How to Create a Culture of Referral Giving

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This week I’ll be out in San Diego talking to owners and marketers of health clubs about referrals.

I plan to use the occasion to make a point about how to create a culture of referral giving.

giving referrals
photo credit: djwhelan via photopin cc

Fitness Centers depend upon referrals and, like so many businesses that get this, they actually abuse their customers in an effort to maximize this dynamic.

Of course no industry is immune to this practice. Most businesses look at referrals as something to get from their customers and I plan to take on this point of view.

The common approach is to make a customer a financial offer so they’ll give over some referrals. A typical health club tactic might be to give away a free month for every new membership referred.

The problem with this approach is that it forces the customer into making a financial decision when referrals are fundamentally social. It forces the customer to think “what can I get” rather than “what can I give.”

In order to tap the true power of referrals we need to focus on creating a referral motivation that is about giving rather than taking. We need to find a way to create an environment where the primary reason someone makes a referral is because they believe another person will benefit by them doing so.

This mindset changes the referral equation dramatically.

This mindset forces a business to think about ways to deliver real value first and in doing so become more referable.

This mindset forces a business to make supporting a vibrant community as important as getting the next referral.

Creating a culture of referral requires that a business give and give first and in doing so create a culture where customers want to give and give as well.

I know that the idea of giving to get referrals is not exactly a new concept, everyone acknowledges this, but finding ways to apply it in the realm of a specific marketing initiative seems a little harder to pin down.

So, how can a health club give to get?

  • What if a health club created a series of presentations geared towards traveling business executives that showed them how to stay healthy on the road and away from the club?
  • What if a health club created a community of expecting and new moms and taught pre and post-natal fitness while providing a play-group like community?
  • What if a health club created a new customer package that included supplements, coupons for prepared Paleo meals and a foam roller all gathered from strategic partner businesses?
  • What if a health club sponsored an after school kids fitness program that encouraged parents to use their facility free of charge during a once a week community program?
  • What if a health club sponsored a monthly “live fully” night that featured renowned chefs teaching nutritional cooking, chiropractors talking about healthy at work practices and classes on meditation, breathing, rest and recovery?

For today’s post I used a health club as an example, but the give to get referral mentality applies just as surely to a financial planner, plumber or executive coach as it does to selling health club memberships.

So, how can you give more value in your marketing efforts?


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