My Referral Key has somehow overtaken my inbox this week. I’ve had a dozen of these letter sample

While ReferralKey seems like a good idea, there are parts of it that just don’t work. Claire Diaz Ortiz has written a great post about Referral Key and suggests that she knows some ways to fix it. Essentially Referral Key allows people to pay you for referring them business.

Do you see what I just did there? I just referred you to a specialist in the field. I didn’t do that for Claire, I did that for you. The fatal flaw in Referral Key is that the payment is to the wrong person.

When someone calls or emails me needing a referral for a specialist in a certain field I almost never answer them immediately. The only time I answer immediately is if I am the expert or my brother is. Every other referral takes at least a few hours of thought. Here are just a few of the questions I’m asking myself before I refer you a friend:

  • Are they the most talented person I know in that field?
  • Would I want to work with this person I’m about to refer?
  • Would I want to work with the company that’s searching for someone?
  • Would they work well together?
  • What is my referrals work style and/or work ethic?
  • Do I care enough for the person who is asking to risk a relationship on them?

Most often I can come up with at least two names, but sometimes I can’t or won’t. Referrals are not something I give lightly and I would not be happy if you referred me a friend because they bought you an Omaha Steak.

8 thoughts on “My Referral Key”

  1. I’m getting a bunch of these too.  I’ve actually set up a rule in Outlook that permanently destroys any mention of these emails…I just don’t even want to see them.  Like you, I take referrals very seriously. They are the greatest of currencies and compliments, and I can’t hand them over to a MLM system so casually.

  2. I’ve also recently been inundated with Referral Key requests. After looking into online reviews (most hilariously here from Chris Reimer, I asked several of my friends who had sent me requests why they were using it. Two friends told me “I had no idea that connecting it with Linkedin would send out Referral Key requests to all of my first degree connections.” Right then, I decided this was social media #FAIL.

    Until it is proven trustworthy, I’m running far, far away from it. For now, the trusted referral sources are me, my trusted network, and (sometimes overlapping with trusted network), Linkedin connections.

    • Yes, we all saw the blog where the t-shirt guy, short on material, writes a 7 page smear piece about the new social media tool instead of just clicking “delete” on the invite  he got from people that know him. Real innovative! Rightfully, 90% of bloggers are interested in actually describing the new service so their readers can make an informed decision as to whether the new service could help them. Check out the news page on the site sometime and see what the majority of fact oriented people are saying. Rewards are just one of many features and we certainly aren’t advocating referring a trusted client to someone you don’t trust for a steak. It’s a user driven social media experience and there’s nothing inherently wrong with a “refer a friend” program which is why its used by trusted brands all over the world from Fortune 500 Banks to Mom & Pop stores. No one’s ever obligated to give a reward so it’s more of “Thank you” and less of a “fee”.Whether your son’s on the baseball team with his son, you do lunch together, or every year he sends you a Christmas card; if you aren’t referring people because you trust their services then that will damage your reputation whether you use RK for referrals or not. Rewards are just one of many proprietary features on the site. Tons of people use RK without setting a reward, if a reward isn’t your thing then don’t send one. 
      Thankfully, most bloggers realize what we are doing; trying to answer one of the most difficult questions in social media: “How can social media be used to drive actual referrals for small business service professionals.” Writing tons of content, friending people, and having thousands of followers is good for some businesses but studies show that for most who are not directly in the social media industry; it has very little affect on the number of qualified leads they generate. 

      So there’s the disconnect between social media gurus and small business folks. So called gurus want to keep pushing the same 3 solutions and say “Well if you just spend a few more hours a day writing this, and following that, and so on…. you’ll build your business with social media.” And busy business owners are like, “Ok I spent an afternoon following 500 people, how does that do anything to generate referrals for my accounting firm?”   

      Social media gurus would be wise to realize that its not 2005, not everyone is a professional blogger, and people want new stuff. Your elderly parents might be impressed that you can set up favicons on your blog but small business folks don’t want to hear it anymore. I take hundreds of calls a day  and they don’t want you to keep telling them to set up a business page on Facebook. They want you to do the investigative work and tell them about the features of new tools like RK so they can make real decisions, they don’t want you to complain about how one feature could be abused or talk about how they got some emails. 
      Maybe nobody was actually into social media but I remember distinctly getting tons of invites from today’s major social media sites before they hit critical mass. The problem is these bloggers jumped on the social bandwagon a few years ago and don’t remember a time when every site sent invites. For such opinionated innovators I doubt there’s not a single one of you that actually used the site. -Good Luck

  3. It seems like it could be a potentially useful service for small business owners and freelancers. Unfortunately, they make it a little to easy for their users to spam their friends and acquaintances. When used selectively, this could be a pretty amazing tool, though.

  4. The day after I signed up for Referral Key, my gmail account was hacked by a spammer.  It may have had nothing to do with my signing up for Referral Key, but I did use my gmail password during the sign-up.  I suspect either that Referral Key has itself been hacked, or they are selling passwords to a third party.


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