Referrals Archives - Dr. Ivan Misner®
incentive program

Final Thoughts About Your Referral Incentive Program

To meet the challenge of finding the right incentive program, tap into the assistance and insights of other people.  An effective way to do this is to invite about ten people you know to meet with you.  Include a representative sample of your customers/clients/patients, business associates, partners, and friends.  Their purpose is to think up incentives you could offer to produce a larger word-of-mouth-based business. Host a lunch or dinner for the group and either take copious notes or tape-record the meeting.  Invite those who are willing to donate about two hours for your benefit (and receive a free meal, of course).

Prepare yourself, well in advance of the group meeting.  Think the subject over beforehand so you have an idea of the limits that you may need to set for an incentive program, such as cost, duration, appropriateness, etc.  Have water, note pads, a preliminary questionnaire, sample materials, a flip chart, and even a few ideas to get the ball rolling.  If you’re going to discuss a product, bring actual samples to give the group a point of reference.

Begin the actual session by clearly stating a specific problem.  Make sure your group understands that the incentive has to be geared to the group you’ve targeted.  Explain that you are looking for a variety of ideas and that you won’t make any immediate decisions.

An accountant in St. Louis thanks those who successfully refer a client to him by paying for a dinner or two at least one hour’s drive from their homes.  This approach firmly plants the accountant in the minds of his referral sources:  they won’t be able to use it right away because the distance requires that they plan for it.  As the date approaches, because it has been planned, they’ll be talking about it, and probably about the accountant.  Later, when the referring party runs into someone else who might need an accountant, who will he recommend?

I’ve heard many novel ways businesspeople reward those who send them referrals.  A female consultant sends bouquets of flowers to men.  A music store owner sends concert tickets.  A financial planner sends change purses and money clips. Please share below in the comments about how you reward others who send you referrals.

incentive program

Incentive Program for Referrals

When you offer any type of discount or novelty item as an incentive program for referrals, keep in mind what your cost would be to generate a new client from scratch. These costs include the cost of printed literature, advertisements, sales calls, telephone time, meetings, appointments, and so forth.  You can readily see that the cost of gaining a new client through a referral incentive program is almost always lower.

Incentive programs also help you sell more products or services more frequently to your existing customer base; again, these are sales that are generated at a far lower marketing cost and effort. No matter what form of incentive program you use, the fact that you offer incentives means that your potential for generating word-of-mouth business will increase.  The question is, what type of incentive will work for you?

Some health care professionals offer a free visit when a referral becomes a new patient.  Other business professionals send small gift baskets, bottles of wine, flowers, or certificates for their services or the services of other businesses in the community.  Depending on the type of product or service you offer and the relationship with your referring parties, you may also employ the following:

Incentive Program Examples

  • Free estimates, samples, or analyses
  • Additional products or services for no extra cost
  • Product or service discounts
  • Product or service time extensions
  • Extended telephone consultation privileges
  • Extended or life memberships
  • Exclusive or charter memberships
  • Group discounts
  • Extended warranties
  • Reduced costs on peripheral items or services.

Creativity is the key to any good incentive program.  People just naturally like to help each other, but especially when they know their efforts are successful.  Let your contact know when a referral he or she has made comes through, and be as creative as you can.

creative incentives

Do Creative Incentives Work?

You can greatly enhance your word-of-mouth based business by designing creative incentives for people to give you referrals.  Yet of all the key techniques for making the system work, wanting to give referral rewards bonuses to individuals who pass out your business cards and obtain new clients for your business seems to frustrate others the most.

Historically, finder’s fees or referral rewards have been used as an incentive for giving someone referrals.  Although finder’s fees can be appropriate, I don’t believe they are necessarily the best technique to employ in most situations.  Here is an excellent example of a non-monetary incentive system:

Sign of the Times

Years ago I went to my chiropractor for a routine adjustment.  Several weeks before, I had referred a friend to him who had recently been in an accident.  As I walked into the waiting room, I noticed a bulletin board that was displayed prominently on the wall.  The bulletin board read, “We would like to thank the following patients for referring someone to us last month.”

Actually, there was nothing unusual about this sign.  It had been there on each of my previous visits, except this time my name was posted on it.  I took notice and was pleased, but didn’t give it a second thought, until a month later, when I returned and saw that my name was no longer on it.  Instantly I thought, Who else can I refer to the doctor so that my name will be put back up on the board?  For the record, I did come up with another referral for the good doctor.

