9 Best Referral Lead Generation Sources by Industry
This article is part of a larger series on Sales Management.
A lead referral source is anyone who helps you with lead generation by recommending your business to someone. Referral leads are optimal because their interest is based on a recommendation from a trusted source. This increases the chances of converting them into paying customers and statistically representing higher customer lifetime value.
In this article, we explore industry-specific “centers of influence” you can use to generate successful referrals. We also share the tools you need to manage and maximize your referral lead generation sources. Below are nine centers of influence that make excellent sources for referral lead generation:
1. B2B Businesses
Business-to-business (B2B) companies deal with a wide range of professionals, suppliers, and vendors due to the nature of their business. One of the best centers of influence for this type of business is commercial loan officers, as these individuals provide business financing to various companies in terms of type and size.
B2B businesses can look to commercial loan officers for lead referrals as these individuals deal with an array of businesses from various industries. This creates referral lead generation opportunities for nearly any B2B product or service seller. Plus, the recommendations of loan officers are highly trusted because of the depth at which they work with and understand their clients’ operations.
For example, if your B2B business provides insurance products with great products for startup businesses, work on building and nurturing relationships with commercial loan officers. This could result in an instance where once a new business has been approved for financing, the agent recommends you for the startup’s insurance needs. This arrangement can work with businesses that provide products or services to other businesses.
2. IT Management Firms & Software Businesses
Information technology management firms often work with a network of other technology professionals, enabling them to generate quality referral leads from established connections—one of which is a technology consultant who manages or advises on cybersecurity, data management, equipment, and overall IT strategy.
For example, IT management firms and managed service providers (MSPs) typically use a subscription- or retainer-based model to overlook and monitor a business’ IT operations. When a technology consultant performs an evaluation or tech audit for their client, they could easily recommend an IT management firm to keep tabs and service the IT assets, creating referrals.
Pro tip: To introduce yourself and periodically touch base with your lead referral sources, use meeting scheduling software to streamline setting up meetings and syncing them with your calendar. Tools like Calendly make it easy to let others pick a convenient time and channel based on your availability, then automatically add the appointment to your calendar.
3. Real Estate Agents, Title Companies & Mortgage Lenders
In a real estate transaction between a seller and a buyer, several different types of businesses are involved, from finding houses to closing. This multi-party involvement creates a natural channel of real estate lead generation opportunities for all the service providers in the mix. These can include insurance agencies, mortgage lenders, home appraisers, handy services, home painters, landscapers, and many other home or real estate service businesses.
For example, buyers generally get loan pre-approval before shopping for a home, so mortgage lenders are a reliable referral source for real estate agents looking for buyer clients. Or, a client may approach a realtor who first recommends a mortgage lender to obtain a pre-approval amount and letter. A real estate agent may also recommend using a specific title company and agent to ensure a smooth transaction in terms of procuring title insurance and a clean title.
Pro tip: Buy your real estate leads with online platforms that give you a guaranteed number of exclusive buying and selling leads and tools for managing those leads. Market Leader, for instance, acts as a one-stop shop for real estate businesses to handle website development, lead generation, marketing automation, and client relationship management.
4. Health & Wellness Industry Providers
Health service providers include doctors, chiropractors, dentists, counselors, physical therapists, dieticians, and home healthcare services. Because they diagnose issues and offer specific treatment options, any business that sells health- or wellness-related products can use them for referral lead opportunities.
For instance, if you sell a back pain reliever, you could market your product to chiropractors as an option for patients who prefer natural remedies for back pain. Likewise, those offering physical therapy for post-surgery patients can build relationships with local surgeons and sports medicine facilities as a resource for patients who want those services.
On the flip side, health service professionals such as medical doctors, chiropractors, dentists, or dieticians can also bring in new patients from these connections. If an elderly person receives home healthcare services, a home healthcare provider could spot something needing specialized attention and refer the patient to a relevant professional.
Pro tip: Reputation is everything when you need to build lead referral sources. Podium enables you to better manage your online reputation by making it easy to send review surveys to your patients, clients, or customers. Reviews are analyzed to see which are the most effective and then added to Google, Facebook, and Yelp.
5. Digital Marketing, Content & Media Firms
Digital marketing services help businesses promote their offerings and gain brand exposure online. This could include anything from website development to social media content, online ads, email marketing, and search engine optimization (SEO). Because much of the work requires audio/visual or written content, those who develop these types of media as a service can look to them as a referral source and vice versa.
An example would be a digital marketing agency that manages SEO and keyword research for clients but refers work to an external SEO content writer to create the website copy or blog article. Another example is a marketing agency that writes social media content but has no in-house graphic artist. They can then reach out to a freelance artist and refer the work to them.
Pro tip: The back-and-forth revisions, feedback, and input commonly in digital marketing projects can be best managed using project management software. Popular tools like Trello make it easy for marketing and sales teams to collaborate with Kanban board views, drag-and-drop task progression, and communication tools, all located within the platform.
6. Appraisers, Contractors & Risk Management Consultants
Insurance is a financial and risk management solution that opens opportunities for insurance companies to refer leads to certain types of businesses. These include appraisers or anyone who provides valuations on the property because determining the value of something dictates how much insurance coverage needs to be purchased.
