Referral Incentives

March 31, 2017

How do you handle referral incentives in your business? Today we’re answering a listener question who recently got asked to give incentives to someone who was sending her great business referrals. We’re sharing our tips on how to build that referral relationship and make it work for your business…and what to do if you don’t want to offer referral incentives, but just focus on organic referrals.

Learn More about the Topics Discussed in this Episode
This Episode Brought to You By:
"Even with a referral affiliate, clearly define those boundaries and get a contract in place."
- Kathleen Shannon

More from Kathleen

Braid Creative

More from Emily

Almanac Supply Co.


Emily Thompson 0:02
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Kathleen Shannon 1:08
Alright you guys lately I have been slammed with deadlines and meetings and just life in general, most notably writing the being boss book, it's taking up all of my free time. And I hate to say it's even cutting into my workout time that I hold so sacred, I'm not able to hit the gym every single day. So I'm relying on our new being boss sponsor aaptiv to help me get my body moving for even just 20 minutes out of my day. aaptiv has high intensity interval tracks, running tracks and yoga tracks that allow me to work out anytime on demand. So let me tell you a little bit about apptiv. apptiv is an app that is like your own personal trainer on demand anytime it's a curated playlist plus guidance from a fitness professional that will make getting your workout on so easy. Whether you like working out at the gym, at home or outside. aptiv has a workout for you from elliptical and treadmill to outdoor running to yoga, strength conditioning, walking, stretching, even meditating. Plus, they have a ton of different trainers so you can find your favorite and get a variety of styles. So right now I want you to go check out aptiv comm sign up for a monthly subscription now at that's enter being boss at checkout and get your first 30 days for free. Okay, Caitlin, what do you have for us today?

Caitlin Brehm 2:33
This question comes from the Facebook group from Miriam. She asks service based bosses, how do you manage refer our clients, my private practice is built on referrals. And I just had a client refer a few people to me, which is always super flattering. But she just asked me for an incentive to keep sending me people. Of course, I'm torn. I've never seen something like this in the medical industry. She's a clinical nutritionist. And it's going to be held to track as the practice goes. If this woman feels like she needs incentive to keep sending me clients, it could be an incredible way to market my business. She's very well connected in the entertainment industry and has a lot of wealthy friends that actually are able to afford my prices. But of course I'd have to hold everyone to the same standard. So what would you suggest to go about doing this? If you do referrals I'm curious what kind of incentive you offer and how you do that if one person says you multiple clients

Kathleen Shannon 3:30
This is so funny, we've gotten this question before I mean, I've gotten this question before at braid where I had a previous client sending a couple people my way and then one day she sent me an email asking if we had like an incentive referral campaign or process or program and we don't and I've never I've never sent any of my friends business or someone that I've used I've never referred them business hoping to get something out of it either. But I know that this is maybe a common practice is just not one that I'm super well versed in or one that I would feel good going about on both sides like I don't want my friends giving me money for sending people their way and I don't want to give people money whenever they send clients my way. I just want there to be goodwill all around and people referring the stuff that they like either way. I've even felt this way with affiliate programs, which I've done before for the Braid e course I've done an affiliate program and I ultimately ended up shutting it down because I felt like it wasn't actually working. I felt like it put a lot of pressure on people like that my goals for it were to celebrate and high five and give people who are already referring us a little something something and it was easy enough to track in an online market right like with an online affiliate sales program. But in at the end of the day, it just felt a little like it was what's the word? I'm looking for Emily like it was I don't know not building trust, what's the opposite of building trust? It was, um, like people that were referring the Brady course, if they were affiliates, that people who are reading their sales, you know, campaign or whatever selling the Brady course might be like, Oh, well, they're getting paid to sell this. Maybe they're not authentically selling it, maybe they don't authentically believe in it. If they're getting paged, tell me about it. I guess that's, that's ultimately what it comes down to is that it just doesn't feel entirely authentic. What do you think about this, Emily?