Something like this may not work for everyone.  But if it worked on me, I’m sure it will have a positive effect on others.  The key is to select several incentive options so as to impact as many people as possible.

Finder’s Fees

Do Finder’s Fees Work?

Historically, finder’s fees or referral rewards have been used as an incentive for giving someone referrals.  Although finder’s fees can be appropriate, I don’t believe they are necessarily the best technique to employ in most situations.  Here is an excellent example of a non-monetary incentive system:

One Realtor I met in Northern California told me that for almost six years he had offered a one-hundred-dollar finder’s fee to anyone giving him a referral that led to a listing or sale.  However, he said that in all that time he had given only about a dozen finder’s fees, so he decided to try another kind of incentive.

Living on a large parcel of land in prime wine country, he had begun growing grapes on his own vineyard.  Therefore, a thought occurred to him:  Why not take the next step?  He began processing the grapes and bottling his own special vintage wine.  After his first harvest, he had a graphic artist design a beautiful label, which he affixed to each bottle.  Instructing all his friends that he did not sell this wine, he gave it as a gift to anyone providing him with a bona fide referral.

The Realtor gave away dozens of cases in the first three years – half the time it took him to give only one dozen cash finder’s fees.  Yet each bottle of wine cost him less than ten dollars to produce.  Therefore, this special vintage wine makes him infinitely more money than giving away a handful of hundred-dollar finder’s fees. I got a call from the Realtor and he shared me this story…

Success Uncorked

“Last Friday I got a phone call from a woman I didn’t know.  Out of the blue she gave me two referrals.  As I wrote down the information, I asked her how she had heard of me.

“She said, ‘I had dinner last night at a friend’s house.  He served wine.  I took a sip.  “Wow, great wine!” I told him.  “Where did you buy it?”  “You can’t buy it,” he said.  “The only way you can get it is to give this real estate agent a referral.”

“’I have two referrals,’ she said.  ‘Can I get two bottles?’

“So I gladly sent her two bottles.  Furthermore, both referrals turned into more business, and each of them cost me only ten dollars.”

It sometimes amazes me, even now, how something as simple as a bottle of wine can be such a powerful incentive for people to give you referrals.  But the explanation is really quite simple:  because it’s special.  A bottle of wine that can’t be bought can be worth ten times what it cost to produce when traded for something as valuable as a business referral.

Summer Networking

Summer Networking Tips

The temperature is rising and so are your summer networking opportunities!

Every once in a while I hear a BNI member say that their chapter slows down during the summer months. I also know of many chapters that flourish in the summer with new members and referral growth! So why are some up and some down? It is a matter of gearing towards the season by refocusing on referrals during your networking activities? Build your business while traveling on vacation too.

What summertime networking activities are you attending? These may not seem like networking activities, however, you should still always be prepared.

  • BBQ
  • Block Parties
  • Pool parties
  • Picnics
  • Ball games or sporting events
  • Music Festivals
  • Reunions
  • Parades
  • Or just some summertime fun:
    Golf, Boating, Traveling, Fishing, Hiking, Tennis, Sailing, Camping or Gardening?

Barbecue / Block Party Networking!

Whether headed to a holiday block party blowout or a more intimate birthday celebration for a colleague, barbecues are a great chance to meet friends of friends and expand your professional network.

Make the most of your family barbecue. Bring a few sample products to the barbecue to give out to family and friends. Who better to help spread the word for you? If you are so inclined, ask attendees to bring a new friend with them to the event. More than likely, some family members will show up with uninvited guests anyway. The more the merrier, right? Use these opportunities to get to know people and share what you are looking for. You never know who they know! But don’t break out in a sales pitch at a barbecue. Ever. People are there to have fun, relax and enjoy.

Pool Party  / Picnic Networking:

Remember that a good networker has two ears and one mouth and uses them proportionately! Listen to what everyone is saying at your summertime activities. What topics are they mentioning?

Are they complaining about their business? 
Invite them to visit your BNI chapter.

Are they excited about a wedding?
Share about those members in your chapter that are good referrals for them.

Do they talk about their home being too hot in the summer and it costs too much to cool?
Talk about your HVAC or solar member.

Do they want to remodel their home or need to move homes?
It’s Referral time!

