How Do You Get Referrals? Seven Tips for Agency New Business

Obtaining valid new business leads is a goal for all agency principals. And there are few leads as valuable as a referral, where the agency may assume they were recommended to the referral by a client or business contact. But waiting around for a referral is not a proactive new business strategy. If you lack a strategy for seeking or generating referrals, start thinking about how to introduce this tactic into your new business efforts for the coming year.

Here are seven tips for generating a steady stream of referrals.

1.   Ask your clients. At least quarterly, your account service people should wrap a client meeting by asking, "Do you have any referrals for us?" Encouraging clients to send business your way is a great tactic, as it forms a you-scratch-my-back-I’ll-scratch-yours bond. The agency, of course, should be alert for any way to drive business to their clients, too.  

2.   Ask your business contacts. Your banker, lawyer, civic work partners and other local contacts in the business community have "reach." Ask them regularly to keep your agency in mind as they talk with other clients and contacts.  

3.   Seek LinkedIn Recommendations. Ask your satisfied clients and civic project associates for a recommendation on LinkedIn. Their networks will see this, and so will any prospects you have added to your networks.  

4.   Share contact info. Use business cards at networking events, or exchange emails and send contact details to new contacts with a request that they "share" your info should they think of a likely referral. Also, make it easy to find contact info on your agency’s website and social pages.  

5.   Create content to boost your agency profile, reputation and buzz. Write interesting opinion pieces, create a podcast about work that excites you, promote your best clients on Instagram, and discuss your methods and processes. Be interesting, and your content will be followed and shared. Every share is a potential referral. You may receive calls from people referred by followers you haven’t even met because your content strategy reached people who liked what you had to say and they forwarded your thinking to a friend.  

6.   Watch the business news for opportunities. Don’t wait for someone to recommend you. If you see news about a company that fires up some marketing ideas, and you want a referral so you can present those ideas, hit your networking list. Find a contact who can make an introduction. Referrals can be generated—you don’t have to wait for the river to flow past your door.

7.   Encourage employees to submit leads. Many of your employees have contacts in professional fields with knowledge of businesses to which they may be able to refer you. In fact, employees may be one of your best referral sources; their interests and passions may lead you to prospects who will be a perfect fit for your agency’s talents, knowledge and skills.

Remember to qualify all referrals, the same as you would any lead. Referrals are great, but if you aren’t a good fit for the prospect, you need to know that going in. You don’t want to waste time and resources pitching an account that won’t pay off for you or the prospect.

If a referral doesn’t meet your qualification criteria, be prepared to refer them to another agency that may be a better fit. Then add that prospect to your contact list. If they are happy with their new agency partner, they’ll remember you fondly enough to refer you to someone later on.

This is a business of relationships. Learn to leverage everyone to build goodwill, gain referrals and obtain valuable business for your agency.