ICS Magazine

The Indirect Referral

August 2, 2007


It has been well documented in the cleaning service industry that one of the primary sources of increasing business in established companies is through referrals. Referrals can be divided into two general types: direct referrals and indirect referrals.



Direct referrals are when your company name and contact information are given to the potential client. This can come from satisfied customers, referral networks such as the IICRC, carpet retailers with whom you have established a working relationship, insurance claims representatives, and so forth.

The indirect referral is when the potential customer chooses your company over others due to certain criteria or credentials that they perceive separate you from all the others, such as when they choose you because, in your promotions, you display the local Better Business Bureau logo; the IICRC Certified Firm logo; the CRI Seal of Approval logo; a trade association logo; or a recognized franchise or trade group name or logo. Promoting these various affiliations and qualifications indicates to the inquiring consumer that someone besides you recognizes and recommends your particular business. Sometimes certain product manufacturers such as a carpet mill, upholstery fabricator, insurance company, or government agency will specify specific certifications, affiliations or other special qualifications right in their warranties, requests for proposals or other documentations.

It has been my experience that the value gained from these indirect referrals will often far exceed the costs of participating in the various programs that are out there and available.

In today’s marketplace, consumers are looking for ways to determine competence, reliability, and qualifications for specific requirements such as warranty compliance. The smart business manager does everything he or she can to include any and all of these various qualifications and credentials in every promotion or communication they offer. This indirect, or third-party, referral can be a powerful source of business, and is usually low in direct cost to the company.

It is very difficult to track the actual impact or value of some of these indirect referral sources since, when asked where they got your number, the consumer may say, “From the phone book,” when in reality the reason they selected you over the many other companies in the book is because of the IICRC logo, the BBB logo or something like that. In reality it is more about the calls you don’t get because you do not promote these various affiliations or credentials. For example, if a consumer reads in their carpet warranty that they are to have cleaning performed by an IICRC Certified Firm, and that consumer looks in the Yellow Pages for a company with the IICRC logo, or on the IICRC referral site for a qualified company, those that do not have that designation will never know that they missed out on a call or, more importantly, why they missed out.

Traditionally, the reason people have cleaning services performed has been determined by the visible appearance of soil. But recently, the reasons for cleaning have been shifting more toward cleaning for health and for warranty compliance. The traditional buying triggers of price and convenience are giving way to qualifications and credentials. It has been clearly apparent that consumers are willing to pay more for qualified services and peace of mind.

Don’t let opportunity slip by. Make sure you take advantage of every indirect referral opportunity available to you. When you say that your company provides high quality workmanship, it doesn’t carry the same selling power to the consumer as when a third party puts their stamp of recommendation on you. Watch for indirect referral opportunities; they are everywhere. If you liked this article, circle 159 on the Reader Inquiry Card.