Outline For Referral Source Marketing: A Step By Step Guide


This blog post is an outline for referral source marketing (in-person business development). It’s a document we put together for our clients at Third Loft Marketing to help business owners understand the general flow of marketing efforts that leads to results. You can read more about Third Loft Marketing at our website.

Our whole goal is to help business owners grow their companies. Oftentimes, newer business owners don’t need to hire a marketing agency like ours. They really just need some advice on how to get started.

If you are looking for experts, we offer in-person referral source marketing services through Third Loft for companies in Grand Junction, Colorado, and by phone for companies across the U.S. Otherwise, use the outline below to handle referral source marketing in-house!

Following This Outline

The following are tried, tested, and proven methods. This approach has also been used in multiple industries with good effect. If you are in an industry that generates business through referrals from other companies (business to business), this guide will work wonders for you.

The table immediately below summarizes each step in the process. Refer back to it for a quick overview of what you should do next. Below that are more details on each step. If you follow these steps in order, they will help you organize your marketing efforts for maximum effect.

If you feel you do need help with any marketing efforts for your company or have questions about this guide, send us a message on our Contact Us page.

1.   Initial contact      6. Filter: A, B, C
2.   Thank you card      7. Call and thank referral source
3.   Email a second thank you      8. Customer review call & email
4.   Monthly email newsletter      9. Thank you cards
5.   Continue to visit      10. Special occasions/ online

1. Initial Contact – Getting Businesses To Refer You

This whole guide is based on in-person marketing. That means building relationships with your potential referral sources. You’ll either need to do this yourself, hire someone, or use a company like Third Loft Marketing to represent you.

In-person marketing is highly effective – especially when aimed at referral sources as opposed to end users. Think about the types of companies or industries who could continually refer you work, month after month, if they knew you, liked you, and you asked for their business.

In your first visit, just let people know who you are and what services you offer. Take a little time to get to know the people you’re talking with. Nothing fancy. Don’t worry about “sales techniques” or anything like that. Just go in, introduce yourself, and ask for business.

Additional Tip

Get your contact’s emails, always. Let them know you’ll be following up with them via email as well. One of the keys to making these marketing techniques work most effectively is to follow up with your contacts regularly. Email follow ups are great because it keeps you top of mind with your potential referral sources without taking up much time.

2. Written Thank You Card

It’s a rare gesture nowadays. It’s not uncommon though, probably for that reason, for contacts to keep thank you cards you’ve sent them for 6-12 months after. Or even a couple years.

Almost nothing goes further in helping you stand out from your competition than a simple hand-written thank you card. Yes, it takes time. But, when you’re done making marketing contacts for the day, sit down for 30 minutes that night, write the cards, and mail them out. It will pay dividends for you in the coming months.

Check out this blog post to see some creative ideas on sending your clients custom thank-you cards. 

3. Email Follow Up

1 week after you’ve sent your hand-written thank you card, send your new potential referral source an email thanking them again for their time.

It may seem like you’re contacting this person a bit much at this point, but just remember that you are new to their world. It takes several points of contact for someone to even remember who you are. By reaching out with thank-you’s you’re increasing the likelihood this person will think of you when they have the option of sending you business.

Make sure at this time that you’re also adding this person to your monthly email newsletter list.

4. Monthly Email Newsletter – Sustained Follow Up Marketing

Times are changing, and like radio, tv, and print advertising, email newsletters are becoming less effective. But, it’s still possible to get a 30-50% open rate on your emails. Plus, email marketing is highly specific. Whereas ads are aimed at a general audience of anyone who may or may not be interested in your business, email marketing is aimed only at people who could use or refer your business.

There are many websites out there that offer email programs designed to maximize your open rate, such as Mail Chimp and ConvertKit. These programs get past peoples’ spam filters.

Your email newsletter doesn’t have to be fancy. Just treat the people on your list (people you’ve already met in person through your marketing efforts) like friends and family.

Just keep them updated on what’s new with your company, what services you’re offering, and ways you can help them with their own customers and clients. Maybe aim to educate them just a little on your industry as well. Your goal is simply to build momentum and keep your company in front of your referral sources.

Third Loft Marketing offers email newsletter campaigns, which you can read about here. 

Additional Tip

We typically recommend that you send a monthly newsletter to 1) your referral sources, and 2) your past customers. Modify the newsletter to suit each. This way you’re not only expanding the list of companies referring you, but you’re getting people who have used your services to recommend you to their friends and families. It’s how you capture, then control (don’t lose) ever-expanding sections of a market.

