It’s well-known within referral organisations that the weekly/fortnightly meetings are a show for the visitors. In fact, the meetings are more than that… they are often the organisation’s only recruitment tool for new members. After all, there is only one pathway to becoming a member in these groups… you gotta be a visitor first.

But before you jump in the deep end and hand over the cash and join, pause and consider some of these lesser-known factors about referral groups. Knowing what to look for could save you a whole lot of heartache, money and time.

  1. Very Few Visitors in the Meeting

The number of visitors in the meeting is a function of the level of confidence the members have in the meeting and the results they derive from the referral system they’ve bought into.

If their confidence in these is high, they will proudly invite their network to show off the meeting.

Conversely, low visitor numbers often means the members have little or no confidence in the group and the results they are personally achieving are lacking.

Let’s face it, when members are proud to be part of a successful group, they are proud to invite their networks.

Additionally, groups that repeatedly have very few visitors are usually not long for this world.

As they say in the upper echelons of one of these referral organisations, “It’s easier to give birth than raise the dead.”

Yep… one large organisation uses this maxim as a growth strategy.

Its ethos is to put resources into launching new groups instead of helping the existing paying members who are struggling in failing groups.

Imagine what that does to the confidence the members have in the system, the meeting and their desire to bring visitors.

Look out for it and avoid it like the plague.

  1. Member Retention Rates Below 75%

There’s one organisation out there with an overall member retention rate of 30%. 

It means roughly two out of three members are not renewing their membership.

This indicates there is broad discontent within the group because the product they bought isn’t working for them.

Low retention rates also indicate the referrals exchanged between members are highly likely to be reactive – low grade, low value, unreliable.

You can’t build your business on those referrals.

If you’re looking for a group to join, make sure you ask about the retention rate.

If it’s less than 75%, think twice.

Let’s call a spade a spade… if a group is delivering value to its members, they will move heaven and earth to renew.

If the group doesn’t wish to disclose their member retention rate or doesn’t know it, run a mile.

  1. Low Member Activity Rates

Broadly speaking, referrals are generated in these groups because certain activities are undertaken enthusiastically by the members.

Healthy groups have healthy member activity levels and quality referrals are exchanged. Unhealthy ones, well… not so much.

If you’re a member of a group with overall low member activity levels and you are a highly active member, I’m sorry but your days in that group are likely to be limited.

Burnout is all too common amongst good people like yourselves.

You simply get sick of trying to build up the group when too few others are helping.

Alternatively, if you are considering joining a group, make sure you view the report indicating the activity levels of the members.

There should be one available that does not include member names.

If they have this report and are not willing to show it to you, run two miles.

If they don’t have this report, run three miles.

Contact me if you’d like to learn what else to look for in these reports.

Here’s the take away when it comes to receiving referrals…

In large part, it’s the activity levels of those around you that dictate how many referrals you receive.

  1. Clumsy President/Facilitator

Whether they like it or not, Presidents are the figureheads of the meetings. Consequently, they are representing the business interests of the members as all eyes will be upon them.

If they are clumsy, awkward, unprepared, unprofessional or un-whatever (you get the idea!) the members will soon, if they haven’t already, stop inviting their networks to the meetings.

Alternatively, charismatic, professional and engaging presidents can help fill a room full of visitors and confident members.

One of the common turning points for the health of a group is when the leadership team is changed.

Get a good one and it’s Champagne all round!

Get a dud and they’re running for the hills.

  1. High Absenteeism

If the members can’t be bothered showing up, how much business are they getting from the group?

High absenteeism is a significant indicator of poor group health.

To detect it, compare the number of members on the member trade sheet to the number in the room.

Healthy groups have 97% attendance. Yep, 97%!

  1. Your Natural Referral Partners Aren’t There

About 70% of any member’s referrals come from their Natural Referral Partners.

If they are not in the room, give that group a miss because you’ll be too hard to refer business to.

Hunt around for another group.

Contact me if you need to learn whom your Natural Referral Partners are.

  1. Unprepared/Disorganised Members

It’s amazing… they know when the meeting is, they know the agenda, they know they will have to speak.

Yet somehow they didn’t know or they weren’t told or they swapped with Jerry. OMG! Pull your fingers out and get organised!

Is this the group you want to be a member of?

  1. A Handful of Members are Receiving/Generating Referrals

At some point during most referral group meetings, a reckoning of who has contributed what for the last week/fortnight will occur.

Take notes during this agenda item as it can be very revealing.

Look for an even spread of givers and receivers.

If all the activity is centred around a few, run four miles.

If three or four members have no contributions run five miles.

  1. Too Many Referrals are Passed to Members of Other Groups within the Organisation

If the members of the group don’t refer to each other… what’s wrong with them?

  1. Small Groups

It happens, but it’s rare… some groups will flourish with small numbers.

Most will not. It’s the maths.

Here’s a large part of why they stay small…

Franchise owners are continually making small groups feel unsuccessful by repeatedly telling them they are too small.

The only advice they give these small groups to fix their problem is to invite more visitors.

But hang on, they’ve just been made to feel unsuccessful.

Who wants to invite their network to an unsuccessful group?

“Hi, I’m Barney. I’m part of a failing referral group. Would you like to attend one of our meetings?”


If you’re a member of a group in this situation, you could be a victim of, “It’s easier to give birth than to raise the dead.”


If you find a group that’s humming along, slap your money down and join if you can. There’s a lot of money to be made in these groups.

However, here is the sad fact…

Too few of these groups are delivering impressive results to their members. The primary indicator of this is low retention rates.

So don’t get stuck in one that isn’t delivering to its members.

Choose wisely.