Marketing Pillar 2 - Non-Professional Referrers

I define a non-professional referrer as any business or individual that can refer a client to your business, but they are outside of your specific industry.  This Marketing Pillar is often neglected and unloved, but they can be one of your most significant sources of referrals.

Because every industry is different, so are the types of non-professional referrers for each industry. A Carpenter may have a professional referral relationship with a Plumber and other people in the building industry. A non-professional referrer could be the local nursery, health food shop or real estate office.

An Accountant may have a direct professional referral relationship with a Lawyer, Financial Planner and Finance Brokers, but have they considered their relationship with their hairdresser or local coffee shop owner?

Treat Them Equally

You should treat your non-professional referrers with the same respect as you would your professional referrers – they deserve nothing less, and they must be nurtured similarly. You should:

  • add their details to your email database
  • know the names of the business managers
  • send cards and bottles of wine if they’re referring clients
  • invite them to third-party events
  • ask them to lunches
  • encourage them to come along to your information evenings and parties.

If you have to ask yourself if someone should be added to your list of non-professional referrers, then the answer is yes, because they can always be removed later if the relationship is not working.

Maintain contact

Once you have their details in your database you need to maintain regular contact with them. Don’t try to shove your business down their throat or leave business cards and flyers on their countertop, even if you think they need your services or their clients would benefit by knowing what you have to offer.

If you build a good relationship with them, they may eventually ask you for business cards or flyers before you get a chance to offer.

Two Ideas

Here are two ideas every business can do, regardless of their industry and they won’t cost you a lot to implement.

Idea #1: Talk to the owner or manager of your favourite coffee shop and ask if you can sponsor the first 10 cups of coffee sold on a Monday morning. At $5 a cup it’s only going to cost your business $50, and all you ask in return is when the coffee is handed over they say, “this coffee has been paid for by company ABC”.

If the coffee shop also agreed to hand out your business card with each cup of coffee that would be great. If you had the time and you had a coffee yourself on Monday morning, they could say, “this coffee has been paid for by company ABC, and the owner of the business is sitting over there”.

Now, this may seem like a real shotgun approach because you don’t exactly know who’s buying the coffee, but it’s not as broad as you think and you can narrow the market if you wish. You may stipulate it’s for the first 10 men, women, people with children, men wearing suits or ties, or whoever you want to target.

 Idea #2: This is a much easier idea than #1, and it’s really just a thank you to your existing clients. Organise an account at a coffee shop in your local area and tell your clients all they need to do is hand over your business card for a free cup of coffee. Once again this will build your referral relationship with the coffee shop, and you should be able to arrange a discount for each cup of coffee.

Ask For Their Business

With both your professional and non-professional referrers you should be aware that they may already work with another business in your area, but don’t be shy – ask them up front which business they currently refer to and why. It could be they’ve never had a choice before because there was only one relevant type of business in the area...but now that they do have an option you could be the one. On the other hand, their business of choice may be their brother, in which case you stand no chance, but knowing this information up front will save you a lot of time and money.

If they say, they don’t work with anyone, immediately offer in-house training for their team in whatever your area of expertise is. The better educated a group are, the more widgets or services they sell, the more referrals you will receive. If they say no to this offer, they probably work with someone already but didn’t want to admit it.


If you’re providing in-house training with their team, you should be getting regular referrals. If this is not happening after a few weeks, you need to put your efforts elsewhere. Don’t let anyone take advantage of you and your expertise. You need to make sure the relationship you’re trying to build is reciprocal and not all one-way traffic, which can be the case with some businesses. They will take, take, take, and give nothing in return.

If you have any questions regarding non-professional referrers and how to develop this into a solid marketing pillar, please email me at email/tf)(

If you missed Marketing Pillar One - Professional Referrers (click the link)

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