How to Build a Referral Program for Your Nutrition Consulting Business


Having a solid client base is one of the most important aspects of a sustainable business, and being active on social media will only take you so far toward building your consulting practice. That’s where referrals come in.

Any type of business thrives with robust referrals, but independent consultants can be especially reliant on word of mouth to be successful. Potential clients are much more likely to sign up for consulting if they’re given endorsement by a trusted friend or family member.

A recent National Harris Poll survey noted that more than 80 percent of Americans seek recommendations when making a purchase of any kind—from nutrition consulting to products. Of those who get referrals, 67 percent say they’re more likely to make a purchase if information is shared over social media or email.

The survey also noted that incentives matter: 88 percent of those polled wanted some type of reward—money, loyalty points, products, or services—for referring others to a company. That drive is even greater for younger people, with 95 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds seeking incentives for referrals. Among that age group, 92 percent seek recommendations when making purchases.

How can you harness the power of the referral system? Here are some tips on making it work for your nutrition consulting business:

Be Clear about Incentives

What will your existing clients get if they refer someone to your business? Will they be rewarded just for the referral, or will the reward kick in only if that referral results in a new client contract? People should know at a glance what’s involved, without having to read any fine print.

Decide in advance what you can offer in terms of incentives, and make those rewards meaningful and connected to your business. Examples might be a discount or free admission on your next nutrition workshop, a gift card to a local food co-op, or a 3-month subscription to a meal delivery service.

Keep an Email Database and Use It

Collecting client emails is a smart plan, but if you don’t use that for marketing, you’ll be missing out on significant opportunities. Consider running a regular email newsletter with content that your clients want—for example, sharing nutrition news, opinions about current food topics, recipe ideas, and other useful information. You can include referral incentives in that email, and then run a separate, referral-only promotion between newsletter blasts. That way, clients don’t feel like the only communication you send out is self-promotional. You can also use email automation to send out reminders about the program—there are free tools like MailChimp and MailerLite that make the process easy.

Download the Master Level Nutrition Consultant Program Guide

Make It Simple

The best referral programs are easy to use, and include a one-click tool that can be accessed from an email or website. The process should be very simple, and incentives should be granted quickly if not instantaneously. There are online tools and website plug-ins that can help you create this type of referral turnaround.

Run Limited-Time Offers for Referrals

Occasionally, invest in bigger incentives for a big referral push. This could be done a few times a year or quarterly—or whenever you feel that your client list is getting a bit too short. Keep the incentives related to your brand and focused on nutrition, but make them hard to pass up. Most of all, set a time limit for people to offer referrals, like within 24 hours or the next few days. Having a short deadline often helps people to act quicker.

Track Your Returns

In order to create a stronger referral program, you have to know what’s working and what’s not. You might run a co-op gift card incentive for a few weeks, then switch to a meal delivery subscription for a few weeks—then track which worked better. Notice if more referrals are coming in via email or through the website. The more you can dive into insights about how referrals are created, the more you can build on that success.

What are you waiting for? Time to get started using these tips to craft a referral program that drives new clients for your nutrition consulting business.

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