So many of my clients name "referrals" or "word-of-mouth" as the number one source of growth in their business.  However, when I ask how they get those referrals - so that we can increase them - they're not sure.  

I like business boosts to be predictable, reliable and replicable.  Referrals are no different; they're a marketing strategy, not a fantasy.  

Referrals don't happen by accident; they happen by intention.  If you follow this list of suggestions, you will see your referrals increase. 

Here are my top 10 ways to consistently and intentionally generate referrals:

1. Ask!

Your clients have 143 other things on their minds than your business, so they forget to tell their friends or colleagues about you.  Don't take it personally; it doesn't mean they don't value you.  It just means it may not occur to them to refer people to you.  Asking for something, especially referrals, is quite simply the best way to get it!

2. Explain clearly what makes a good referral for you

One of the best things about referrals is that better qualified prospects come to you.  They're better qualified because a satisfied client knows them and has decided they need to know about you.

But have you ever had someone referred to you who wasn't a great candidate for your services?  Maybe the message they got from your past client was positive but wasn't exactly the one you'd choose to share.  

The best way to ensure you get appropriate referrals is to clearly explain what a good referral for your business would be. It's also useful to let people know about not-so-good referrals.

[Do you know what makes a good referral for you?  Are all warm bodies good prospects for your services?  Be sure you know what you're looking for before you begin asking for it. A resource that might help is our small business brand development system.]

3. Deliver knockout service 

It may seem obvious, but this can create a subtle distinction in your intention:  Do you want to meet your clients' needs?  Or, will you delight them so much that they just have to spread the word?

4. Do something "buzzworthy"

What can you include in your knockout service that is unique or unexpected enough to make the news or spark coffee shop conversations?  Van Michael, my hair salon when I lived in Atlanta, offered free aromatherapy scalp massages that I felt every human must experience.  Remember when hotel chains started upgrading the beds and linens such that people actually wanted to buy them?  That's a good way to get people to refer you more business.

5. Join (or start) a referrals group

A structured approach can transform your haphazard referral occurrences into systematic, reliable revenue.  You'll get the most out of your group if its members share your values and have similar target markets but not a competing service.

6. Ask others what makes a good referral for them

Astute, like-minded professionals will almost always respond with a desire to learn more about you.  (By the way, this is the ideal thing to ask someone you've just met in a networking situation.)

7. Give referrals

It's as much a lesson in karma as it is in business: givers gain!  Pass enough referrals to others and you'll soon find them reciprocating.  As soon as I get a new client, I start looking for referrals and good contacts for them. 

8. Increase your referral base

Unless you have a very elite service, relying on a few select clients to refer business to you isn't wise.  How can you get more referrals?  Ask your vendors, colleagues, family and friends for them.

In addition, find ways to share your service with larger groups of people, through workshops, public speaking and published works.

9. Stay visible

Don't let "out of sight, out of mind" damage your referral business.  Keep yourself top of mind with your referral base by staying in touch.

10. Incentivize and/or thank people for referrals

You can offer monetary rewards, gifts or other incentives up front to entice people to give you referrals.  These rewards should be motivating to them and cost-effective for you. 

Whether you offer up-front incentives or not, always be sure to thank people for referrals.  This can range from a phone call or handwritten note to commissions or gifts.  Expressing your gratitude is a wonderful way to invite more of this trust and generosity into your life.

Generating more referrals can reduce marketing costs and increase the joy in your business.  I hope you have found at least one idea here that you can take action on today.  For more help see my audio program "How To Get More Referrals."

May the good news about your business spread!

Author's Bio: 

"I'd love to give you over $300 worth of valuable marketing strategies gifts - just visit me at"

Samantha Hartley of Enlightened Marketing helps socially responsible entrepreneurs who are struggling with peaks and valleys in their businesses to generate a consistent stream of new, profitable clients.