Building Referrals is like Planning a Trade Show Every Day

better tourism market networking Sep 02, 2019

I like to think of Building Referrals in terms of ‘Going to a Tradeshow Every Day’.  We all love tradeshows. You know the big event in a lovely venue, one that feels good and sounds good, one where you hook up with other like-mind providers out with you selling the country and the county, one you travel away to.  It’s a big deal right? There’s a lot of preparation and advance-planning. You’re on top form when you’re there, spruced up, charming and engaging, fully prepared to impress. You do a lot of follow-up and you reap the benefits over the medium to long-term. 

What’s that got to do with referrals, you ask?  You go to trade shows because you know that people who might be the source of customers for your business are gathered there in one place all at the same time.  At the same time, all around you every day there are places nearby that meet this core criterion – these are the places in your own destination who every day influence the decisions that your potential customers make every single day.  They are the visitor centres, accommodations, restaurants, shops, transport providers in your own destination.

How much effort do you put into impressing those places? As much as when you go to a trade show?  Usually not.  

Last week’s blog posted the question “What is nobody knows anything about you?”  It was about the lost opportunities when visitors ask for recommendations of things to do and the person they’re asking is unable to give them good answers.  It’s about the frustration felt by smaller, younger, newer visitor experiences in a destination when staff in other places don’t take this opportunity to refer them.  The post touched a nerve and I had more email responses and texts than I usually do. It’s a real problem out there and a source of genuine frustration.   

Trade shows are part of a sales strategy, a medium to long term one.  Building relationships and referrals with businesses near you is a complementary part of a sales strategy, a short to medium to long term one.

So what can you do to help address this issue.  Here are 8 key questions that can shape a focused, purposeful Referrals Generation Strategy


  1. Who is responsible for their lack of knowledge?

Have you heard yourself saying ‘they’d never refer you in that place’, ‘when customers ask, they just don’t tell them’, ‘they could do so much and they just don’t bother’?  Be honest though – the job of promoting your business belongs to you and not to them. Accept this responsibility fully and then focus your energy on how you can make it easy for others to refer you.   


  • Today, who could visit me today? Where are they? Who’s talking to them?


Think practically, the people who could visit you today are staying within 60 or 90 minutes of you.  When asking for recommendations, they speak to their hosts, receptionists, restaurant staff, drivers, shop-assistants and forecourt attendants.  They are the most important people in a referrals generation strategy.

  1. What do those Referrers know about my business?

It’s not enough to say “everyone around here knows us, we’ve been here for 10 years” or “we pay Glance to keep our leaflets stocked there – all the information is in there” or “I dropped up a pile of leaflets in May – they definitely have them”  Sales is about people talking to people. Who’s bringing your brochure to life for them? What does that driver or the receptionist or that B&B owner actually know about me and my business? Have you stepped into your responsibility to ensure they know about it?  If you or someone in your team hasn’t spoken to them recently (or ever), you absolutely must assume that they know nothing at all about it. And if they know nothing about it, they can’t refer it.

  1. What would their incentive be to refer you?  

This doesn’t necessarily mean a monetary incentive.  Many will be motivated by having a solution to that problem that presents when a visitor asks for something to do today.  Remember, most people are incentivised by personal relationships, by giving and giving back, by your gratitude and words of thanks.  

  1. Have you asked that person to refer you?  One of the main principles of the Law of Attraction is to ask for what you want.  Ask them to refer you and let them know how to refer you. Instead of saying “send them on to us”, be more specific e.g. “on a rainy day and if they have children, we’re the perfect solution for them.”
  2. Have you thanked them?

Another key principle of the Law of Attraction – be grateful.  Let those people know you appreciate them referring you or telling their guests about you. 

  1. Do you really deliver on your promise?  

Do the B&B owner’s guests get back to the home in the evening raving about their experience with you? Do they end up thanking the B&B owner for the great referral?  People feel good when their referral works out well and they’re motivated to keep referring you. It’s important not just to impress the customers but remember to impress the referee also.

  1. Have you given back? 

Do you reciprocate and refer other businesses around you?  If you want to get referrals, give referrals. It’s that simple.

Building referrals is like planning a trade show every day!  Often, the payback from a consistent and focused Referrals Generation Strategy can be multiple times the payback that a far-flung tradeshow might deliver.  

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