I think if you get a client from a referral, and the client turns out to be a good one, it doesn't matter how it affects your marketing . Unless it would have been a big coincidence, you weren't going to get that client through your own means anyway. As long as the referral bonus doesn't negate your incoming revenue, it's fine. Mind you I am a very small consultant so perhaps this only applies to my own situation.
The only issue to me is if the referral process itself is done in a cheap manner, like your referring party is acting like they are your representative and are, for lack of a better term, spamming potential clients on your behalf.
I disagree with the idea of rewarding just the referral and not the sale. The person referring the potential client might be motivated to do better filtering before they send you a referral if they know the big reward is if it turns into real revenue. Perhaps it would work to give a token of appreciation for the referral, and a high-value bonus if the referral becomes a revenue generator.
The 6th referral idea would be to have an escalating rate or value for the referral bonus for subsequent referrals from that same referrer. The mechanics of this are dependent on what kind of money you make and the level of cliehnt etc, I'm just speaking from the perceptvive of a small independant consulant. If the reward structure were fixed-fee, then I would say you need a multi-level structure of fixed fees for various services you provide. For example if the client just needs 3 computers installed in a small office, well, that's not a big engagement so the fee would be small. If the client needs consulting on how to deploy 100 servers into an existing infrasttrcture the fee would be pretty big - so some level of proportion is needed. If I get $50 for sending you $10,000 worth of business, that seems lame. But this gets complex potentially since each line of consulting business has it's own set of "small and big things". So, I personally would tend towards a directly proportional reward system - a percentage of net revenue (or net income, or whatever) for a period of time. This period should make the referrer feel well rewarded though so saying 1% of revenue for 3 months is probably kind of weak. I might say 3-5% for a year, or a certain fixed-fee minimum if the percentage's total was low. Remember, this business was not yours until this person referred them so it should be a generous reward. That's just my opinion.
Now when it comes to friends or close associates sending business to you - that's a bit more touchy since if you have a well-known referral system and don't use it with that friend, well, money is very divisive in nature and can cause tension. Pay the reward and ALSO buy the beer, that way the focus is off the reward and onto more enjoyable stuff.
BTW, mix a half glass of beer and a half glass of ginger ale together (called a Shanty) and you may just choose to never have a regular beer again But for those who feel this brings their manliness into question the easy solution is to just finish off the beer from the bottle or can right there, let out what roaring belch you can, and only THEN should you thoughtfully sip your new Shanty =P
Seriously though, Shanty's are awesome and this comes from a guy who also likes straight Guisness from the jug too.
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