Past clients and referrals give Terry Bennett Builders & Remodelers (TBBR) about half its projects, and “we take nothing for granted,” says Mary Bennett, vice president. Here's how the Westlake, Ohio, company keeps its word-of-mouth network strong:

Step one: Solicit referrals from past clients. Newsletters mailed two or three times a year feature a “Rewards for Your Referrals” notice that encourages clients to refer friends and colleagues. “For any referral resulting in a job, we'll send you a special gift to thank you for the gesture and the new business it brings to TBBR.” This is followed by a list of new clients and the clients who referred them.

Step two: Notify the client when their referral makes contact. TBBR personalizes a standard form letter into a short, friendly thank-you letter that promises the company will let past clients know if it is successful in establishing a remodeling agreement with the referral. The three owners sign the letter, and Bennett sometimes adds a short personal note as well.

Step three: Mail the reward. A second personalized form letter announces that the referrals have hired TBBR and adds, “Please accept this gift as a small token of our appreciation for your thoughtfulness.” The gift is usually a $50 gift certificate to the client's favorite restaurant.

“I call or e-mail and ask what they'd like,” Bennett says. Sometimes they resist, “but I always take care of them. We're grateful for every single call that comes into this office.” She adds that the company is working with GuildQuality ( to make its referral business even stronger.