How to Build a Referral Business

How to Build a Referral Business

You probably get a lot of your business from referrals. But, is it part of your marketing plan? Are you intentionally scaling this marketing channel? Here are a few ideas to do just that.

In reality, most businesses are sustained by referrals. Word of mouth is still one of the best ways to attract new customers. This tricky part is scaling this marketing channel.

It probably sounds funny hearing me call it a marketing channel.

Most businesses don’t do anything intentionally to support or scale their referral channel. And that’s a missed opportunity I want to discuss today.

7 Simple Steps to Increase Referrals to Your Business

  1. Landing Page – Have a place to greet and capture new referrals. This could be as complicated as a website or as simple as a single page or blog post. But, you need to have a place for those referrals to find you online. Then when they do – greet them as you expected them and then capture them by encouraging them to contact you.
  2. Publish Content – Create and publish content that is valuable before the sale. Content – blog posts, video, or images – is a great way to showcase your ideas, talent, and potential value to potential new customers.
  3. Social Media – Make it easy to be referred to in digital channels. Stop thinking that referrals come from friends and colleagues passing around your business card and phone number. The reality is that they are sharing your name or a company name in passing. In fact, that actual referral is triggered when they see your name or company online or go online to search for you. Or, when someone shares your social media post.
  4. Rank for Your Name and Business – Much like social media, search engines are a big part of any referral engine. You need to make sure that your name and business come up on the first page with a simple Google search.
  5. Email – Most referrals happen long before a customer is ready to move forward. And most referrers don’t immediate get the opportunity to tell someone about you or your business. So, you have to stay top of mind and ask for referrals frequently and consistently. Email is the best way to do that.
  6. Develop and Give to Your Professional Network – Customers are excellent sources of referrals, but other business professionals are often even better. Chances are they understand your business and ideal customer better than your customers. Of course, this is going to create a better lead. That’s why it’s crucial to grow and nurture your professional network into a referral engine.
  7. Give Referrals – Like most things in life – the more you give, the more you get. Make sure you’re actively looking for and giving out referrals. This is another great way to build up your professional referral network.
  8. Bonus: Automate (in a good way) anything you can.

Word of mouth referrals are essential drivers of business growth and sustainability. Just realize that how people give and get referrals has changed. The next step is developing a digital marketing strategy that optimizes capturing all of those referrals.

What are some of your referral marketing strategies?

Related Reading

How To Build A Referral Engine with These 6 Quick Tips

7 Sure-Fire Ways to Build Your Referral Business

Create a Referral Engine That Works Every Day in Your Business


This is bill rice back with another week of sales training. And this week I’m going to talk about how to build your referral channel. And so often I’d hear people tell me, hey, I don’t need to buy leads because I get all of my business from referrals. And what I think often gets missed in that conversation is really intentionally thinking about that as one of the channels that you get new business from and really turn it into a system that makes it super efficient and actually gets you more of the referrals that are happening out there. We’re gonna talk about that in a minute. Stick with me.


okay. Again, as I said in the intro, so often I hear people telling me about how they get referrals and how important that is to them, and maybe that’s all they need for their business. But what I would submit is that so often as I dig deeper into that, I find out that they have this middle mental disconnect, uh, between, uh, referrals being this kind of offline thing that’s just going to happen organically. And I don’t have to do anything to nurture it and all of my other marketing strategies and I would absolutely submit to you that in a digital world that is not the case. Uh, in a digital world, those referrals are very much a digital process. So in order to sort of level set our minds as to what we’re talking about and what our referral actually looks like in a modern age, uh, let me take you through a scenario.

Again, most of us think about a referral just naturally as a a point in time where you’re either talking to a colleague, a professional colleague, or a friend or a family, you take out a business card and you hand it to them and say, Hey, I would love if you run into people that need a service or product like the one that I sell now that you would refer them to me and you hand over that business card. And then that friend, family or colleague puts that business card into their pocket. And then the next thing that happens is as they go about their day to day activities, somebody comes up and says, Hey, I’m really looking for somebody who’s good at doing this or has a product like this. Who would you recommend? And then we think that somehow that person just still has happens to have your business card on them.

They pull out your business card, hand it to them. That person then takes the business card away and immediately calls you on the phone and says, Hey, I’d like to buy or get you to do this for me. Absolutely. We know as I kind of went through that scenario and you listened to it, you’d know that that is definitely not the way the world works. And instead, most times it is just a brief conversation. There’s a mention of a name, maybe if you’re lucky, I mentioned have a name and a company, uh, and then from there they just kind of endorse you. Hey, this is the person you need talk to. You should definitely reach out to them, but there’s no actual delivery of a phone number and email, a business card, any sort of contact information, uh, in most of those cases. So what actually happens is that referral simply turns into a digital lead if everything goes right.

