Why Your Referral Network Isn’t Working – And What You Can Do About It


Building a successful referral network is like planting a garden. You can water it, give it sunlight, and still find that nothing grows. If you’re frustrated because your referral network isn’t bringing in the high-quality leads you need, you’re not alone. Many business owners face this issue, but the good news is there are concrete steps you can take to turn things around. Let's delve into why your referral network might not be working and what you can do to fix it.


1. Lack of Clear Communication


The Problem: One of the most common reasons your referral network might not be generating leads is due to a lack of clear communication. Your connections might not fully understand what you offer or who your ideal client is.


The Fix: To address this, make sure you clearly describe your services and the types of clients you best serve. Here are some specific strategies:


- Elevator Pitch: Develop a concise, compelling elevator pitch that explains exactly what you do and who you’re looking to help. This should be understandable both to those within your industry and laypeople alike.  You want this to resonate with people’s emotions around why you do what you do.  It should allow people to imagine their life better using your product or service.  Be sure to include this in a quick to read way in your online profiles and bios.  Use this everywhere once you have it right!


- Educational Content: Share content that educates your network about your business. This can be through blog posts, social media updates, activity feeds or even regular newsletters.  If your network is not using a collaboration platform that allows you to share updates privately while soliciting comments and feedback, then look for one that does.  


- One-on-One Meetings: Take the time to have individual conversations with key members of your network. During these meetings, explain in detail what you offer and who your ideal clients are.


When your network knows precisely how to refer you, they’ll be more effective in sending the right leads your way.


2. Not Building Genuine Relationships


The Problem: Another frequent issue is that your interactions may feel too transactional rather than relational. If people sense that you’re only interested in what they can do for you, they’re less likely to refer business to you.


The Fix: Focus on building genuine, meaningful relationships. Here’s how:


- Show Interest: Take an interest in the lives and businesses of your network connections. Ask them about their challenges and achievements. Show that you care about more than just getting referrals.


- Reciprocation: Be willing to offer help and referrals without expecting immediate returns. When people see you’re genuinely invested in their success, they’re more likely to return the favor.


- Consistency: Spend time regularly nurturing these relationships. Whether it’s through regular coffee meetups, phone calls, or even social media interactions, staying connected shows that you value them beyond just business.


Authentic relationships are the bedrock of a strong referral network.


3. Inconsistent Follow-Up


The Problem: Inconsistent follow-up is a major barrier to building a fruitful referral network. You might connect with someone at an event, but then fail to stay in touch, causing the relationship to fizzle out.


The Fix: Create a follow-up schedule to maintain and strengthen your connections. Here’s what you can do:


- Online Tools: Use a communication platform that lets you push out your profile to their social feeds to stay top of mind.  Try sharing content you write as an excuse to send them a personalized email.  Find an online platform that will assist you in writing useful unique content that you can share with people in your network.  Be sure to track your follow-ups.


- Regular Check-Ins: Schedule regular check-ins via email, phone calls, or coffee meetings. Even a short message can keep the relationship warm.


- After Events: Always follow up after networking events with a personalized message. Reference something you discussed to show you were paying attention.


Consistency in your follow-up efforts can keep your relationships alive and thriving.


4. Networking in the Wrong Places


The Problem: You might be spending time in groups or at events that don’t align with your business goals, which means you’re not connecting with the right people.


The Fix: Evaluate and choose the right networking opportunities. Here’s how:


- Identify Target Groups: Focus on groups or events that attract your ideal clients or potential referral partners. This could be industry-specific associations, local business groups, or online communities. 


- Quality Over Quantity: It’s better to attend a few high-quality events where you can make meaningful connections than to spread yourself too thin attending numerous low-impact gatherings.


- Feedback: Don’t hesitate to ask for feedback from trusted colleagues about which networking opportunities have worked best for them.


By being selective about where you invest your time, you’re more likely to meet people who can help grow your business.


5. Not Leveraging Technology


The Problem: Failing to use the right tools can make managing your referrals cumbersome and inefficient.


The Fix: Utilize technology to streamline your networking efforts and manage your referrals effectively. Consider these tools:


- CRM Systems: Tools like HubSpot or Salesforce can help you keep track of your contacts, follow-ups, and referral sources.


- Social Media: Platforms like LinkedIn are excellent for maintaining professional relationships and sharing valuable content.


- Networking Collaboration Apps: Applications like Start A Network can help you promote yourself along with relevant networking events and groups.  You can even showcase your talents by being a speaker.


Leveraging technology can ensure that no connection falls through the cracks and that you make the most out of your networking efforts.




While building a productive referral network takes time and effort, addressing these common issues can significantly improve your results. It’s about clear communication, building genuine relationships, consistent follow-up, choosing the right places to network, and leveraging technology to your advantage.


Remember, networking is more about the quality of your connections than the quantity. Stay patient, keep refining your approach, and soon, you’ll start seeing the benefits of a robust, well-functioning referral network. Your business will thank you for it.

Brian Botch

Building The Future of Community