How To Get Referrals Without Offering Incentives

Referrals are the best type of new customers, and you don’t even need incentives to get them. Every study on the topic of referrals says they are worth more, they’re easier to sell to, they have a higher lifetime value, and they make the person who referred them more loyal. This has been confirmed by The Nielsen Company, The Harvard Business Review, The Wharton School of Business, and others.


The Referral Dilemma

referral systemMost businesses incorrectly use incentives to get new referrals. They rely on the old standbys, like free services, a percentage off your next bill, gift cards, or straight-up cash. But what happens if you are in an industry where you can’t use incentives to get more referrals. What if there are legal or ethical barriers to incentives in place? How do you entice people to talk about you and share your services without the risk of losing your license or business — or even getting jail time?

These are big questions, but the good news is all is not lost. The even better news is, once done correctly and legally, you can actually end up getting referrals for less per new customer than some of the best programs that tout incentives. The bad news is — and you were waiting for the bad news — it is not easy.

The Power Of Information

webinarYou want to start with information. There isn’t a single industry or niche out there that can’t give out information as a lead magnet to get a referral. Here is how this works. Say you’re a physical therapist and you accept Medicare. This basically means you have limited options for gifts for new referrals. You can hold workshops or seminars (which are a great idea and absolutely work), or you can offer incentives in the form of information. For example, try offering something along the lines of “7 Home Remedies to Relieve Lower Back Pain.” This could be a DVD, an online video series, or an eight-page workbook.

Once you’ve created your content and its landing page (free recorded message lines also still work), you next need to promote the offer.

Spreading The Word Without Incentives

newsletterThe best way to promote the offer is in a newsletter (as you might have guessed), but emails also work. You can also send postcards to clients — past and present — or even simple business cards that you pass out to everyone you treat that day.

The goal is for you to make the information available and have one or two things happen. Either your current patients raise their hands for the service, or they give your information to someone they know who has a lower back problem and could benefit from “7 Home Remedies for Lower Back Pain.” Once you pass the information incentives on, you have the beginnings of a referral.

Once someone claims your information, you now need a mechanism to get that person on the phone or in your office. One simple way to do this is to include a section that encourages the prospect to come in for a complimentary consultation. Once they try three of the seven exercises in the content and still have pain more than twice a week, the consultation is free. This is what we call a “call to action.”

The Referral Machine

referral machineYou’ll have even greater success if you add follow-up to each opt-in. The follow-up should be useful, and it should push to an appointment or, at least, a phone call that pushes to an appointment. There should be no cost for this first appointment. The goal is to examine them, not necessarily to treat them.

Once you get that working, you’ll have another problem. You won’t be able to keep using back pain as the lead magnet month to month. Once you get the first one working, you’ll have to move on to the next alignment and create the front end all over again. When you have five or six different front-end lead magnets, you can simply rotate which one you’re promoting each month.

Again, none of this is easy, but once you have a foundation in place, you’ll have a great system for kicking out massive referrals — all without breaking any rules.  

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