The Main Reason You’re Not Getting Referrals.

We all know that referrals are the best way to grow your business.  The problem is, you may be sitting and waiting for the referrals but they aren’t coming in.  You may hear from clients and colleagues what a great business you have.  People probably tell you that they are telling others about you, but you just aren’t hearing back from them.  Your best referral sources are busy.  They honestly forget to give you that great referral.  Sometimes they tell others, but the people they refer don’t act on it. All of these problems can be solved by one thing: a formal referral program. 

referral program

A formal referral program gives others a way to share referrals with you and allows you to do the follow up.  If people are telling others about you in casual conversation, it may never turn into business.  If the referrals are handed over to you, you can contact them and your sales will increase.

Referral Program Components


The first component of a formal referral program is to identify your best referral sources.  These will likely be satisfied customers and complementary businesses.  These are businesses who serve the same population as you do, but don’t directly compete with you.  Once you have identified who your sources are, you need to educate them on what you can do for the people they refer you to.  If they don’t think you can truly help their friends or customers, they won’t spread the word.


Next you need to communicate to your referral sources how you want them to share their referrals with you.  This can be done using an online referral form, referral cards, or simply by email or a phone call.  If they know how to refer people so that you get the information, you will be much more likely to hear about the referrals and then be able to follow up with them.

If you want to be top of mind with your referral sources, you need to communicate with them on a regular basis.  You need to plan a way to keep in touch with them monthly in a friendly way so they are continually reminded of you.  This can be through a letter, a card, a small gift, or a newsletter.  To be the most effective, these things should be sent through the mail, not email.  This will make it more likely that you will get noticed.


The final, but most important step in your referral plan is a reward system.  If you truly want more referrals, you need to reward every referral you receive, whether it turns into new business or not.  The minimum should be a handwritten thank you note in the mail.  A small, consumable gift will give your referral partners an incentive to send you more referrals.  The best referral programs have a tiered reward system that they let their referral partners know about ahead of time.

The reason you’re not getting referrals is because you don’t have a referral program in place.  If you identify your referral sources, communicate with them and reward them, you will see your referrals increase.  If you still aren’t sure how to go about it, schedule a call.  We can put together a plan, and then execute that plan for you.  Then you will see consistent referrals and business growth.


  1. Thanks for your insight. I’ve often thought of referral programs as power partners but your concept is more robust. Great food for thought!

    • Thanks, Jess. There are many ways to approach referrals, but this way doesn’t depend on being able to mutually refer each other.

  2. This is a great reminder! I put a referral program together a few years ago, but at that time, I didn’t have many referral partners. Now, I have referral partners, but I’m not actively keeping them up-to-date. I’ll need to get back to this.

    I know that I want to refer my colleagues, but I don’t always know how or which clients they want me to refer to them. So, I would benefit from RECEIVING more information (in a simplified manner) as well.

    • Michelle – I’m glad you’re building a network of referral partners. Definitely keep in touch with them. You’ll see your referrals increase as you stay top of mind.

  3. I have let my touches to clients fade, and once I stopped having a receptionist, I got lazy about keeping up on referral programs and my thank yous. Thank you for the reminder.

    • Dawn – we often know the right things to do, but get busy and let things slide. The good news is, you can always start again.

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