Referral Marketing 101: Create a Referral Marketing Plan in 5 Steps

There are literally volumes written about generating referrals. It boils down to developing a formalized process. It’s important for small businesses to systematically and automatically integrate referral marketing into the everyday interactions with prospects, customers, partners, vendors, suppliers, your whole network.

dos-donts-referral-marketing-FIStudy after study has proven that referral marketing is one of the best forms of marketing when it comes to sales and conversions. Yet, I can’t tell you how many small business owners admit that they don’t get enough referrals. By creating a referral plan you lay the foundation that makes your referral marketing intentional.

You need a referral marketing plan to help you to clarify your thinking and coordinate your actions in one of the most important processes of your business.

A plan helps you to gain clarity on what you want to achieve and what needs to be done to reach your objective.

Step #1 – Create a referral target market

Don’t waste time marketing to businesses and people who will never refer. Save time and energy by creating a target list of your most successful clients and related businesses (strategic partners that serve the same target market) who can be motivated to refer.

Step #2 – Identify your ideal referral client

The secret to receiving high quality referrals isn’t more referral marketing—it’s referral targeting. Don’t squander your resources and hundreds of hours generating unqualified referral leads that go nowhere. Quickly communicate the exact type of person or business that makes a great referral from the outset, and everyone wins.

Step #3 – Create and communicate your positioning

Figure out the value you can bring to anyone who is referred. Maybe it’s how you serve a niche market or how your sales process works. If you don’t know, interview four or five of your clients and ask them why they buy from you. Craft a positioning message that is a short, 1-2 sentence statement that defines who you work with (target market) and the general area in which you help them. This will also quickly differentiate your business.

  • “We show sales reps how to close deals.”
  • “We help young males retire rich.”
  • “I help technology companies use their customer information to drive repeat sales.”
  • “We show estate attorneys how to become famous.”
  • “I help small-to-medium sized manufacturing companies who have difficulties with unpredictable revenue streams.”

Step #4 – Create referral education-based content.

When you meet with a potential referral source you can double the number and quality of referrals if you create content to educate on:

  • Who makes a great referral?
  • What’s in it for them to provide a referral?
  • How to refer you?
  • The exact steps you plan to take with that referral

Step #5 – Identify a referral offer and follow-up strategy

This is the heart and soul of a formalized referral process. This is where you create the offer that makes people want to refer you and to bring your referral process full circle you need to devise two follow-up steps.

  1.  a process to nurture your referral leads that don’t immediately turn into clients and
  2. a process to communicate the progress of a referral back to your referral sources to keep them motivated.

All this talk of a formalized approach to referrals is great, but never forget the golden rules of referral or no process will work – Don’t be boring, don’t be rude, and  if you’re not prepared to give, you’ll never have the opportunity to ask .