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12 Ways to Strengthen Referral Relationships

To be an effective networker, you should always be working on strengthening your relationships with your referral sources.  So, what’s the best way to do this?

The answer is not so simple. It really depends on the referral source and what he or she responds to.

But there are a number of actions you can take to build good will and credibility in your relationships, and the list below contains an array of examples.  Of course, this is not an exhaustive list, so you should feel free to add your own actions to it.

1.  Send a thank-you card. Always a nice gesture, a handwritten thank-you card makes a great impression, especially in this age of electronic communication. Be sure to write a personalized note that mentions what you’re thanking your referral source for. and other organizations are a great resource for this.

2.  Send a gift. Like a thank-you card, a gift, however small or inexpensive, creates visibility and builds credibility with your referral source. Try to find out what your referral source likes (favorite foods, hobbies, etc.), and send a gift that is personalized to her tastes.

3.  Call a referral source. An occasional phone call is a good way to keep the relationship strong, if you take care to call only when it’s least likely to be an unwelcome interruption. It’s also a good idea to have a piece of news or some tidbit of information to pass along that will benefit or interest your source.

4.  Offer a referral. Giving your referral source a referral is a wonderful way to build your relationship. By helping build your source’s business, you create a debt of gratitude that will encourage your source to respond in kind.

5.  Display a source’s brochure. Doing a bit of sales work on behalf of a referral source can only enhance your relationship. If you have a public area for your business, offer to place your source’s materials where your clients can read them.

6.  Send an article of interest. Set up a file for holding newspaper and magazine clippings that may be of interest to people you would like to be your referral sources. Sending an article, especially one that is pertinent to your source’s current business or personal circumstances, says that you are thinking about your source’s needs.

7.  Arrange a one-to-one meeting. Meeting a referral source in person is an excellent opportunity to learn more about his business and interests. Prepare some questions in advance so that the conversation flows smoothly. Be ready to give an update on your business and to ask lots of questions about your source’s interests.

8.  Extend an invitation. Invite a referral source to a networking event. Introducing her to other businesspeople you know gives your source an opportunity to meet others in your target market and may also provide new business opportunities.

9.  Set up an activity. A recreational activity, such as a golf outing, fishing trip, concert, or play, is a great opportunity to let your referral source see a different side of you in an informal setting. The activity should be one that will give everybody time to relax, but it may also include an element of information.   The one thing the people in this group will definitely have in common is you, so you’ll certainly be the focus of a good many conversations. Group activities may be social, such as a barbecue or a ball game, or they may be educational, such as a seminar or demonstration.

10.  Nominate a referral source. Watch for opportunities to nominate a referral source for an award. Local service and civic organizations often present annual awards recognizing contributions to a particular cause, and local periodicals often sponsor awards contests for businesspeople. Find out what groups and interests your referral source is involved in, and check to see if there is any form of recognition associated with them.

11.  Include a source in your newsletter. Even a brief mention of a referral source in your newsletter can pay dividends down the road, including the opportunity for your source to reciprocate with his newsletter.

12.  Arrange a speaking engagement. Help your referral source get in front of a group that would be interested in her business or area of expertise. Local chapters of service organizations, such as Rotary and Kiwanis, are always looking for good speakers. If you belong to a group that invites people to speak, use your contacts to help your source make the rounds among various chapters.

Give some thought to which of the above techniques would work for your business.  Have you incorporated some that aren’t listed above?  I’d love to have you share them here.

Called the "father of modern networking" by CNN, Dr. Ivan Misner is a New York Times bestselling author.  His newest book, Networking Like a Pro, was a #1 bestseller on He is the Founder and Chairman of BNI, the world's largest business networking organization.  Dr. Misner is also the Sr. Partner for the Referral Institute, an international referral training company.  You can view more of Dr. Misner’s writing by visiting his blog at:

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24 Responses to “12 Ways to Strengthen Referral Relationships”

  1. Elaine Gibson Says:

    Thank you, this is GREAT information. What a wonderful place we would all be in if we lived by these insights. Thanks again.

  2. Rick Dinger Says:

    This was a great list of ways to grow businesses.
    Thank you!

  3. Gayle Zientek Says:

    As a SendOutCards Rep in the Leading Edge Chapter for the past 3+ years, I say high five for this article. 1. Send a thank-you card! Thank you Ivan for encouraging this act. 2. Send a gift. With SendOutCards you can send gifts to your referral source along with the personal card! Everybody loves brownies!! Numbers 3-12…just pick a few and do it. Your business will never be the same! Referrals are so much easier to work with than cold calling!! Treat your referral sources special!

  4. Narayan Says:

    Excellent and valuable.


