Ask most people with a successful professional services business what finally gave their business some momentum, and they’ll probably tell you that it was getting a steady stream of referrals coming in. Yeah, everybody knows how important getting referrals is. What’s remarkable is just how few professionals give it the attention that it really deserves. Here’s a few of the more creative ways I’ve seen people start generating a serious volume of referrals.

Offer a Compelling Incentive

While people are usually motivated to give referrals for their own reasons, offering a little incentive to your professional network can be a great reminder for your circle to look for opportunities for spreading the word. Some people have found that offering a discount for clients who generate referrals or even a cash handout to be effective. Others have come up with more compelling incentives like annual thank you dinners or unusual giveaways.

Partner with Relevant Businesses

One of the problems with generating referrals when you’re first starting out is that you might not have too wide of a net to cast out as far a professional network goes. Teaming up with someone who offers a service that coincides with your own is a great way of building up your base. For example, a yoga instructor might partner with a physical therapist or trainer to offer discounted packages or joint sessions to their existing clients.

Be Referable

Okay, this last one might not be so creative, but it’s important enough to merit driving home. If you expect people to refer their friends and colleagues to your business, you need to have the kind of business people want to share in more ways than one. This means more than being great at what you do and offering excellent service. It comes down to a lot of small things that add up to something more than the sum of its parts, including everything from how quickly you return calls or handle yourself in a meeting to whether you’re likable and remarkable enough for people to want to show you off.

Wherever you are in building your referral engine, as John Jantsch likes to call it, one the biggest factors that come into play with generating referrals is persistence. False starts aside, you’ll find people love giving referrals to the best services they’ve found once you’ve learned how to keep the process in motion.
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