How to get more referrals as a coach

Where do your coaching clients come from?

A lot of coaches say that they get most of their business from word-of-mouth referrals. They tend to think of this as being the primary, or often only, form of marketing that they need.

If that’s so, they’re lucky.

The problem with relying on word-of-mouth marketing is that essentially what you’re doing is hoping that by doing a good job, people will talk about you and more clients will come your way. It’s the business equivalent of a free lunch, lovely when you get one and you appreciate it, but you can’t really rely on it to feed you.

This is not to say that referrals aren’t a great way of marketing. They are. It’s just that relying on them is perhaps a bit too optimistic. Being realistic gets you more clients, and without so much uncertainty.

So, realistically, how can you orchestrate more referrals — rather than waiting for that free lunch?

Why relying on random referrals is uncertain

In order for someone to refer you, three things need to happen:

  1. They have to notice that a conversation they’re in is about the specific area you work in.
  2. They have to think about you.
  3. They have to introduce you into the conversation, and ultimately introduce you to the person they’re talking to.

That’s a lot to rely on to get a referral. And it’s asking a lot of the referrer.

How to actively generate referrals

There is a way to prompt and encourage referrals and it’s reassuringly simple. The best way to get referrals is to ask for them. That might seem a bit simplistic so let’s break down the ‘ask’ into its essential components:

  • Ask at the right time — this depends on who you’re asking — with a satisfied client when you’re finishing up the work is a good time, arguably when they are most satisfied! If you’re asking past clients then spread out asking so you don’t end up with a rush of referrals.
  • Be specific about who it is you’re looking to work with — describe your ideal client to help them choose who they will refer.
  • Explain the kind of situation your ideal client might find themselves in and the outcome, feeling or insight you deliver.
  • Offer to send the referrer a guide to pass on to them.
  • Consider some form of reward for successful referrers.

This method enables the referrer to add their own personal recommendation on top of the thing of value that they’re passing on. It makes them feel good.

It also allows the recipient to review your guide/website/content before they get in touch. This feels a lot less pressured than the common email intro which puts you and them immediately in a position of pressure to talk, even if the timing isn’t right for them. Allowing them first to find out more about you and your work, saves you from having conversations with people who are not the right fit. Some people might not act straight away but this method allows them to approach you when they feel ready to do the work — when they are actually interested in working with a coach.

Consistency is important

To ensure that you’re ready to receive referrals you need to make sure they’re being referred to something (and someone) that is up to scratch. This means your website, giveaways, social channels, etc. all need to be aligned. They all need to clearly explain what you and the client can work on, and the outcome, feeling or insight that you guide them to.

It’s also important to have something of value to pass to the person who is doing the referring. If they have worked with you they will recognise the value in what you’re delivering and will be able to add their own recommendation to this guide/video/article, whatever it is you’re offering.

If that sounds like a lot to sort out, check out our 1-Page Coach’s Marketing Plan which guides you step by step through the nine essentials you need to get everything ready for referrals.

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Simon Batchelar

Simon Batchelar

Marketing mentor empowering coaches to reclaim control of their time, business and energy to build a better, balanced lifestyle.

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