When it comes to expanding your client base, it’s all about who you know – and how you leverage those relationships.

Editor’s Note: Referrals continue to be a huge driver of FEC growth, so we’ve updated this popular classic for accuracy and comprehensiveness. Read on!

Direct marketing salespeople are taught to begin with their personal networks, which is why social platforms such as Facebook have become popular vehicles for startup promotion. Think about all the social media requests you get from your friends and family to join Marguerite’s Fabulash party or shop Lola’s pop up dress boutique.

It’s easy to write off this kind of referral business as something only suited for the smallest of companies when you’re inundated with “buy this stuff” messages on social media. But selling to the people you know is a critical step in building thriving sales within an organization. Uber, Paypal, and AirBnB are all huge companies that have active referral programs to help drive new customers.

For amusement facilities and FECs, the combined efforts of a strategic outbound sales effort, exceptional service that inspires guest loyalty and a strong referral business will set your facility up for success over the long term.

Here are three rules for implementing a well-rounded referral program at your facility:

Rule #1: Start at Home

Peer recommendations are considered the most trustworthy information source according to Nielson with 84% of consumers saying they trust recommendations from family and friends.

Now think about how many team members you have. Every one of those team members most likely has some sort of extended family—a mother, father, grandparents, siblings, or even children of their own—and they most likely attend work, church, school and community groups. That’s half a dozen leads for every team member—at least!

Your team members’ families are a natural source of support for your business. Families want each other to be successful, and if you’re a great leader, they’ll be empathetic to the success of your business as well. Are you effectively leveraging those existing relationships?

But you shouldn’t just expect team members to start selling to their networks. Asking each team member to write down five names of potential leads can feel intrusive and made team members uncomfortable.

Instead, consider implementing a referral challenge to entice your team to talk to their contacts about booking an event with you. In theory, this is as simple as giving them a referral card to hand out, but in practice you also have to give them the tools they need to be successful like you would any other sales person. They’ll need to know a bit about your attractions, your meeting spaces and audio/visual capabilities and food options, plus they’ll need to be able to articulate what’s great about your facility.

Now make it worth their while with incentives, praise and appreciation!

Rule #2: Show Off Your Space

Once you have potential new guests interested, it’s time to show off your facility with a Team Member Appreciation Event Showcase for your staff and their families. Flaunt all the benefits of your facility, toast your team members and introduce the Team Member Referral Challenge with specifics on how they can help their family member earn incentives and bonuses.

Remember to do plenty of onsite marketing during the event, such as hosting prize drawings and giving out goody bags with event collateral. Not only will you get leads for group events, but this should also help raise the tide in other areas, including additional birthday party bookings, future walk in traffic, enrollment in fitness classes and more. Posting pictures of your event on social media will generate good publicity in your community and will show off that you’re a venue that likes to have fun.

Rule #3: Offer Rebooking and Referral Event Bonuses

Be strategic by assessing the guest experience before, during and after any event. If you’re onsite while a group is at your park, check in with them a few times to make sure everything is going well. Thank them before they leave and start to show interest in planning their next event. Be sure to ask about their experience, how their goals have been met and how often they’d like to do something fun with their team. Have conversations about how to improve the event right then and there, and then follow up to help encourage them to come back.

You might also consider asking for referrals from those events directly. Just like with team members, this could include a referral bonus program or some other type of incentive. Bonus add-ons, extra game play or even future discounts can all be compelling offers. Just remember that the best incentive to getting rebooked events is offering an out-of-this-world experience.

Referral business is a big part of any sales organization, and these ideas are just the tip of a very large iceberg. What are your best tips for referral business? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter.

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