When I started my business four years ago, I made plenty of mistakes early on. I did a lot of work for free, I didn’t value my time as much as I should, and I spent too much time ‘in’ the business instead of ‘on’ the business. Because, if you have a great network, work will fall in your net, right? I assumed that after working hard in my industry for 10 years, having made a tonne of executive connections, and doing lots of favours for my colleagues along the way, that people would naturally refer me when it came to going solo.

Cue crickets.

It turns out that most people, even if they like you and you do great work, won’t go out of their way to refer business to you. It takes a special kind of person to put energy into becoming your brand ambassador for free, time after time.

The MICRophone theory

In my first year of business, I attended a marketing conference in Sydney. My favourite speaker of the day was Chris Savage—a self-proclaimed “growth accelerator.” Chris was full of energy and passion, and gave me a big hit of confidence and motivation that I desperately needed at that time. I found him on LinkedIn and wrote him a note to thank him and explain how much his words meant to me.

To my surprise, Chris invited me for coffee to discuss my business. As we sat together talking at a cafe in Sydney, he asked me to name my five most important referrers—people who I could trust to be the metaphoric megaphones for my business. He called it the MICRophone theory (which stands for Most Important Client Referrers). And boy, has it served me well.

Find your MICRophones, treat them well

Who are the five people who are most likely to refer work to you? Can you write them down now?

Once you find your five MICROphones (who are often not who we expect them to be, by the way), treat them like gold. It’s not enough to simply thank them for referring you business in an email or text message.

Remember, your MICRophones are the most valuable tool for growing your business and their significance should not be understated. Referrals are the best way to win work (especially if you work in professional services), and it will often be your most profitable work too.

So, surprise and delight them with a gesture or gift that’s appropriate. Go out of your way to add value to their business, career or life where you can. Make sure that this small group (who probably don’t know each other) feel special, appreciated and valued. You may wish to create a nurturing program to drive this process within your business so that it doesn’t fall by the wayside.

Do this with flair, and your business will soar.