We all want other people to promote our businesses and to refer customers to us but do we reciprocate and recommend our supporters' businesses to our clients? Doing this often takes a conscious effort but after a while, it becomes second nature.

Any kind of recommendation or referral should be a two-way street if possible. Be clear about which businesses you would like to support and promote them accordingly. It might be quite formal, where you agree to distribute each other's promotional material or do joint advertising or marketing campaigns, or it might be a little more informal--when the opportunity arises you may promote your associates' businesses by word of mouth to your customers.

I have found that the more support I give to other people's businesses the more I get back in return. I don't do it for this reason, that's just an added bonus. I genuinely want to see these people succeed in what they do and if I can play a small role by referring business to them I will do so gladly.

I also encourage my staff to refer businesses wherever possible.

Just like asking your customers to tell their family and friends about what you do, imagine how many referrals will start coming your way if your business associates are doing the same thing. This really is the way of the future for building businesses as it is harder for advertising to make an impact and it is also getting more costly. Direct recommendations are perfect and they are free--the ideal marketing tool.

Think about the people who refer your business. Can you possibly be more active in promoting their businesses? Do it for the right reasons and enjoy the benefits. If you are not 100 percent sure what they actually do, ask them to come and tell you and your staff so you are completely informed.

Make a list of businesses you would like to promote. Keep their contact details close to the telephone and wherever possible refer them to your customers as your 'partner' businesses. Try to do this once per day, every day of the coming week, make it a positive habit.

Over the years I've found that one of the best ways for me to grow my business was to actively help others to grow theirs.