5. Continue To Make In-Person Visits To Your Referral Sources

Depending on your schedule, visit the people you’re marketing to again every month, at least. If you can do every 2 weeks for the first month or two, even better.

By now, this person/ business already knows what you do. So if you’re wondering what you’re going to say the next time you visit, don’t worry, it’s one of the biggest questions people have when marketing.

We recommend two things: 1) learn 1 new thing about their business or about them on a personal level (their family, recreation, goals, etc.), and 2) tell them 1 new thing about your company.

To make it easy, before you make marketing visits at the start of each week, write down what 1 thing you’re going to ask, and what 1 thing you’re going to tell them. Then, make those things the basis for every conversation you have that week.

* Always, always, always remember to ask for business during your visit. Make it clear that you are there to earn their business, and ask for it.

Additional Tip

Keep notes. You’re going to meet a lot of new people and hear a lot of stories. If you take notes after every marketing visit, you’ll start to remember details about peoples’ lives that will make you stand out from any other company. Be genuinely interested, write down what you learn, then review those notes before your next visit. Very simple and very effective.

Another Additional Note…

You don’t need to write a thank you card or send a thank you email after every visit. Just the initial visit.

6. Filter A, B, C’s – The Key To Effective Referral Marketing

After 3 months it’s time to decide if your marketing efforts are working. If you’ve been visiting a potential referral source and they haven’t sent you work, you have to figure out why that might be the case and what to do about it…

This step is often overlooked but is, in all reality, one of the most important steps in our outline for referral source marketing. Don’t skip this!


This company has either sent you work in the last 3 months or based on what you’ve learned about them during your in-person visits, they have the ability to send you a lot of work – and you have good rapport with the office. Continue to visit this company every month.


This company isn’t sending you work but could send you a decent amount (whatever that means for your industry), but not a lot. You have good rapport with the office, but they don’t love you. Your goal is to make room for more A’s in your schedule, so you’re only going to visit this office every 3 months, from now on.


They aren’t sending you work, they probably won’t, and/ or your in-person visits haven’t been well received in this office. They may someday send you work, but for now, drop to seeing them only every 6-12 months.

7. When You Get A New Job In – Call And Thank The Referral Source For Marketing You

Eventually, your in-person marketing will work. Even if you’re not a pro. It may surprise you, but if you have a good service, people will eventually give you a shot.

When you get a new job in, that night, give your referral source a phone call. Thank them for referring you, and give them a short update on job progress or situation. Answer any questions they may have.

8. When The Job Is Complete – Customer Review Call & Email

Even if you’re in an industry where your work comes in through referral sources and typically not by end users (homeowners, etc.), include the homeowner in your marketing efforts.

Give them a phone call and ask them for feedback. 1) Are they happy with your services? 2) On a scale of 1-10, how likely are they to refer you to a friend or family member, and why? 3) If they gave positive feedback – would they consider giving you an online review if you emailed them a link? – then email them a link.

Follow these tips to get the most out of your customer reviews as well!

Additional Tip

It’s very important for you to stay in front of them, over time. Offer to give them a follow-up report on services you performed for them, or something equivalent of value, via email. That way you can also add them to your monthly email newsletter.

9. Thank You Card For The Referral

Write another thank you card to your referral source. Include the customer’s feedback in the thank you card. Let them know that you are grateful for the job and that your mutual client feels you did a good job.

If you want your referral source to send you more work, make sure they know how happy the last client they sent you was with your effort.

Additional Tip

Send a thank you card to your customer, the end-user, as well. Let them know that you are grateful for the opportunity to help them and hope they will refer you to any friends or family in need of your services as well.

10. Special Occasions/ Online

Keep track of peoples’ important dates – birthdays, anniversaries – and holidays, community events.

Don’t be afraid to send cards for Christmas, new years, birthdays, or anniversaries. Give people phone calls every so often just to check in on them and see how they’re doing.

Friend people on Facebook or add them on LinkedIn. Just find small ways to stay in touch in between your in-person visits. Congratulate them on the great things that happen in their lives. Become part of their world.

Concluding Our Outline For Referral Source Marketing

If you follow this outline for referral source marketing, you’ll earn business. No matter your industry, people work the same. They like people who like them, who bring something of value, who do good work, and who can help them with their clients.

Third Loft Marketing offers in-person marketing services and monthly email newsletters (along with blogs and other forms of sales copy). We are experts in everything described above, so if you need help with your company in any of those areas, give us a call or send us a message.

We hope, however, that this list can be of use to you even if you choose not to hire us. Our goal is simply to help business owners gain greater market share without spending tons of money on marketing. If we can help you make good decisions with your marketing efforts, then we feel we’ve done a good day’s work.