Guest post by Zoe Linda
When I started my business, I had one problem – and it was a doozy.
“How do I find and book clients?!”
If you’re a service based business owner, I’d bet my Harry Potter books you’ve been there too. (And I frickin’ treasure those books.)
Look, there are a hundred and one ways to find and book clients; webinars, Pinterest strategy, Facebook groups, Upwork, podcasts. We feel like we should be doing all of these and we add to our ever growing to-do list (plan that webinar, email that podcast host, write 54 new blog posts). This only leaves us feeling more overwhelmed and, in my case, more pressured to find my next new client quickly!
*spoken in a ‘sleazy FB ad’ voice* BUT what if I told you that there was a method you could follow to cut your to-do list in half and have other people finding clients FOR you? 😱
No matter how sleazy it sounds, it’s true. I created my own client referral circle and increased my revenue from services by 74.5%!
In this blog post, I’m going to tell you:
- 🤔 What a ‘client referral circle’ is
- 😍 The benefits of setting one up
- 🛠 7 steps to setting up your client referral circle
What the heck is a ‘client referral circle’?
These are also known as a ‘client referral program’ but I’ve always said ‘client referral circle’ – it just sounds friendlier ☺️
Hosting a client referral circle is about finding people in a similar (or same) niche to you and asking them to refer clients your way in return for a cut of the sale.
My circle is full of direct and indirect competitors (#communityovercompetition) as well as past clients, biz BFFs, and other members of my community. If someone sends a potential client my way, and that client decides to book, I’ll send that ‘circler’ 10% commission of the sale. I also offer 10% on a monthly basis if the client decides to book a retainer package with me!
If someone joins my client referral circle, along with providing a commission, I also make an effort to promote their services where relevant to my clients and in Facebook groups.
The benefits of setting up a client referral program
You might be thinking “why should I add this onto my already MASSIVE to-do list?!”
I know it may seem like a lot of work to build up a client referral program of your own but, honestly, once you have all the pieces in place you’ll start seeing results in the long-term.
- Increased reach + visibility – Connecting with business owners in your niche means more exposure to your ideal clientele
- Reach new audiences – You’ll also be reaching new pools of people who may never have heard of you otherwise
- Build up connections – Starting my referral circle meant that I was making more meaningful connections with fellow business owners
- Increased bookings! – Woohoo! If you start a referral program to get more clients, you’re going to see more client enquiries and more bookings!
The 7 steps to set this up
Now I’ve sold it to you, here’s my step-by-step process for you to set up your own client referral circle to book
Decide a commission percentage
Before you do anything else, you need to decide how much commission referees will receive for each of your services.
You can have an set commission for all bookings (i.e. 10%) or you can provide various rates depending on the package, length of the project, or type of service.
For example, if you have a one-off strategy package that costs $497, you could decide to give a set $50 to referees. However, if you have a retainer package at $3,000 a month, you might want to have a fixed fee of $100 a month to the referee, which is a lower percentage than a one-off package.
Personally, I offer a fixed 10% commission across all my services (one-off and retainer) and 40% commission to affiliates of my products – which is a WHOLE other blog post!
Set up a system
A client referral program can be easy to lose track of so make sure you set your systems up first.
There are a few things you want to have ready before you start any outreach:
- Workflows in your project management system
- A scheduling link so potential partners can book a call with you to get to know you better
- Some kind of document/overview/brochure for your services
Create a project in Asana, or a board in Trello, or open up whatever PM system you use and create template workflows that you can copy. Ideally, you want workflows for outreach, relationship management, and places to put important links and email templates. You also want this to be a place where you can keep track of all the partners you have confirmed.
An example workflow for outreach would be:
TASK NAME = Name of referee (i.e. Zoe Linda)
- 01. Send initial email
- 01.1. Send follow-up email
- 02. Referee confirms interest in circle and books quick call
- 03. Host call
- 04. Add partner’s details to your Client Referral Circle list
See – it can be super simple but it makes sure that you don’t miss a single step in the process!