  5. Dot Southard Says:

    As always, you are a wealth of knowledge and inspiration. Thank you for your insights.

  6. Yitz Finch Says:

    I design and build custom wood furniture in Brooklyn, NY ( I am making small, hardwood business card holders, with my contact info on the bottom, as gifts for my clients and business contacts.

    Who would like one? B-)

  7. Sara Van Den Akker Says:

    These are all very good ideas. It is good to be humble and thoughtful when it comes to finding a good referral source. Not only does it speak volumes about the type of person you are, but it reflects on your business’ virtues.

  8. Steve Fogelman Says:

    What a great article. As a member of the Rogue Valley Professionals I found your information extremely helpful. s a therapist I know the importance of building rapport and relationships with your referral partners.
    Thank You

  9. Stacy Ryan Says:

    Great article, Ivan. The simple art of recognizing and appreciating your clients and referral sources can produce wonderful results in terms of increased customer loyalty, retention, and referrals for new business. I am also a representative of SendOutCards, and a firm believer in the service as a way to streamline communications — it’s where high-tech meets high-touch, and produces high-impact results!

  10. Rees Powell Says:

    I am in the wood floor refinishing trade and am inerested in seeing your business card holders and costs.


  11. Ivan Misner Says:

    Hello Rees. You can find information on our card files at: .



  12. James McHugh Says:

    Right on….Ivan… I love how you made this so simple… is a process I follow and my clients love it…

    Continued success and thanks to you for all you do….


  13. Chris Palmer Says:

    Thanks for the wise words. Sending personalized thank you’s often stops folks in their tracks because we don’t often receive a thank you in the mail in this day of e-mail and junk mail. Notes of appreciation just go right to the heart of the receiver. And using SendOutCards makes it easy, affordable and efficient. As a SendOutCards distributor and BNI member, I’ll use your words in my 60 second at the meeting this week. Thanks!

  14. Geramie Hancock Says:

    BNI is changing my business completely. Mr Misner if you are ever going to be in Columbus Indiana, I would love to have lunch and ask you a few questions. I am in BNI first year brand new chapter and we are rocking. In 5 months actually less we have grown by 11 up to 29 in our chapter already. I would love to learn a few things and just get to know you if you have time.

  15. Dr.Nina D'Souza Says:

    Dr.Ivan has this uncanny way of putting a humane touch to the Business approach at BNI,which is what makes BNI THE BEST BUSINESS NETWORKING ORGANISATION.As Educational Coordinator, am going to talk about these 12 ways to Strengthen Referral Relationships & have an interactive session this week asking my chapter members if they have any additions to make to the 12 ways…Thanks Ivan.

  16. Jennifer Conaway Says:

    This is a great reminder of something we may forget to do. If you want to create a referral based business these small kindnesses can pay huge dividends by enhancing the relationship and encouraging more referrals.
    Thank you for the great reminder.

  17. Hannah Poole Says:

    Great tips! & I’ve always been a card sender – everyone likes to feel appreciated & will remember how they FELT

  18. Hannah Poole Says:

    Great Tips! I’ve always been a card sender (am a SOC distributor also) Everyone likes to be appreciated & they’ll remember how they FELT when they’ve been acknowledged for what they did–and they’ll remember who made them feel that way.

  19. Janice Smallwood-McKenzie Says:

    Your work remains most impressive, and you’ve a unique way of reinforcing your brand; “GIVERS GIAN!”
    If it’s a kind word, an article, ride to work, a poem, invitation, or a big “Thank you,” it’s all giving, and when we give, we gain by default.

    Hopefully, we will also carry the “Networking Factor!”
    “EVERYONE IS IMPORTANT!” It’s amazing how we treat the important people in our lives!

  20. Luke Says:

    Great suggestions for strengthening referral relationships – thanks. I just met a SendOutCards rep last week too, so I’ll have to give them a call back and order some!

  21. MANIVANH Says:

    Thank you Dr. Mizner. Most importantly, thank you for your endorsement in SendOutCards. (We’ve used this simple, convenient, yet fancy system for 5-years now!)
    I was honored to have met you in person in Honolulu!
    What I’ve learned in the past 3-yrs experience in BNI Hawaii & Flordia, I probably wouldn’t have learned elsewhere.
    I can’t imagine networking any other way other than the BNI-way! THANK YOU AGAIN!!! “Moni”

  22. Billy Ciarloni Says:

    I would like the 12 ways to strengthen referral relationships.

  23. Vinay Menon Says:

    I must say that these tips have been extremely useful to me and has given me a deep insight in networking. There is so much to learn.

    Thank you very much.

  24. Nancy Drinkard Says:

    It’s amazing that after 16 years in BNI I still learn things from the educational articles offered to anyone that want to build their business to the next level

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