And that’s the system I want to talk about today. So the next obvious thing that they’re going to do is they’re going to just go to Google search. They’re going to type in your name or your company, and then if everything is kind of wired and put together, right, and you have this system in place, they’re going to find you, and then you’re going to pull them in just like you would any other sort of digital leap. So let’s talk about those seven steps to creating that framework that’s gonna make your referral channel more powerful. So step number one, um, like any other digital channel, you need to make sure that you have a good home base. You need to make sure that you have a good homepage, uh, a good website. Um, and or at least a landing page that will serve the needs of a referral.

So again, when we’re optimizing for this, and in particular when we’re thinking about referrals, we want to make sure that when they do that search and they find your company or they find your individual executive or we’re talking about like a law firm or something like that, uh, maybe your attorneys on those individual bio pages, we want to make sure that both of them, um, anticipate potentially having a referral land on them. And what does a referral want to know? They’ve already kind of been sold. They might want a little bit of information about your business and feel good about the fact that you can do what they’re looking for you to do. Um, but most importantly, they’re looking for contact information. So too often on our homepage and uh, particularly on our bio pages, our, uh, executive, ah, pages, our attorney pages, we’d put that contact information all the way at the bottom because we think it’s so important to kind of build up the credibility, which is important.

But you may want to think about redesigning so that you get that content, uh, that contact information up into the top so that you can satisfy the referral. So step number one, make sure that that website and landing page is prepared to actually take in, uh, that referral. So again, clear, uh, who it is, um, that they can help you. And then of course, uh, contact information, uh, the phone number and the email is readily accessible. Step number one, step number two, begin to publish content or make sure that you’re publishing content. Again, once they land there, they actually may need a little more information to figure out if you’re the right person. And so what people like to do, uh, if they aren’t completely sold and ready to give you a phone call, uh, immediately, or maybe that friend that referred them wasn’t able to articulate exactly what you do, they’re going to need to be able to read some content.

So make sure that your website has content that actually enables that referral to understand more what you do, how you do it, uh, the things that differentiates you and potentially even case studies and examples that might trigger them to say, oh yeah, that’s exactly what I need. So content is super important. It also supports our number three, which is social media. Again, a referral like any other lead doesn’t necessarily mean they’re immediately ready to talk to you or actually buy from you. So there is a process by which, um, they may want to just spend some time learning more or just kind of keep track of you, uh, and not necessarily reach out to you. Uh, immediately. Social media is a great way, uh, to do that. They can, um, without contacting you, without talking to you, without getting into a high pressure sales pitch.

They can just simply start to follow you. Um, and so make sure that you are leveraging social media so that they can follow you. They can put you into the feed of the things that they pay attention to. So your Facebook, your linkedin, your Instagram just kind of depends on what business you’re in, but you want to make available some social media channels that they could just start to follow you, um, and kind of keep track of you even before they’re ready to actually buy or contact you. And then of course, step number two, that content is going to funnel in and keep that social media active and top of mind for them. So now at this point you’ve had kind of a, a good landing page. You’ve greeted them, uh, you’ve got some content to, to show them that there’s all kinds of experience here to do what they need you to do or to provide the product that they’re looking for.

And then social media is starting to sort of surround them, uh, so that they’re becoming more familiar and it’ll feel less like a kind of a new contact. And they’ll start to feel, um, some affinity for you, um, and familiarity with you with that social media. And then the number four, and maybe this is a little bit out of order, but number four is make sure that you rank for your name, for the individual person’s names. And of course your company. Too often when we get branded searches or we get an attorney’s name in there, or we get our own executives names coming into our search results and coming into our traffic, we just assume, ah, that’s good. We should rank for that and we don’t actually put any concerted effort into it. Um, whereas I would suggest that you take, uh, some very specific SEO and PPC strategies and put that in, uh, to address your potential referral channels.

So when you start to see that or you make sure that you are ranking for those things, you can easily funnel that into a specific landing page. So if it’s an attorney, a name that starting to rank, make sure that you really optimize that attorneys landing page to pull in that referral. Cause that’s what’s happening. Someone’s referring them or they’re being seen somewhere. And so that essentially is a referral. So make sure that their landing page, um, that that traffic’s landing on is optimized. Um, and then of course, making sure that your brand, when it lands on your homepage, that that’s optimized to take into the branding search. And then of course put concerted effort into your SEO and your PPC strategies to make sure that it’s really easy to find your key executives, your attorneys, uh, and then of course your brand. And if any of that is weak, you can always step in with PPC.

