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5 Ways to Ask for a Referral

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Referrals are an important part of your marketing strategy. They build customer relationships, lower your customer acquisition costs, and it’s a great way to get new customers.

But is there a way to get customers or clients to consistently refer your business to friends and family? Simple. You just ask for them.

Most companies don’t ask for referrals because it looks like they’re asking for a favor. But think about the last time you referred a business to a friend or connection. You didn’t do it for the business. You did it because you had a great experience. Maybe the product changed your life, or the service was top class. You know it’ll benefit your friend or network connection so you refer them. 

But there’s an art to asking for a referral without sounding desperate or pushy. 

In this blog, I’m going to cover the right way to ask for a referral through different mediums. Follow these top tips and my template and you’ll consistently attract new business.

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    Friend excited at having got a deal through referrals

    Implement a Referral Program

    A referral program is a systematic approach to generating referrals. Unlike word-of-mouth marketing, you’re using referrals as an active part of your marketing strategy.

    The truth is, a word of mouth referral is a lot like getting invited to dinner. Sure, that’s one night you don’t have to worry about cooking but it’s not going to pay your bills or keep your lights on.

    You need to systemize your referral process.  If you don’t, you may ask for a referral from two or three customers, but there’s no guarantee that they’ll do it for you and no guarantee that you’ll consistently keep asking.

    So to be guaranteed a pool of new clients, you’ll need to build a program.

    Unlike other ways to ask for a referral where you only send a thank-you note or whatever, a referral program is built with rewards and incentives.

    Here’s the step-by-step process for building your own referral marketing program.

    Step 1: Offer a referral reward that your customers want.

    Think about it. What’s that one thing that your customers want? It might be a discount on their next purchase, a gift voucher, a freebie, or other rewards that buyers don’t typically get. It doesn’t have to be an expensive offer, but it should be something that your customers will find useful and valuable.

    Step 2: Clearly explain everything about the referral program.

    If you want your existing customers to participate in your referral marketing campaign, they’ll need to know how it works. What are the terms and conditions of the program? What are they going to get from it? How many referrals do they need to give in order to get an incentive?

    Focus on the what, why, and how of the referral program. Lay out all the information clearly on a landing page, or on whatever platform you’ll use to promote it. This clears up any confusion customers may have.

    Step 3: Promote the referral program to your network.

    Of course, people need to know that you’re launching a referral program, so you need to promote and advertise it. Think about all the channels your customer base and target market use. Are they on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram? Or do they typically use LinkedIn and other B2B platforms? You need to make sure that you’re reaching as many customers as possible.

    Earn money for referring a business

    Step 4: Track referring results.

    As you launch your referral program, make sure that you’ve set up your analytics. You need to know how many people are aware of the program, where they’ve seen your campaign, and how many are participating. Most importantly, track how many referrals you’re getting regularly. This will tell you if the campaign is effective, or if there are some areas that can be further improved or optimized.

    Step 5: Be consistent.

    As I said, your referral program is an active part of your strategy. Be consistent with it. Instead of acquiring new customers through other forms of marketing tactics, this is a much more cost-effective route.

    Here’s an example

    Hi {FIRST NAME},

    I’m X, just emailing because {personalize to why you like what they do}

    I’m (designation) for (company name with hyperlink), and this is exactly the kind of thing/product our members read/use and love too.

    So, I just wanted to see if there’s any chance for us to work with you?

    I’m not 100% what that would look like yet (sponsorship/partnership type stuff), but keen to see what’s possible.

    Would you have time to chat at some point? (email, dm’s, zoom, phone – whatever works for you)


    (Your name)


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    Request referrals when Onboarding New Clients or Customers

    There’s a misconception that you have to finish a transaction before you start asking for referrals. This is not true at all. It’s actually acceptable to ask for a referral even before a project starts or a customer buys from you.

    You can even use this email template as a reference. This is something you can send along with your quote or it’s a card you can give in person to the client.

    Mr./Mrs. Customer,

    I’m going to do a fantastic job for you, but I do need your help. Much of our new business comes from customers who refer us. This means we don’t need to pay for expensive advertising and can, as a result, keep our service costs down. Typically, we get about three referrals from new customers.

