pain.” Once the information is passed on, you have the beginning of a referral.

Once someone claims your information, you now need a mechanism to get that person on the phone or in your office. One simple way to do this is to include a section -- directly in the report -- that encourages the prospect to come in for a complimentary consultation if they try three of the seven exercises in the content and still have pain more than twice a week.

You’ll have even greater success if you add follow-up to each opt-in. The follow-up should be useful, but push to an appointment or a phone call that pushes to an appointment. There should be no cost for this first appointment. The goal is to examine them, not necessarily to treat them. You simply want to get them in the office to lay the foundation for a solid relationship.

Once you get that working, you’ll have another problem. You won’t be able to keep using back pain as the lead magnet month in and month out. Once you get the first one working, you’ll have to move on to the next alignment and create the front end all over again. When you have five or six different front-end lead magnets, you can simply rotate which one you’re promoting each month.

At the start of the article, I told you it wouldn’t be easy. But, once you put this in place, you’ll have a great system for kicking out massive referrals -- all without breaking any rules.

Related Video: 10 Free Tactics to Market your Business

Shaun Buck

Written By

Shaun Buck is the co-author of No B.S. Guide to Maximum Referrals and Customer Retention (Entrepreneur Press, March 2016) as well as CEO of Boise, Idaho-based The Newsletter Pro, the largest custom print newsletter company in the world—printing and mailing millions of newsletters annually for diverse industries all over the globe.