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In the age of technology, social media, and constantly changing trends, it can be a bit difficult to believe that an older marketing tactic could be so effective, but having a referral network could be the push your business needs to gain more conversions. Referrals, testimonials, or simple word-of-mouth may seem like archaic methods to use today, but the trust that people put in each other never gets old. 

If you do decide to build a referral network, here are three important factors to keep in mind: 

Make sure your business is in good shape to get referrals

Before you even consider trying to reach out to current customers, employees, or businesses to start building your referral network, you need to make sure your business is in order and be something that people want to refer to others. Referrals are extremely helpful and beneficial, but they aren’t a catch-all solution. If you have issues that run deeper in your business, people might not want to share your business with others. If your products are not up to par with what other businesses are selling, your customer service is lacking in performance or compassion, or you have any other business-level issues, you can’t start to think about reaching outside your business to gain more customers yet.  

Figure out who you want to get referrals from

There are a few different types of referrals, ranging from informal to formal. The most obvious choice is likely to reach out to current consumers of your product or service. This is an informal yet very important relationship you could develop with customers to get them to talk about your product or service with people in their social circles, such as friends and family. Another relatively informal method of gaining referrals is through your own employees. If you have enough rapport with them, you can probably encourage and convince them to share your product offerings with others in a more casual setting. 

A few more formal arrangements for obtaining referrals are referral partner networks and cross-referral networks. Both involve the signing of a formal agreement with other businesses and people related to your business. One major difference, however, is that cross-referral networks involve you and the other party referring to each other in a reciprocal relationship. Cross-referral networks also seem to have a focus on businesses that sell complementary products to your offerings, so there isn’t any chance of competition amongst the parties involved.  

Maintain a positive relationship with those people 

Once you’ve figured out who you want to enlist in your referral network, it’s not a one-and-done task that you never have to worry about again. Having other people vouch for you and your business requires the fostering and maintenance of a positive relationship and often means that the people helping you out will want something in return. They’re helping your business; why wouldn’t they get something out of it? 

If your referral network is made of customers or even employees, you can offer them incentives such as discounts, store credit, or cash back in return for referrals. You can also offer them things like a thank-you note to let them know that they are a valued member of your business. As mentioned above, if your referral network is made up of other companies, you could incentivize and reward them with referrals to their businesses. 

Another thing to keep in mind is not to pester people too often. If you gain new customers and immediately ask them to refer other people to your business, they might see you in a more negative light as needy or make the relationship seem more transactional. 

Ultimately, referrals are about building relationships and trust with the people who interact with your business and who love your products and services. On top of that, people are more likely to buy from a company based on a trusted friend or family member’s glowing review over any kind of advertisement or other marketing tactic from the businesses themselves. 


Works Cited

Gillespie, Shannon. “20 Ways to Build a Client Referral Network.” MeetFox, 2021, 20 Ways to Build a Client Referral Network (

“How to Build Your Referral Network: Ultimate Guide [2024].” Referral Rock Blog, 17 Oct. 2023, How to Build Your Referral Network: Ultimate Guide [2024] (