Charles Gindele
Dial One Window Replacement Specialists
Santa Ana, Calif.
Big50 2004

We have something we call our Cooperative Marketing Program. Basically, if you're a past customer of ours and you refer someone to us, we'll pay you 2% of the job's purchase price.

I've seen other companies give gift certificates or a fixed amount of money, but our program has always worked for us. I've had customers who have really gone to work for me over the years. I've got a few who I've probably given over $10,000 in referral checks.

The biggest thing is formalizing it. We have our salespeople present them with the agreement, which is an actual form, when they make the sale. And we'll send various mailers throughout the year, reminding them of the program. We even up the referral fee to 5% during December, which is traditionally a slow month.

Annette Greco
Greco Remodelers
Manassas, Va.
Big50 2003

We have a referral card that we send along with the final thank-you letter. Some customers don't fill it out, but we ask everyone how they heard about us, so we can find out pretty quickly if a customer is a referral.

We send all of our referrers a handwritten thank-you note, along with a small token of our appreciation. Once we make a sale, we pay a $100 referral fee.

In the past, we've used things like gift certificates to local restaurants. The problem with those is that if the person has a bad meal or bad experience, it's out of our hands. Also, it can be hard to find a restaurant that everyone likes.

Jim Fisher
J. Fisher Construction
Fairfield, Calif.
Big50 1996

We do not reward for referrals. My feeling is, referrals are borne out of pride and trust. If you reward that monetarily, it cheapens it.

What I do, instead, is call up the referring party and personally thank them. Then, when the job is sold, I follow up, updating them and reinforcing my gratitude.

In the past, I've sent gifts, but they occasionally turned out to be something the client wasn't into. The phone call is a more personal approach. It better fits my personality.

John Quaregna, CR
Jay Cue Construction Co.
North Bergen, N.J.
Big50 1997

We reward both our customers and our employees for referrals. For most projects, we'll send the referring homeowner a custom-made card, thanking them for their business and the referral. We also tell them that if we can be of any further assistance, they shouldn't hesitate to contact us. If it's a larger job, we'll send a “Jay Cue package” along with the card — a nice fruit basket that includes company gear like cups and shirts.

We really encourage our employees to look for referrals. They all have business cards with them on site, so if a neighbor walks over during a job, our guys will hand them a card, show them the work, explain what we do. Then, when they get to the shop, they give us the information. If that homeowner ends up signing a contract with us, we typically give the employee a referral fee between 5% and 8%.

Dennis Allen
Allen Associates
Santa Barbara, Calif.
Big50 2001

We reward our senior and junior supervisors by tying their bonuses into a number of different factors that measure the happiness of clients. One of the things we pay attention to is the number of referrals they generate.

In addition, we acknowledge clients who make referrals by sending notes, making phone calls, and presenting them with gift certificates to nice restaurants in town. This keeps us in touch with them and acts as encouragement to them to continue to spread the word about us.