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Heather Townsend

The Excedia Group


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How all trainers can turn their network into a well-oiled marketing machine – Part 2


In the second part of this two-part article, Heather Townsend explodes the myth that getting referrals from your network is down to luck. Read on to find out how to predictably get referrals for juicy pieces of client work from your network.

In the first part of the article we looked at the first three things from the SERVICE framework which you will need to build a reliable referral generation strategy. These were:

  • Specific: Having a well-defined niche and having a prospect list
  • Extraordinary client service: Generating word-of-mouth business means you need to deliver not just good client service but extraordinary client service
  • Relationships: Are you building and maintaining relationships with the 10% of your network who will regularly refer you?

For the remainder of this article, we will look at the last part of the SERVICE framework.


Being seen in all the right places, whether online or offline, is a major component for referral generation. For example, what industry conferences do your key relationships and contacts attend? What social networking sites, groups and communities do they participate in? Take the time to find out how your network wants to stay in contact with you, and how to meet the right the right people to put into your network.

Then create a regular marketing routine or ‘keeping in touch’ routine to make sure that you have frequent touch points and communication with the people who really matter to you.


One of the best ways of generating referrals is to proactively ask for them, as well as introductions, which may lead to business. However, many of us don’t feel we can ask, perhaps because it looks like we are being too pushy. Remember you are not directly asking for more business from them, just for their help:

I wonder whether you could help me? I’m looking for <insert the type of people you want to meet> who would also benefit from <insert the value you bring>.

Here are good opportunities to ask for a referral:

  • When a client gives you good feedback
  • At the end of an assignment which has gone well
  • When the client has recognised that you have gone over and above the call of duty for them.

When clients or people in your network give you referrals or introductions, ask their permission to use their name when making contact. Or even, suggest that you could prepare an introduction for them to use via the phone or email.


Working together with other trainers and professionals who share the same niche market as you can be one of the most powerful ways to generate referrals. Who do you know who has a similar type of client base to you, but offers a different service? 

In the early days of your relationship you may want to help each other out with little things such as:

  • Writing blog posts for each other
  • Quoting them in an article
  • Recommending them in your newsletters.

As the relationship, trust and credibility builds, it’s worth thinking about bigger things you can do together, such as:

  • Launching a joint service or product
  • Running a marketing event or campaign together
  • Systematically introducing all your new clients to them, with an easy incentive to use their services.

For example, I met Matt Bird of Relationology nearly a year ago. We have kept in contact and enjoyed many a gorgeous lunch together. It’s only now that we are bringing each other in to work on our mutual clients. However, we’ve helped each other out by jointly writing articles to be published in relevant trade press and our mutual blogs.


If you want your network to act as an unpaid sales force for you, then you will need to educate them as to how to spot a potential client, how much you value them doing this for you, and what to do next. How can your network physically see, hear, taste or even smell that someone needs your services? What are the sorts of comments that you will hear them say? 

For example, someone who may be ready to hire a trainer may say:

  • I’m getting regular requests for training in xxx
  • We’ve identified some training needs which need to be solved in order to achieve our goals
  • I’ve got a budget to invest in developing our people
  • Our people struggle to...and it is stopping us from achieving...

You also need to educate your network that giving you referrals is a good thing. Do this by saying thank you. You could:

  • Send them a handwritten note saying thank you
  • Give them a gift
  • Give them a referral in return
  • Buy them lunch or a drink
  • Offer them a spotter’s fee or commission split for any successful introductions or referrals. Be aware that some professionals may not either for ethical or regulatory reasons be able to accept a spotter’s fee or commission split.


It is possible to turn your network into a well-oiled marketing machine. However to do this you must not trust to luck and invest in systems and processes to help you use the SERVICE framework.

Heather Townsend helps professionals become the Go-To-Expert. She is the author of ‘The Go-To Expert’ and the award-winning and best seller, ‘The FT Guide To Business Networking’. Click here to get a free report with 9 top tips to help you become The Go-To-Expert and get your telephone ringing with clients coming to you

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Heather Townsend


Read more from Heather Townsend

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