Developing a “Golden Ticket” Referral Program

By Drue Lawlor, FASID
Director of Coaching, Gail Doby Coaching & Consulting & Design Success University

Do you, like so many business owners, spend a great deal of time and money on advertising, networking to meet prospective new clients, and searching for new ways to reach prospective clients? And yet, how many of you really use what I’d call the “golden ticket”? How many of you make it a regular practice to effectively ask for referrals from people who already like, know and trust you? Wouldn’t it make sense to start there?

After all, sharing is something we were encouraged to do since we were very young. When we were children, it might have been a favorite snack, a game we enjoyed, or even an ice cream shop. And you may still be sharing those same types of items, but your list has most likely expanded. How often do you share your positive experiences related to restaurants, recipes, movies, shopping, etc. with people you know?

Most designers realize the value of referrals, but do you have the program in place to make it on ongoing process to regularly seek referrals from clients, vendors and others with whom we have already developed a positive relationship? After all, the “return on your investment” will most likely happen much more quickly by asking those you already know well for referrals – truly a “golden ticket.”.

Whether you have a referral program in place or not, I’d encourage you to review the 5 recommendations below to incorporate into your referral “process”:

  1. Identify those people with whom you already have a relationship who could refer you to your “ideal client”. Remember, it’s not just any referral you want. Stay focused on your ideal client and share that profile when asking for a referral. You might brainstorm with the person as to whom they know or who fits that profile that you could help.
  2. Timing is everything. The best time to ask for a referral is when they have just shown gratitude for something you have done, or complimented you on your business.
  3. Stay connected to give your best referral sources the opportunity to refer business to you. You might take them to lunch several times a year, ask how their business is doing, or if a client, how the spaces you designed are working, etc. This will also assure that they do have positive feelings about your business before you ask for a referral.
  4. Remember, people like to be helped rather than “gotten.” Keep in mind when asking for referrals what you have to offer that could “help” a prospective client, rather than just focusing on “getting” them.
  5. One of the best ways to get referrals is to show appreciation by giving them a written thank you or small gift (if appropriate). Be a great listener to identify things they would appreciate. For example, a “referral” for a client might be a landscape designer or a wonderful after school program for their children – something you “heard” as a need.

Develop your “golden ticket” referral program and you’ll see the return on your investment keep growing year after year.

By Drue Lawlor, FASID
Director of Coaching for DSU

Gail Doby

Leave a Comment