While referrals are one of the most important sources of new clients for therapists and coaches, how to get them seems to be something of a mystery. Below is a five-step referral strategy that can switch on your referral faucet, or turn a trickle into a steady flow.
#1-Focus on Your Ideal Clients Do you want to work with men in career transition? People dealing with health issues? Families in crisis? Females with eating disorders? Newly retired individuals? You may serve a narrow niche of clientele, or a broad swath. For example, your market may be “stay-at-home mothers in their 30s who used to be corporate executives with six-figure incomes,” or you may help your clients deal with an assortment of issues, such as: depression, addictions, marital issues, stress and sexual trauma. It doesn’t matter for these purposes. What does matter is getting clear: Whom do you serve?
#2-Discover Where They Gather Where do the people who could benefit from your services gather? If you’re a therapist specializing in grief, for example, think about mortuaries and churches. People dealing with addiction issues might be found at AA or other 12-step meetings, including Al-Anon. If you work with couples in crisis, consider coffee shops, beauty salons, the offices of family lawyers and mom groups.
Small business owners might meet at the local Chamber of Commerce or at professional networking gatherings. People concerned with their health and fitness might be found at gyms, day spas or the offices of massage therapists, personal trainers or holistic practitioners. Retired people? Think volunteer organizations, travel agencies, hobby shops, golf courses. Get the picture? When you’re clear about where your ideal clients gather, you can take the next step, which is to build a relationship with the professional or person in charge at each of these locations.
#3-Cultivate These Locations as Referral Sources How you build these relationships will differ from person to person and location to location. Face-to-face is usually best, especially if you’re “armed” with a good leave-behind. Here’s one strategy that Laisha Knueven, a wellness and empowerment coach for women, has used to develop a lucrative referral source in her small Oregon town:
Using the newsletter she orders from us (the life coaching hardcopy newsletter), Laisha has walked through all the medical center offices in her town. Every office she enters, she offers the female office workers and nursing staff one of her newsletters, calling it a community service newsletter for women on well-being. Invariably, the staffers are thankful and receptive to conversations about women’s issues and what Laisha does. She points out the one-page insert she has stuffed into the newsletter, which lists her workshops, seminar and other events and about her practice.
#4-Leave Stacks of Newsletters at These Locations After establishing a rapport with the women, Laisha asks if they would like to keep a stack of her newsletters in the waiting room for their patients to read. Nearly all have happily agreed.
This is how you leverage these relationships. And when you do, both of you win.
“When people see my newsletter, it gives the practitioner instant credibility-and me, too!” Laisha says, noting that she gives out about 1,500 newsletters every other month. “This newsletter is probably the best advertising tool I have.”
A newsletter is far more effective than leaving a brochure. It gives people helpful information for their lives-from you-whereas a brochure is typically a short sales pitch. It’s the difference between “It’s all about you” and “It’s all about me.” People are much more likely to pick up and read a newsletter than a brochure-plus they’re left with a very positive impression of you as the provider of great information.
Wherever you place the newsletter, don’t forget to bring this “secret weapon”: a clear, acrylic literature holder. Placing your newsletters in this makes them more visible and keeps the countertop neat, as well.
#5-Follow Up Make a phone call or a personal visit periodically to check on whether your newsletter needs restocking. This is a good opportunity to continue to build relationship with your referral sources, and it keeps you abreast of how quickly your newsletters are being snapped up. When your new issue comes out, add it to the stacks of existing newsletters. It shows you’re a solid professional, not a flash in the pan.
So the question is: Are you OK with a drop or two in your cup, or do you want it to “runneth over?” Get your referral sources on board and you might just find a deluge of new clients!