It’s not about the money, or is it? Great tips for client referral programmes.


Co-founder Empress Global

I think we would all agree that client referrals are a good thing. I built my legal business pretty much entirely on client referrals in the early days. However the problem with client referrals is that there is no system to it – whether or not you get new business depends on who is talking about you and who is listening…

So we might get to thinking about how we encourage or ‘systemise’ client referrals. Our first thought is likely to be to set up an affiliate program, closely followed by our second thought of ‘how much do we pay them’.

However, paying affiliates for client referrals is often not the cleverest way to achieve our aim.

Let’s dig a little deeper.

There are two types of “affiliates”

 There are the bigger affiliates – the joint venture partners if you like – who have big lists or big communities or do affiliate marketing as a primary means of making money.

Clearly they are in it for the money.

And so they should be – they have invested a lot of time, effort and money in building that community and they deserve to see their just rewards.

That’s why when I launched my Legal Academy with 30 JV partners promoting me, I was more than happy to pay away tens of thousands of pounds to them – because without them I wouldn’t have had a successful launch.



It’s when we look at the referrals level affiliates that things get interesting. These are the people who don’t have the big lists but they are huge fans of you and your programmes. For them, is it really about the money?

So, here’s the thing…. at referral level, more often than not, these people are engaged with us, have completed our programmes and have, therefore, reaped the benefits.  They know us.  They trust us.  There is a strong relationship.   And yes, we absolutely want them to be shouting about us.  The question is, how do they feel about being offered payment to shout about us?  Does this make them feel valued, and in the right way?

Our sales expert Catherine Watkin stepped in beautifully on a recent mentoring call to describe her approach and system.  Catherine knows that in her community they don’t like it being ‘all about the money’.

And here is the reason…. if we are not careful, the message can quickly and easily become misrepresented and positioned as ‘they are just recommending this for the money’.  These are not thoughts or perceptions we want to encourage or cultivate because of course then the marketing message loses all of its power – suddenly it is not an endorsement of the product but rather a way of the endorser to make money.

Suddenly it becomes just a little bit grubby.

We want people to be able to share how a programme/product/service worked for them and be able to make a recommendation with integrity.  To feel good about doing it.

Can people legitimately endorse you?

The scenario can get more problematic if we move it up a level,  where the person making the recommendation hasn’t been on a programme or worked with you directly, but is making a recommendation for good and appropriate reason. Maybe they have worked with you on a previous programme or seen you speak at an event. They are confident that you know your stuff, put out valuable offerings and will look after your customers.  The note of caution here is that at all costs we want to avoid the perception of “They haven’t even tried this programme or they have never actually worked with ‘X’ but are making recommendations and I know they get paid for it”.

Instead we want the message to be about us, our integrity, and the value of our products and services.

The simple solution to getting it right


Catherine Watkins’ advice comes with great experience and success in this particular area.  The advice might seem simple but it’s so often not practiced.  So here we go:-

  • The number 1 tip – ‘recognise’ the people that have promoted us and provided referrals. For the people who are your raving fans, this will work wonders in encouraging them to share your work.That recognition might look like a special mention in your email newsletter or in your Facebook group. Or maybe a VIP ticket to your next event with a special mention for them at the event.

  • Tip number 2 – reach out and find that person who has so generously made a recommendation – send them a handwritten card to say ‘thank you’.   Or maybe send them an inexpensive gift in the post – brownies packaged beautifully have been a big hit for me.

  • Tip number 3 – Rather than paying a referral fee, offer them 1:1 time with you. You can use this time to not only help your referrer, but also to gather vital intelligence about your  customers and what they like and what they don’t like about your products and services.

The secret is to know what makes your community tick


The secret

 The secret is to know what makes your community tick.  Know whether money by commission is going to tick their box, or is it going to create these issues with ‘value’ and the integrity of endorsing your products or services.  How much more ‘valued’ will your community and referrers feel if you reach out to them with a card and an offer of 1:1 time with you?

You may find that you have a large enough number of affiliates making referrals to merit putting on an event, just for them. Or maybe you could create an online community for them to connect and network (such as a private Facebook group) where you can offer them incentives and run competitions and provide them with exclusive content. 

And while we are on the subject, here’s an extra tip from one of our members, looking from another angle.  If you are the one in receipt of money for referrals, then that’s absolutely great, but don’t disguise how it works in the small print.  Be upfront with people about the fact that you are receiving affiliate commissions; the openness builds integrity and trust. Not only that but it is a legal requirement! If you would like ideas on the language to use on this, please comment in the box below and I will help you with the legal wording.

So the simple answer to your question to yourself about how to reward affiliates may have been to pay them an affiliate fee. However there’s a good chance that might not be the best strategy for your particular business.

It’s for this reason that a sounding board is so crucial to every high achieving business owner. That is just one of the things that our Empress members value so much about the Empress collective.  If you need this sounding board – maybe it’s time to join our community?

100% of our founding members want to renew their membership for a further 12 months – that’s how much they value the mentoring, the coaching, the sounding board, the inspiration, the empowerment, the connection.

If this sounds like something that you need in your life, then check out our brochure and complete our application form.

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