My business is built on referrals. That's pretty much the only way clients find me. I have a website, and this blog, but both serve more to build credibility than they do to attract new clients. Word of mouth is it for me. And I am convinced that the way to build that word of mouth is by helping others - my referral sources - build their businesses.
That's why I don't need a referral fee. In fact, a fee would be deter me from giving referrals to you. Here's why.
Referrals are all about trust. I refer people to you only after I have come to trust you and the job you do. I refer to you only people whom I trust will treat you with respect. When I give a referral, I am connecting two people I value. Money would get in the way of that.
I want to be able to refer potential clients to you free of the taint of a commission or fee. I want to be able to say - with complete honesty - that I am referring them to you solely because I think you can help them. I don't want anyone to think I refer people to you because you pay me to do so.
In fact, a referral fee makes me feel cheap, and it cheapens our relationship. I refer to you because we have carefully built a trusting and mutually supportive relationship, from which we both are deriving benefit. I don't want our relationship to become transactional. And I don't want to feel as if you are my boss, paying me to deliver the goods.
I refer to you, first and foremost, because I am impressed by you, I like you, and I want to see your business soar. I know that eventually you will find some way to help my business soar, too, but I'm not concerned about when or how that will happen. I refer to you because it makes me feel good - about you and about me. That's all I need.
Oh, and a thank you if it works out. That's all.
And my guess is that most of you are like me. How many of you, for example, have told friends about a great new restaurant? I'll bet most of you have. And how many of you received something from the restaurant in return? None of you, I'll bet. You referred people to the restaurant because it felt good to be able to tell them about a great experience and to imagine how they would think of you once they took you up on it.
Okay, so what if you still want to do something for me in return for a referral? Here are a few things you can do that would feel good to me (and to your other referral sources):
- Look for people to whom you can introduce me - people who might help drive my business forward.
- Give me referrals.
- Volunteer to support a charity that is important to me.
- Put a plug for me under your email signature (I.e., "I recommend Pat's dry cleaning.").
- Endorse me on Linked In.
- Write about me on your blog.
- On your website, add a link to my website.
- Send me a testimonial, with permission to use it in my marketing.
- Find places for me to speak.
- Tell your friends about me and about my services.
- Nominate me for an award.
Any of these would be far more valuable than a referral fee.
How do you reward your referral sources? Are you stuck giving referral fees, or have you found more valuable ways of returning the favor?