Emily Thompson 5:35
Yeah, well, I mean, I do want to point out to the even being boss right now is currently engaged in some affiliate programs. And we do it, we only do it with things that we do sincerely love and would share, even if we weren't getting paid. So, but in the online space, for sure, the thing is tracking what actually in any space, the thing is tracking in the online space, it's easier, but even then, depending on how you do it, not the easiest. I did a, I did a referral program in the early days of my website business, where I had old clients who were sending me referrals I got, I remember what the what the terms were, it was so long ago, and it worked. Sometimes, but sometimes it didn't, people would come to me and not tell me they were being referred. And then six months later, I'd get this email and say, Hey, I know you launched this person, I told them about you, but no one told me about it. And it was, it was a little bit of a clusterfuck. So I stopped doing it. And and I find that people unless you have a very systemized affiliate program that has lots of links and badges and those sorts of things, tracking it is really hard. So my recommendation is to say Thanks, but no thanks. or develop some sort of engagement with this person, that's just between the two of you, maybe it's not something that you're going to replicate over and over again, maybe it's just between you and her. That allows you to take her referrals and give her a little something in return. But it doesn't mean that you need to create a whole referral program just because you have someone who loves you enough to send you all the people and you want to pay them back for it. So I say all or nothing or just a one off. We're either go straight out with an affiliate program and some fancy schmancy tracking system, none at all. Or if you have someone in your life who needs to become a referral partner of yours, come up with some terms on your own, on your own be very open to understanding to address conflicts if and when they do come up because they will come up and and have fun with it as much as you can.

Kathleen Shannon 7:53
I completely agree with everything that you said I like the all or nothing, or maybe just this one off agreement with this woman. But then here's the deal. I'm actually imagining Miriam, having a conversation with a woman who feels like she needs an incentive to dry you referring people

Emily Thompson 8:12
to email me that way. It will make my skin crawl it will my

Kathleen Shannon 8:15
my gut feeling is that there's something icky about this. And there might not be at all and if there truly isn't, I mean, I'm trying to just imagine me and you, Emily, because we shared a lot of clients right upon

Emily Thompson 8:27
a time when you've asked me affiliate programs before and I've turned it down. Yeah, I don't even want it.

Kathleen Shannon 8:34
That's right. Well, we talked about that for the E course because I already had an affiliate program in place. And I was like Emily, why don't you use an affiliate link? And you're like, No, thanks. But no, thanks. And that's actually what got me rethinking having an affiliate program on the whole, like the fact that you didn't even want to do it kind of said something to me. But But speaking to one on one clients, I imagine you and I having had an agreement, like hey, if we send a braid client your way? Yeah, maybe we get 1000 bucks or vice versa assigned righties, a finder's fee. I mean, because it does kind of take the place of having a salesperson on your team, right? Like if you have a budget for that kind of person on your team. Why not give that money to someone who's already referring people to you. But again, just coming back to the email that this woman sent you or the conversation that you had, where she's asking for an incentive, like the fact that it wasn't your idea? I don't know, I would just say Go with your gut a little bit on this one is this someone that you would want to get in this kind of partnership with because it's almost like having an employee or a partner who's bringing you new business? If it feels good, then I would say go for it, create that one off referral program with just this woman, but clearly define what those boundaries are. I would even get a contract in place with the lawyer to make sure that everything's on the up and up and everyone knows the terms and agreements so that in situations like you had Emily, where someone's coming back You six months later saying, Hey, I actually send that person your way. Like how does a situation like that get handled via a contract? versus just kind of word of mouth willy nilly no structure?

Emily Thompson 10:12
For sure. So, I guess Go with your gut. Do it if it's something you feel good about, but otherwise, just tell her you appreciate the referrals and you have nothing in place at the moment. And that I think could be a nice brush off for the time being. Did you like this minisode Be sure to check us out on our website at There you can find more from being boss, including our full episodes, minisodes and blog posts. And while you're there, be sure to sign up for our mailing list so that you can get access to behind the scenes and exclusive content from Kathleen and myself to help you be more boss in your work and life. Do the work be boss