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Marketing > Networking

17 Ways to Encourage Others to Refer Your Business

Build credibility and goodwill with members of your network by implementing any of these tactics.
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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The following excerpt is from Ivan Misner, Ph.D. and Brian Hilliard’s book Networking Like a Pro. Buy it now from Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | IndieBound

Most people would agree that one of the best ways to consistently generate referrals is to have mutual trust and some form of rewards and incentives system. There are many ways you can build credibility with a new connection or referral source, but it's best to get creative with your options in order to reach them in the most effective way. Take a look at 17 of the most impactful ways you can build goodwill with members of your network in order to earn more referrals.

17 Ways to Encourage Others to Refer Your Business

1. Send a thank-you card.

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Always a nice gesture, a handwritten thank-you card makes a great impression, especially in this age of electronic communication. Be sure to write a personalized note that mentions what you're thanking your referral source for.

17 Ways to Encourage Others to Refer Your Business

2. Nominate a referral source for recognition

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Watch for opportunities to nominate a referral source for an award. Local service and civic organizations often present annual awards recognizing contributions to a particular cause, and local periodicals often sponsor award contests for businesspeople. Find out which groups and interests your referral source is involved in, and check to see if there is any form of recognition associated with them.

17 Ways to Encourage Others to Refer Your Business

3. Send a thank-you gift.

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A gift is always welcome. Like a thank-you card, a gift, however small or inexpensive, builds visibility and credibility with your referral source. Try to find out what your referral source likes (favorite foods, hobbies, or other things), and then send a gift that is personalized to his or her tastes.

17 Ways to Encourage Others to Refer Your Business

4. Call a referral source.

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An occasional phone call is a good way to keep the relationship strong, if you take care to call only when it's least likely to be an unwelcome interruption. It's also a good idea to have a piece of news or some tidbit of information to pass along that will benefit or interest your source.

17 Ways to Encourage Others to Refer Your Business

5. Arrange a one-to-one meeting.

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Meeting a referral source in person is an excellent opportunity to learn more about his/her business and interests. Prepare some questions in advance so that the conversation flows smoothly. Be ready to give an update on your business and to ask lots of questions about your source's interests.

17 Ways to Encourage Others to Refer Your Business

6. Attend a networking event.

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It's not called Net-sit or Net-eat; it's called NetWORK. You can't "Network Like a Pro" if you don't attend networking functions. Don't be a cavedweller. Find the right network streams for you and get out there!

17 Ways to Encourage Others to Refer Your Business

7. Bring someone with you to an event.

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Invite a referral source to a networking event. Introducing him/her to other businesspeople you know gives your source an opportunity to meet others in your target market and may also provide new business opportunities. You become a connector to others. This is an important skill to develop.

17 Ways to Encourage Others to Refer Your Business

8. Set up an activity with multiple referral sources.

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A recreational activity, such as a golf outing, fishing trip, concert or play, is a great opportunity to let your referral source see a different side of you in an informal setting. The activity should be one that will give everybody time to relax, but it may also include an element of information, such as a speech or educational presentation. There really aren’t any hard and fast rules of engagement during an informal, recreational event other than to have a good time, mix and mingle with everyone, and try not to talk shop too much. If you stick with that, everyone will likely have a good time.

17 Ways to Encourage Others to Refer Your Business

9. Give a referral.

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Giving your referral source a referral is a wonderful way to build your relationship. By helping build your source’s business, you create a debt of gratitude that will encourage your source to respond in kind.

17 Ways to Encourage Others to Refer Your Business

10. Arrange a group activity for clients.

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Gathering your clients together creates an excellent environment for synergy and for raising your credibility with all. The one thing the people in this group will definitely have in common is you, so you’ll certainly be the focus of a good many conversations. Group activities may be social, such as a barbecue or a ball game, or they may be educational, such as a seminar or a demonstration.

17 Ways to Encourage Others to Refer Your Business

11. Share or send an article of interest.

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One of the great things about the information economy and today’s internet world is that you always have access to good information. So why not share different articles, blogs, or websites of interest to others in your network? It doesn’t cost you anything and if you’re on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter, it’s super easy to hit that “share” button and let people know.

Or, you can do it individually with a personalized email. You can also go “old school” and set up a file for holding newspaper and magazine clippings that may be of interest to people you would like to be your referral sources. Regardless, sending an article, especially one that is pertinent to your source’s current business or personal circumstances, says you are thinking about your source’s needs.

17 Ways to Encourage Others to Refer Your Business

12. Display another's brochure in your office.

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Doing a bit of sales work on behalf of a referral source can only enhance your relationship. If you have a public area for your business, offer to place your source’s materials where your clients can read them.

17 Ways to Encourage Others to Refer Your Business

13. Include others in your newsletter.

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Even a brief mention of a referral source in your newsletter can pay dividends down the road, including the opportunity for your source to reciprocate with his newsletter.

17 Ways to Encourage Others to Refer Your Business

14. Arrange a speaking engagement.

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Help your referral source get in front of a group that would be interested in her business or area of expertise. Local chapters of service organizations, such as Rotary and Kiwanis, are always looking for good speakers. If you belong to a group that invites people to speak, use your contacts to help your source make the rounds among various chapters. You can also apply this to yourself. When you have a chance to speak to a new group, it is a great opportunity to network.

17 Ways to Encourage Others to Refer Your Business

15. Post to social media.

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Social media can be a good way to build your personal brand and stay connected with your referral sources and associates. Just remember not to get caught up in the black hole of funny cat videos. You’re there to help build your network.

17 Ways to Encourage Others to Refer Your Business

16. Share something from someone else on social media.

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Engagement is key for your networking on social media. When you share people’s appropriate content, you not only support them but you show others that you are active and engaged in the relationship process. Just remember the “black hole” rule. Don’t get sucked into something that changes the space-time continuum for you where you lose all track of time and reduce your focus.

17 Ways to Encourage Others to Refer Your Business

17. Invite a source to join your advisory board.

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Set up an informal board of advisors with whom you can meet regularly. Ask a referral source, who you feel could contribute valuable insights, to sit on your board. You can communicate with your board members via phone, email, newsletter, or occasional group meetings. Having an advisory board is important because people generally work best when they are accountable to someone other than themselves for accomplishing certain tasks. It’s too easy to procrastinate when we have no one to answer to but ourselves.

Whether you’re starting a diet, beginning an exercise routine, or growing and developing your referral network, involving another person or group of people in the process will greatly enhance your chances for success.