According to the Word of Mouth Marketing Association, two-thirds of all economic activity in the United States is influenced by shared opinions about a product, brand or service. Yet according to eMarketer — a website on digital marketing and media research and analysis — only 18 percent of businesses have a referral program in place.

While most of us inherently understand the benefits of having our clients refer their friends, family and colleagues, we fail to actively make it part of our marketing plan – and realize that earning and acquiring referrals requires a systematic approach. Here are three simple ideas to add a referral system to your business:

  1. Put “referrals” on your meeting agenda, so you don’t forget to address them – even just briefly in your client meetings.
  2. Answer the question, “Who cares?” When you describe your firm, make sure you’re talking in benefits, not offering a laundry list of services. Benefits affect people. Your proposed and perceived benefits are what is remembered and passed along.
  3. Schedule a referral appreciation event. This is an event only for those who have already introduced you to others during a specified period of time. It is in stark contrast to the often ineffective client appreciation events, where you hope your clients bring a friend and often don’t.

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Maribeth Kuzmeski is the founder of Red Zone Marketing LLC, which consults to Fortune 500 firms on strategic marketing planning and business growth. Kuzmeski has personally consulted with CEOs, entrepreneurs and professionals. For more information, go to www.redzonemarketing.com.