Other businesses that could obtain lead referrals from insurance companies include any type of services needed to make repairs following an event. Examples are different kinds of home or property contractors, from construction, renovation, and carpentry to plumbing. It could also include electrical, HVAC (heat, ventilation, and air conditioning), demolition and cleanup, or remediation businesses, and extends to auto repair and other companies.
In the event of an incident that caused a property loss, an insurance agent can help the client navigate the claim process and recommend firms to help rebuild or fix what was destroyed. For example, auto insurers often have a go-to list of preferred repair companies, requiring clients to obtain at least one quote from a preferred provider.
Pro tip: Get more referrals using a rewards-based customer referral program and manage it using referral management software. ReferralCandy, for instance, is software that lets you automatically distribute customer referral awards, track referral results, and prevent referral fraud.
7. Accountants, Payroll Processors & Financial Advisers
Financial advisers help individuals and businesses with financial planning and investment decisions. Many of these decisions tend to have tax implications, which is why accountants and tax preparation companies can rely on financial advisers as referral lead-generation sources.
This can also be flipped, where referral leads come from an accountant to the financial planner. For example, a client may build up a considerable amount in savings, and the accountant wants to see that money invested, so it earns more interest or offers tax benefits. Since clients place inherent trust in these types of professionals, their recommendations are often followed as a matter of course.
Furthermore, some financial advisers assist businesses in administering company retirement plans and employee benefits like group life insurance. Managing these benefits requires payroll deductions, usually handled by a payroll processor. This creates opportunities as anytime a new business is ready to offer benefits to employees, the adviser who will administer the benefits can refer the business to a payroll processor to manage payroll deductions.
8. Businesses That Serve Startups
Registered agents act as go-betweens to assist new businesses in properly registering with the state to get the licenses needed to sell their products or services. Because they are one of the first service providers a startup will use, registered agents are a solid lead source for businesses with products or services startups need.
Businesses that commonly serve startups include anything a company might need before opening its doors. For instance, a lawyer is often needed to generate or review lease agreements and master service contracts to help new businesses navigate the red tape. They are also helpful when a small business is transitioning during its early stages, such as going from a sole proprietorship to a limited liability corporation (LLC).
Likewise, real estate agents come in to help startups find and lease commercial business space or offices. Registered agents are a prime source for these types of businesses when seeking referrals. Anytime something comes up about a task the startup needs to complete, such as getting insurance or finding office space, the agent can be ready with a list of providers to help them.
9. Wholesale Businesses & Payment Processors
Payment processing companies provide businesses with solutions to accept payments, such as processing offline and online payments and setting up invoicing software and terminals. A payment processing company’s rep is often close with their customers and has an extensive network. Therefore, wholesale businesses that sell to retailers or provide food products, equipment, or supplies to restaurants find payment processors a solid source of referral leads.
Payment processing is a very competitive market, so it’s common for payment processors to pay for referrals—which is great for wholesalers that can provide them with referral leads. Established wholesale businesses can use this to form exclusive referral partnerships or earn rewards by referring their customers to a payment processing company.
General Lead Referral Sources
Getting leads from the right sources depends on which industry your business is in, as this dictates the stakeholders you regularly interact with. However, if your business doesn’t belong in the industries mentioned above or you’re simply looking for general sources of leads—look no further than your accountants.
Accountants providing bookkeeping and tax preparation services are a good general source for many different types of business referrals. They work with a wide variety of businesses, solopreneurs, and private individuals and have a fairly intimate understanding of their client’s financial situations and spending habits.
This knowledge and their role make them a trusted resource for recommending products or services clients can use to solve problems or save money. Accountants also traditionally have a broad network of connections due to the volume of recurring clients they take on. Hence, their expanded network as a whole can be useful as a referral lead generation source.
Why Are Centers of Influence Essential?
Depending on your business industry, certain types of professionals are a prime “center of influence” for your customer types and could be a long-term source for your lead referral program. They are a good source of referral leads due to the types of people they interact with.
In addition, their customers are more likely to ask for and trust their recommendations, and thus serve as a robust referral network. Referred leads are 30% more likely to convert and have a 16% higher average lifetime value than leads generated from other sources. Hence, having your sales reps and those in leadership roles connect with referral sources is part of a solid sales management strategy for lead generation.
Keep in mind that some of the referral scenarios above can also be reversed. For example, while a mortgage lender is a great referral source for a real estate agent or title company, real estate agents and title companies are also good referral sources for a mortgage broker. The same holds true for health services, digital marketing agencies, insurance agencies, and finance professionals.
Remember to make the relationship mutually beneficial for these centers of influence to encourage them to keep recommending potential customers your way. To do so, you can give them leads from your own customer base and act like a center of influence for them.
Referral lead generation is especially valuable because it leverages your existing network, and each lead that comes in is automatically qualified and more likely to become a customer. Depending on your business, there are likely to be several “centers of influence” you can tap for referral lead generation to make your sales cycle well-oiled and robust. These sources regularly interact with, are trusted by, and often make recommendations to your ideal customer types.