Ball Game / Sporting Event Networking:

A great networking strategy is to get tickets to a local ball game or sporting event and invite BNI members and potential referral partners you know to introduce to each other. Whether your team wins or loses, great connections can be made!

Music Festival Networking:

The hills are alive with the sound of networking. Music brings people from all different types of professional backgrounds together networking through all of the music and dancing at a music festival will be a challenge, but it can prove to be invaluable. While each attendee might have a different background, many will have the same overall goal– utilizing networking to make meaningful connections and build their businesses. Every personal encounter is a potential opportunity for networking, so don’t overlook anyone.

Networking at Reunions:

Summertime is the time for both family reunions and class reunions. These are essentially a gathering of (potentially) dozens of people who, despite the fact that they took various different professional paths, automatically have a great deal in common and genuinely want to see one another succeed. So if you’re looking for a job, a career change, industry advice or even if you’re just hoping to network within your field, attending your reunion could be just the ticket. The question is not whether you should attend your reunion, but how you will network effectively at the reunion.

The FOUR hour “one to one” Networking Foursome!

If you are a golfer, find a fellow BNI Member who also plays golf. Set up a round of golf and you each bring a favorite golf playing client to introduce to each other as a referral source for the other BNI member. What a great way to solidify a top referral source and score a ‘hole in one” referral yourself with someone else!

If you do not play golf? Is there a summertime activity that you do that you and a fellow member can invite clients to attend? (Boating, Fishing, Hiking, Tennis, Sailing, Camping,  or Gardening)

The GOAL?

Any place you go with family, friends or strangers is a networking opportunity!

  • Bring Your Business Cards! Bring your fellow BNI members’ business cards with you to all your summertime events!
  • Remember Your Fellow Members and make a goal for one referral per event you attend!
  • Who have you met at these summertime events that you can invite to your chapter as a visitor?

Here’s to a GREAT summer in the Northern Hemisphere filled with lots of referrals! Those BNI Members south of the Equator can wait to use these tips in December or try to network on the ski slopes.

Don't be this guy

Don’t Be This Guy

A BNI Director once told me about a member who called him and said he was quitting his group because he wasn’t getting enough business.  That very same day, the Director received a call from the Membership Committee of that same chapter. He asked if they could remove that member. He wasn’t following up on the referrals he was being given by other members. Don’t be this guy!

When I hear stories like this I just shake my head in disbelief.  Referrals don’t equal more business.  Following up on referrals leads to more business. And yes, doing a good job and providing good customer service are important in order to keep getting referrals. 

If you get referrals and don’t follow up on them – you’re not going to get more business. 

When you give a referral, you give a little bit of your reputation away.  If you give a referral with a strong recommendation and then the service provider doesn’t actually follow up with the contact – the service provider not only looks bad – you look bad for giving the referral!

By the way, the group removed the member who wasn’t following up.  I heard he now has a job at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Repeat after me, “If you don’t follow up on referrals, you’re not going to get more business.”  And then, you might have to take a job at the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Following up on the referrals you get – – – is it me, or does that seem incredibly obvious?  Please tell me – that’s incredibly obvious right?

Ivan’s Inner Circle

Tomorrow is the Unveiling of Ivan’s Inner Circle

Ivan’s Inner Circle is addressing both of these pain points because I will be your mentor. I will teach everything I have learned over the past 30+ years in networking and referral generation, and our technology partner at Synduit will become the only marketing software you need to build and implement your marketing plan for the entire year. I have not been this excited in years because the impact that all of us will produce together will be seismic in the world, and it will also take your franchise to the next level while supporting all of your members as well.

The more I think about this launch, the more I realize how vital this program is to the success of small business owners and franchisers. Networking, referral generation, and marketing have become somewhat of a lost art and nearly every marketing software that I have ever seen is too complicated for the everyday user.

I am ready to share Ivan’s Inner Circle with you and anyone else you decide to invite during our official unveiling tomorrow – Tuesday, March 26 at 12 pm ET (9 am PT).

If you have not done so, please make sure to register here: https://tribe.synduit.com/IvanInnerCircle0001

Inner Circle

Be a Part of my Inner Circle

Networking, referral generation, and emotional intelligence still aren’t taught in colleges and universities and nearly every marketing software system that I have ever seen is too complicated for the everyday user. For the past decade I have been thinking about building an environment where I could easily share the top lessons and skills I have acquired on networking, referral marketing, time management, and scaling a company with a select inner circle.  I am pleased to say that I found the perfect partner to make these lessons an absolute game-changer for business people.