I definitely recommend this for attorneys, um, who oftentimes that referral is an attorney name, not even the law firm. Um, and sometimes if you’ve got a relatively common name, um, being able to rank for your name, uh, can be challenging in SEO. So go ahead and buy it in PPC, there’ll be relatively cheap and you’ll make sure that you get seen for that. Um, so definitely don’t neglect that strategy. If you have a attorneys, you have key executives that are potentially getting referrals, make sure that it’s easy. Even if you have to actually buy that result, uh, to be found in that search cause that’s where it starts. And then of course, number five, email. So if you’re actually given the referral and you get an email address, make sure that they become a part of your regular nurturing process via email. If not, uh, make sure that your landing pages where these referrals come in, there’s an easy way, uh, for them to be captured into your email system.

So offer them some downloadables, offer them a reason to subscribe to your newsletter, but you want to, if at all possible to get them into your email system so that again, you can reach out to them, you can add value, you can create momentum and urgency behind a why of why they actually asked for the referral, the first place. So behind that service between, behind that product that they think they need, you want to build that urgency through email. So don’t neglect the email part of that strategy. Um, emails, not just for new people that don’t know you. Uh, it’s also for your referral channel and you can of course segment them and kind of talk to them differently, but you definitely want them on your email list. Um, developing and giving to your professional network. Uh, again, this is one of those things where oftentimes we talk about our business with friends and family.

Um, and they are great at giving referrals, but truth be told a lot of times our family, uh, my wife is one of these don’t actually perfectly know, uh, what you do. And so when they’re referring people, they can actually potentially refer you someone that’s not perfect. Perfect case in point, just to give you an example in my context, when I’m talking to friends and family, oftentimes they just think of us as building websites, which of course we do, but we actually do a ton of strategy and the websites that we build are generally for larger enterprises and bigger companies. And so guess what, my friends and family, uh, give me a lot of referrals for, uh, somebody that has a great idea and I just want to get up a web page, a small businesses. Again, all of the things that we love. I mean, we were entrepreneurs, we were a small business.

Um, and all of that. Um, it’s important, but in the context of our business, that’s not a great lead cause oftentimes we actually can’t serve them very well. Um, so just an example of how friends and family can often give you referrals that may not actually fit what you do, but your professional network is a whole different context. The professional network or your client network are people who have either experienced your business or have worked side by side with you. And so they have a deep knowledge and understanding of what you do and exactly the type of client that you would want to work with. So that professional network can be super powerful. They also have a, a deep understanding of the value of a lead, uh, and a referral, uh, because they want to get the same thing. So there is great synergy, uh, with professionals and building a network.

So you want to actively create marketing strategies, uh, that build out that professional network. So that can be in Linkedin, that can be through conferences, that can be just literally reaching out through social media and making stronger connections, uh, with professionals. And then of course with professionals, it’s a give and get sort of thing. So you want to be giving into the network. Uh, a lot of that can start with content and just being kind of smart and valuable inside that network and helping them with their business. That of course, gets you top of mind and referrals. And then of course, giving back referrals, which is number seven. Uh, as with many things in life, uh, you give to get, and it should start with giving. So as you’re building this professional network, it gives you the opportunity to see potential referrals that you can hand off to other people.

So that’s another reason that building a professional network is so important, but you need to make sure that you’re actively looking for people that you can refer into that network. And by giving referrals, you’re obviously going to get referrals. Now, one last bonus tip. Uh, as you know, if you watch me through any of my videos in the past, I love systems. I think systems are so important. And so there is no exception in your referral process, program and plan. You want to build a system around it. So wherever you can in here, whether it’s through email, whether it’s through social media or content, figure out ways that you can automate this system to give you scale, uh, and to give you reach, uh, then you potentially can’t do one off manually. So bonus, tip number eight, look for ways to automate, uh, each of these seven steps in your framework.

I hope that this was helpful to you, uh, in building your referral network and in particular thinking very intentionally about referrals. Don’t just let them organically happen. Try to create a methodology a much like I’m outlined here that will increase the number of referrals that happen and when they happen, uh, that you have an easy straight line path into you so that you don’t lose a single referral because they’re frustrated because they can’t find you. They can’t work with your landing page. Uh, they can’t easily kind of follow you. Um, so you wanna create all that frustration intentionally think about a marketing plan for getting more referrals like the one I outlined here. If this was helpful, please like the video that helps us immensely, uh, allows us to do more content, uh, allows that content to get out into the world, uh, and grow our audience so that we can be more helpful.

Uh, and then again, if you don’t want to miss a single episode, make sure that you subscribe and hit that little bell. Uh, and that way you will be alerted every time that we deliver a new video or go live, which happens, uh, every single week. So encourage you to get out there, make a referral plan. Tell me how that’s working. Go ahead and leave a comment, uh, as to either things that you’re doing to gain more referrals or potentially the, the, the top of mind thing that you want to execute based on what I said here today. So again, tell next time, encourage you to really dig into your referral process and make it better.

About Bill Rice

Bill Rice is the Founder & CEO of Kaleidico, a lead generation agency. Bill specializes in mortgage marketing, legal marketing, lead management, and sales automation.