Brian Le Mon
Brian Le Mon Founder & CEO at Ethical Outsourcing

Customer Acquisition

Has anyone tried a paid referral system to get new customers?

Hi Savvys,

I am looking at marketing avenues to increase my customer base.

AdWords and the like have been good cash vacuums but haven't resulted in any qualified leads due to the consulting nature of my business.

One thought I had was to offer a cash bonus for qualified referrals (% of contract value or something similar) and was wondering if anyone had tried this as a marketing tool and had success.

Top voted answer
Katherine MacPherson

Katherine MacPherson, Principal at

Hi Brian, 

Paid referrals are a great way of generating leads, but my first question would be what 'free' options have you explored? Do you have a strong call to action on your website - compelling lead generation opportunities for you to capture details of your prospective clients? Are you giving something away to compel people to find out more about you and your business?  Have you got strong testimonials to support the business results that you're already achieving for your customers? 

Paid referral systems are an excellent way of reaching new markets but I'm inclined to suggest that you look within your existing network first - not only will it save you some cash in the first instance, but your lead conversion will be higher. 

So what are you doing to add value to your existing and prospective customers to entice them? And what systems do you have in place to capture their details and turn them from 'interested' to 'sold'. 

If you're hell bent on going with a paid referral option, I'd recommend that you qualify the prospective audience base, and customise the message very clearly to meet their requirements. Savvy SME has recently launched a system that might suit you - my suggestion would be to test and measure any paid system, and understand the true value of a genuine referral. This will help you to determine what you're prepared to pay for them. 

I hope this has been helpful. 


Abhishek Agarwal

Abhishek Agarwal, SME Acquisitions Manager at Google

I guess it completely depends on your business vertical, product/service quality, after sales service and the incentive you providing to the refereral provider and receiver. As long as you focus on the product/service and the incentive is good it should work. Ecommerce sites do see additional sales from this channel and it's easy to implement as there are ready made softwares available.

Phil Joel

Phil Joel, Director at SavvySME

Hi Brian,

Katherine has made some great suggestions.

From my experience, in the consulting field, it's all about the network (many of the assignments I have won previously were never publicly advertised and the best ones were not competitive) so I would as much as possible build this up. Look at partnering with other consultants who provide complementary services to yourself. It may not open up new doors straight away but if you keep at it, I think you'll be well rewarded. In fact, there is a new website called Alliance Empire The founder Melinda Edwards is also on SavvySME and we're working on a package for Premium Members such as yourself to have access to systems such as these. Have a chat to Melinda. I'm sure she'll be able to help you.


Brian Le Mon

Brian Le Mon, Founder & CEO at Ethical Outsourcing

Top 10% Outsourcing

Hi Guys,


Thanks for your comments. We decided to go with a referral bonus scheme to try to get more actual value out of our advertising dollar.

It makes sense for me to try to expand my business case beyond my network and to do so more rapidly by using paid referrals.

It will probably also help that we can offer a substantial referral bonus for successful referrals which hopefully will generate a bit of interest.

Thanks again.


Gregory Ferrett

Gregory Ferrett, Editor at

Top 10% Selling Online

Hi Brian,

Referral programs are OK, and in my experience rarely produce good quality leads unless the referral is fresh and followed up almost immediately.

I have a referral program I offer to my clients which operated like this;

1. If they introduce me to a prospect I subsequently make a belly to belly pitch to I pay $50 regardless of the outcome

2. If the pitch is a success and they buy I pay an additional $150

The product I sell is a house device sold in the price range of $10,000 to $20,000 and I know I will close one in four of the the leads I sit so this is a cost of $87.50 per lead or $350 per closed deal or a maximum of 3.5% of the sale.

I have also set up displays in a number of retail shops where they get the same deal - but in these cases the reward is in product to the owner of the shop who wants the device installed in their home.

I also use proactive telemarketing. A bit more expensive but works awesomly well.

I (and others I know) have had a lot of success with Ashleigh Hoult at 'The PromoDonna' - a small boutique telemarketing company focusing on providing a service for micro to small businesses who sell B2B (not B2C). She is based in Frankston   0419 590 752  and mention my name. No, I do not get a fee for this.

You may recognise her name as she is a part time actor in Neighbours as well.

Hope this helps.

Greg Ferrett

Phil Joel

Phil Joel, Director at SavvySME

Hi Greg, Thank you for sharing some great ideas. Can I play devil's advocate for a minute? How does your referrer know that the lead turned into a paying customer and that you owe him $150? Is it based on just trust and relationship?