Ivan’s Inner Circle

I am really excited, because after 10-years of contemplating this idea, my friends at Synduit have developed a program they call “Ivan’s Inner Circle” which will officially launch on Tuesday, March 26 at 12 pm ET (9 am PT) during a FREE live webinar and Q&A.

I will be your mentor. I will teach everything I have learned over the past 30+ years in networking and referral generation. Our technology partner will become the only marketing software you need to build and implement your marketing plan for the entire year. Allow me to mentor you on networking, referral generation, and marketing with the simplest marketing software for your business that you will ever find.

Who’s in Your Network?

The first webinar topic is: “Who’s in Your Network?”  It is a spin on the content from Who’s in Your Room? but it is specifically aimed at BNI members and networking. Please invite other business people you know to this experience too.

I invite you to please join me by registering here: https://tribe.synduit.com/IvanInnerCircle0001

I have not been this excited in a long time, and I am eager for you to take part in this monumental launch of “Ivan’s Inner Circle”.

Referrals

Should I Hold Referrals Hostage Until I Get Some?

I recently had someone send me the following question about referrals:

“There are people that I’ve provided referrals to which turned into good business for them.  However, I’ve never received referrals back from those people.  I fully understand that networking takes time.   I’m going to ask them for a commitment to give me referrals in return. My question for you is – should I continue to provide them with additional referrals or not?

As a result of the above question, I’ve outlined my recommended strategy to follow-up on issues like this:

When you give someone a referral, do you follow up with them to see if it resulted in actual business or not?  Find out if the referral was receptive to their contact and see if any of the referrals turned into business for your fellow member. Here are a few tips on following up on your referrals.

Sit down with the people you’ve given referrals to.

Walk through all the business you’ve given them in a way that shows you care about their success. Ask them how each and every referral (one at a time) worked out for them. Spend time with each referral and ask questions about them.  Make sure that the referrals you gave were as good as you think they were. Don’t make assumptions about them.  If they didn’t turn out as well as you thought, ask them how you could improve in giving them quality referrals.  This could be disappointing to you but it’s an important discussion to have.

For those members who really benefited from the referrals you gave them

Tell them how glad you are that you could help them.  Tell them that’s what BNI is all about – supporting one another and giving each other referrals.  Tell them that you’re really pleased that these referrals worked out. Then – and only then, remind them that sending business your way would really be helpful to you. Ask them if they have a few minutes now to talk about how they can do that.  I would guess that the majority of times, they will be receptive.

Effective networking is about being relational, not transactional. 

What goes around comes around and it might not come around from where you sent it out.  But don’t be surprised if it in fact does. You are planting seeds that will germinate with good relationships.  Work on the relationships and the business will follow.

Referable

What to Do When Your Client Is Just Not Referable

A friend of mine, Meaghan Chitwood, recently told me a story about her early days in BNI. When she joined the group, she had just come out of the construction management industry. Although she was working as a business coach, she was still dressing to fit in at a construction site. Her entire wardrobe, according to her, was casual shirts and khaki pants. She was well-dressed within the context of a construction site.

One day, two of her fellow members conducted a little “intervention.” They sat down with her and said, “we want to help you because, right now, as a business coach, you’re just not referable! You don’t present a professional image.” They went on to say that they believed that she was really good at what she did because they have seen her in action. The problem was that she made a marginal first impression when she showed up at a potential client’s office.

Now whether we agree with this intervention or not, one thing is definitely true. People’s feelings are their reality. These individuals felt they couldn’t refer her to their business clients because of the first impression that Meaghan was giving them. When someone gives a referral, they give a little bit of their reputation away.  Meaghan’s potential referral partners understood that if they referred her and she didn’t look the part, she might not get the business. Along with the likelihood the recommendation would potentially reflect poorly on her referrers.

Meaghan told me that she felt that her credibility as a coach came exclusively from what she knew and what she was talking about not other things like the way she dressed. Although she was really shocked by the statement, she took a moment and gave an absolutely brilliant response. She said, “Okay, so what are we going to do about it?” She went on to say that if they were going to drop this bomb on her, they couldn’t just turn and run for the hills. They had to help her out.