    When we complete the job, and you’re 100% satisfied with the work we’ve done, I’d really appreciate it if you could keep in mind three or more other people whom we could also help.

    Now why does this work?

    First, you’re direct about how you’re striving to provide awesome results so you can get great feedback and referrals in return.

    Second, this kind of communication builds trust. It puts your customer in power when they think a referral is only given once you’ve done a great job.

    And lastly, you’re creating an expectation of the number of referrals you’d like without being pushy. Simply put, it creates a win-win culture.

    Use Social Media to ask for referrals

    Referral marketing doesn’t happen on its own. It needs to be promoted and showcased in different marketing channels—and mainly, I’m talking about social media.

    There’s a huge chance your customer base can’t live without social media. And they retweet, share, and save all sorts of info on social media, so use this to your advantage.

    So how do you ask for referrals through social media?

    • Use the right social media channels: There’s a bunch of platforms to consider. Chances are Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are great places to start. But don’t underestimate the power of other platforms such as LinkedIn, Pinterest, and TikTok. Think about where your customers usually hang out and engage more often. Set up profiles on these platforms and start engaging with your customers. The bottom line is, use platforms that work best for your business.
    • Promote the referral program: If you’re not sharing about the program, how would your customers know? It’s best to regularly post about the referral program and promote its benefits to your followers. Or at the very least, put the link to the program in places where they can easily find it. For example, you can add it to your Twitter bio or IG story highlights.
    • Engage with your customers: And since social media is all about engagement, you can make the program effective and successful by thanking or rewarding them. Why do both of these work? First, everyone loves to be socially validated. Make your customers feel good about giving referrals by giving them public shout-outs or show your appreciation in other ways. Second, everyone loves a good deal. You can post a TikTok video, an IG reel, or a LinkedIn post about your referral program and tell all your followers about its perks.

    Manage podcast relationships to get referrals

    Podcasts might be an underrated way to ask for a referral for your business, but trust me, it works. There are over 2 million podcasts out there, and any podcast with an active audience can help you get maximum exposure.

    They also tend to be highly engaging mediums for spreading the good word about your business. Since podcasts are audio programs, listeners hang on to every word, making it effective for delivering messages.

    If you’re interested in asking for referrals through podcasts, think about the shows you want to be part of. And as you create a list of potential podcasts, consider these two things:

    • Reputation: People listen to podcasts because they love the host, and the nature of the program. So you need to think about reputable podcasts that can spread the word about your brand.
    • Target audience: Work with podcasts that have the same target audience as yours. This way you can reach more potential customers without all the leg work.

    So now, what are the next steps when asking for a referral on a podcast?

    1. Personalize your pitch: People know if your pitch is pre-templated or personalized. And, more likely, you’ll get a response if you choose the latter.

    2. Choose a topic you’d like to cover: Podcasts cover different topics per episode. So think about a topic you’d like to cover which is complementary to your referral program.

    3. Set your offer: Podcasts also need more coverage, so you might also offer to feature their episode, or better yet, incentivize them.

    Ask for a referral using email

    There are two different categories of referral channels: public and private.

    Email is private; and people like it because it offers a personal experience. So now, how can you use emails to ask for a referral?

    • Send emails to the right people: Referral emails don’t get sent to your entire list. It doesn’t work that way. Instead, you send them to your best customers—the raving fans—who already love your products and services.
    • Send emails at the right time: You’ve got it right. You send your referral emails to the right people, and at the right time. While this might be different for everyone, you’ll likely get a response and a referral right after someone makes a purchase.
    • Write your referral email:
      • An enticing and attention-grabbing subject line
      • An offer or incentive that’s too good to ignore
      • A clear call-to-action (CTA) that redirects them to join the referral marketing program or contact you
    Example of an email referral

    Asking for referrals - make it easy

    So as you can see, there are many ways of asking for a referral without sounding desperate. You can use your website, a direct mail.

    Building an effective referral program will massively benefit your company.  It’s important you choose and apply the most effective ways to ask for referrals. After you choose from the options I’ve given you, there’s the work of maintaining the program, tracking progress, and making improvements along the way.

    It might take some time, but as long as you’re constantly asking for referrals through the right channels, you’ll continuously be connected with potential customers.

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