How to Implement a Formalized Referral Marketing Process

A formalized referral process is an essential part of every small business, and offers an enormous opportunity to differentiate and grow your business.

processThere are undisputed benefits to developing a formalized referral process— a referral process activates the referral marketing plan, creates control, guides priorities, generates accountability and provides a way to measure your results.

The general rule is: the more you implement a referral marketing process, the greater the return on your investment.

However, developing a formalized referral process with the tools, strategies and tactics you need is not easy. It requires planning, thinking time, ideas and installation, long-term vision, internal and external expertise and often a willingness to do something and get it done.

More than anything, it requires the ability to be patient. It takes a while for referral sources to trust you, and if you change your referral marketing, media, and identity, you’re hard to trust.

Referral success comes to those who begin with a plan, and have the patience to move beyond the need for instant results.

4 Elements to Implement Your Formalized Referral Process

1. Plan your referral marketing using a strategy-first approach to clearly identify your referral target market, define your positioning and create an referral identity.

Discovering your referral target market is a foundational element of getting any referral system on track. Your referral marketing requires a positioning strategy for success. You must be able to easily explain the value you
can bring to anyone who is referred. Your identity is everything a referral source sees and hears about you and, most of all, what they remember about you. The basis of an identity is who you are and what you do.

2. Build a referral marketing education system.

When I’m talking about referral education, this means when you meet with a potential referral source you systematically educate them on: Who makes a great referral, what’s in it for them to provide a referral, how to refer you, and the exact steps you plan to take with that referral

3. Execute the referral process with the right promotional offers and tactics.

Proper execution of today’s referral activates (no matter the size of your business) consists of always communicating, sharing information, and solving problems, all through an educational approach that blends the use of many offers and tactics. Example: Thanks Susan for shopping with us today. I know you’ll love our “Get Unstuck Coaching Sessions”. Who are two of your friends that you’d like to give a complimentary “Mini Session” to? Normally it’s $199 for the Program, but for a limited time we have two complimentary mini session gift certificates that you can give out to your friends today.”

4. Maintain referral motivation and efforts over the long haul by putting follow-up strategies in place.

The two main reasons referral systems fail is because they don’t have a formalized follow-up strategy in place to keep referrals that need nurturing nurtured and referral sources in the loop about the progress of a referral.


With a formalized referral process in place, everything you’ll need to attract, educate, follow up and convert a referral is right there. Small business owners and organizations can even put tools and oofers in place to automate many of their marketing functions.