The sheer fact that she had the clarity of mind to not get defensive and listen to the feedback that was being given was an absolute testament to her “walking the talk” as a coach. This openness to feedback allowed her to address the matter effectively. It gave permission to her two potential referral partners to genuinely help her. The two women that sat down with her then connected her with a cosmetic consultant and a hair stylist. One of the ladies even let Meaghan go in her closet to find clothes that fit the role she now had as a professional business coach.

How referable are you?

For your own situation, I would like you to think about, “how referable are you?” I certainly don’t know your situation. I would suggest to you that unless you are getting more referrals than you can possibly handle, you may not know either. So here’s the scary part. Go out and ask some people you know and trust if they would first, give you an honest answer to that question, and second, be willing to help you if they have suggestions.

Meaghan likes to say, “With a great network, anything is possible. The big contact that you are looking for, the golden goose, the dream referral. All of it can happen, if you are open to feedback”.  Meaghan was open to feedback and her life has changed because of it. She’s now a successful business person handling many complex project management assignments that impact hundreds of thousands of people. Based on results, that brief meeting had a life-long impact on her life. Meetings like this can do the same for you. So, spend a little time and find out just how referable you are. Now, Meaghan is the Director of Global Training for BNI and is well dressed in her role.

Standing

Standing in the Middle of a Room Full of Referrals

 Referrals are all around us. Are you paying attention? You are standing in the middle of a room full of referrals.

Referrals are all around us, it’s just that we’re not paying enough attention to what’s going on in order to identify them.  You see, there’s a part of our brain that’s called the Reticular Activating System.  It can be described as a filter between our conscious and our subconscious mind. Your subconscious screens out things you determine that aren’t important and it alerts you about things you think are important. Therefore, understanding how it works can be a great tool to recognize the daily referral opportunities surrounding us.

Standing in a Room Full of Referrals

Watch the video now to learn not only about the Reticular Activating System but also about another powerful tool which I call the “Language of Referrals”.  After watching the video, you will likely begin to remember times when your Reticular Activating System was in full effect. However, you just didn’t realize it at the time.  You may also remember instances where you’ve clearly heard the language of referrals in conversations with people.

I’d really love to hear about your referrals experience with one or both of these things so please share your story/stories in the comments below.  Thanks!

receive referrals

How long does it take for people to receive referrals from their network?

From my experience, strong referral relationships are a lot like building close personal friendships. It takes time for people to become close enough to receive referrals from their network. Facebook has redefined what a “friend” is, but I’m talking about truly close friendships with people. In a study published in 2018 by the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, it was found that it takes about 50 hours of interaction to move from being an acquaintance to becoming a “casual friend.” It takes a total of 90 hours to be become “real friends,” and a total of 200 hours to become “close friends.” According to the study, “friendship status was examined as a function of hours together, shared activities and everyday talk.”

So, how long does it take for people to build a close relationship where they trust you enough to give you regular referrals?

So, you want referrals and you want them now?  Well, you can’t have them. Unless you’ve built meaningful relationships with your referral partners first. Well, it takes somewhere between 90 and 200 hours for people to receive referrals from their network.

I know that 90 – 200 hours sounds like a lot but that matches up almost perfectly with what I’ve seen in BNI. When BNI members hit the 90-hour mark of participation they almost always begin receiving more and more referrals. Based on an independent study published in 2012 for BNI, when those same individuals cross the 200-hour mark, they generate an average of over five times the number of referrals they did in their first year! Yes, you read that right: more than 500% more referrals when they have built strong friendships with their referral partners.

The Steps You Should Take If You Want to Build Business Off Referrals

Ask yourself the following four questions until you have attained success and the answers become obvious.

2. Am I regularly making stimulating, educational presentations to my fellow networkers about the value I provide to my clients?

3. Am I doing business with others in my network so I can give them dynamic testimonials and steer business to them in hopes they will return the favor?

4. Am I meeting regularly with my networking colleagues to learn about their businesses so I can confidently refer my contacts to them?

If you’re following these simple tactics, then you are well along the road to getting all the referrals from others’ networks that you deserve. Building a referral-based business is all about building a powerful, personal network. If your network is a mile wide and an inch deep, you will never get the kind of referrals that will make a difference for your business. This means that you have to go deep in building a number of strong relationships.

The best way to speed up the process is to actually spend time in the process of developing relationships with the people you are networking with. Networking truly is more about farming than it is about hunting. It is about building relationships and friendships with other business professionals. Remember, it takes time to build friendships.

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