Template your email
Another thing you want to have prepared is a template outreach email. You can create this in a Google doc and link it to your workflow in Asana/Trello OR you can create a Canned Email within Gmail! Whatever works best for you!
When reaching out to potential partners, you want to make sure you keep your email short and simple but also personalised. If you know them personally, or even if you’ve just seen them around in Facebook groups, make sure to mention something that you have a shared interest in!
Here’s an example of what you’re email could look like and include:
Hope you’re well!
[ADD PERSONAL TOUCH – I.E. ‘LOOKS LIKE YOU HAD SUCH A GREAT TIME AT YOUR RETREAT LAST WEEK!’]
I’m just getting in touch to see if you would be interested in being a part of my client referral circle?
Basically, if I have a client enquiry that I don’t think will be a great fit for my business, if they are after something I don’t offer or specialise in, or if I’m (fingers crossed!) booked out, I’ll send them your way – and vice versa! I’d also do my best to recommend you where relevant/appropriate in Facebook groups.
I’ve attached my client brochure so you can learn more about what services I offer and to whom.
I’d love to offer you a 10% referral commission for every client that you send my way as a thank you for your recommendation!
Does this sound like something you’d be interested in?
All the best,
Start outreach to direct and indirect competition
What is important to think about in regards to creating a referral program is the areas of interest your idea clients have within and outside of your niche. You want to know who your direct AND indirect competitors are.
What on earth do I mean by that? Well, two yoga instructors within the same location and the same specialities would be in direct competition. A yoga instructor and a dietician in the same location that share the same audience are indirect competition. You want to be building partnerships with both types of businesses.
Direct competitors can send potential clients your way when they:
- Are booked out – If you connect with someone who offers similar services to a similar audience, they may be looking for someone to refer clients to when they are booked out themselves
- Aren’t a good fit – Sometimes clients and service providers just don’t mesh. Make an effort to connect with your competition so they can send referrals your way if they aren’t a good fit for a certain project
- Make a shift in their offerings – When I shifted away from social media strategy towards influencer + affiliate marketing, I still had a lot of client enquiries I needed to direct elsewhere. I partnered with a number of social media strategists to give my potential clients a choice of who to turn to next
Indirect competitors can send potential clients your way when they:
- Are approached about a service they don’t offer – For example, a web developer may be approached about a web design project. This is the perfect chance to refer the client to a web designer they’ve partnered with!
- Have a client that needs help in your area of expertise – I’ve had designers, coaches, and VA’s all send clients my way because their clients are looking for help in affiliate marketing or influencer marketing!
You can research people to reach out to by searching keywords relevant to your niche on Google, Pinterest, and Instagram.
You can also post in your favourite FB groups to see if there are any people specifically interested in joining your referral program but expect there to be a few people that comment who don’t quite fit what you’re looking for.
Invite past clients to participate
Your past clients are going to be amazing sources of referrals – especially if you provided them with a first-class service. They’ll have actual experience of working with you along with positive testimonials to share, so they’re likely to bring in more clients than other members of your referral circle.
If you want to give your past clients special treatment, you can offer them an increased commission or send them a gift for each referral they send your way!
Share with your biz BFFs
Now that you’ve got the ball rolling, you should invite your closest biz BFFs to take part. Email your mastermind partners and Instagram besties to see if they are interested in sending referrals your way! Don’t forget to include a brochure or overview of what you offer so they can learn exactly how to help!
Are you going to start your own client referral program? Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below or reach out to me on my socials.
Zoe Linda helps digital product creators increase their income through affiliate marketing. Zoe is ALL about meaningful connections and wants to change the way influencers and brands work together to create authentic + long-term relationships. As well as being an influencer marketing wizard, Zoe is a coffee drinking, lasagne-loving, Netflix binging, film buff who loves quoting Harry Potter in everyday conversation. To keep up with Zoe, follow her blog or on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook.