Word of mouth is the gold standard of a thriving business. You want your customers to feel good enough about your brand that they regularly promote it to their peers.

Looking for a new way to generate new leads, bring in customers and grow your business? Learning how to get referrals from your existing customers can help your company bring in more clients and successfully scale.

There are many strategies focused on how to get referrals, and all of them start with putting your customers first and creating a brand worth talking about.

To get referrals from your customers, follow these eight steps:

Let’s explore these eight proven framework steps that outline how to get more referrals.

Referral Rock How To Get Referrals


How to get business referrals: The framework

We’ve gathered 55+ specific strategies that can drive customer referrals, all organized into eight core framework steps.

  • It’s best to start at the top of the framework, and focus on your story, customer service, and products first.
  • Then, move through the other steps in any order you’d like. Even optimizing just one or two areas can generate more customer referrals and word-of-mouth.
  • Inside each step of the framework, we’ve listed many strategies, examples, and effective tactics to get more client referrals. They’re meant as inspiration.
  • You don’t have to use all the strategies, and they may not all apply to your brand.

Step 1: Establish your story and brand

Your business has a story, whether you or your customers are telling it. It’s important for you to influence how you want your story told. Marketing can do a lot here, but how your team relates to customers is a crucial influence in how a customer feels about your company.

Jump to examples of how to get more referrals through your story and brand.

Step 2: Improve customer service

Now that your team is aligned with your story and brand, offering great customer service falls into line naturally. Customers remember the service they received, and your service alone can get people talking.

Jump to examples of how customer service and customer experience can help you get more customer referrals.

Step 3: Offer exceptional products

Your product (or service you offer, in the case of a service business) is what your customer is paying for. It’s the benefit your customer is getting by working with your business. Make sure it’s exceptional.

People refer products and services when your product delivers on its promises. They’ll talk about you even more when your product exceeds their expectations.

Jump to examples of how to get  more referrals through a focus on product.

Step 4: Give value

Value is how your product benefits your customer vs. what it costs them. The value metric isn’t solely tied to money (even though that’s still the dominant factor). Time is also a valuable factor in this equation.

Thus, you don’t have to be the cheapest product in town (although great deals are worth talking about). Saving customers time and making your business more convenient to work with propels word of mouth.

Jump to examples of how value can help you get more customer referrals.

Step 5: Manage your reputation

Customers often talk about the experiences they have with brands. By making sure your reputation is solid, you are building a strong and trusting foundation for those customers to refer and new customers to join your network. This includes both cultivating genuine, positive reviews, and knowing how to turn negative comments around.

Jump to examples of how to get more referrals by managing your reputation.

Step 6: Expand your network

Customers aren’t the only ones that can give you a referral. Expanding your network can further guide your business into new unexplored channels and build your name within your niche.

Develop real relationships with people in your industry and find interests in common. When genuine, organic, and trusted, these business relationships can help send you great customer referrals.

Jump to examples of how you can expand your network to get more customer referrals.

Step 7: Ask for referrals

Sometimes, even with the other steps in place, customers still need a gentle reminder to refer their peers.

Asking for a referral can add to the flow of new customers. You don’t have to be pushy about it – asking for a referral can be done in a natural way.

Jump to examples of how asking can get you more customer referrals.

Step 8: Start reward-based programs

Reward-based programs are an additional layer on top you can use to drive referrals. Yes, this involves paying to reward advocates, but these types of programs can scale and add a layer on top of all your other efforts.

Types of advocacy reward programs include:

Jump to examples of how to get more referrals by starting incentive-based programs.

We’ve covered all the core steps of this customer referral framework. Now, let’s take a deep dive into strategies that fall within each framework step.

Step 1: Establish your story and brand

Everything your company does tells a story and establishes your brand. It’s important to be intentional about it.

A business with a strong story is easily able to resonate with its customers. Whether that’s a strong belief or having exceptional values that shine through, your story or brand is what will draw people in.

Think of social currency – people share what makes them look good. If you set yourself up to be interesting and relevant, a consumer will feel more confident about sharing you. They will contribute something to their friends that is worth talking about, making them – and you – look good in the process.

Here’s how to get referrals by establishing your story.

1. Tell your story

To tie everything together, you have to tell your story first. People love hearing about how things started and came to be. And, by nature, people are storytellers. Often, it’s the stories they hear that will translate into the conversations they will use to tell their friends about you.

For some inspiration, check out how Warby Parker shares the story of their founding.

warby parker brand story

2. Align with your customers’ values

What do your customers value? Do they value transparency? Sustainability?

Ideally, your brand should share those values – at the very least, you shouldn’t directly contradict them.

Once you have established your story and brand, people will expect you to stay consistent with these values in everything you say and do. Constantly delivering on what you promised allows you to stay consistent with their individual values.

how everlane lives up to their customers' values

Everlane shares how they live up to their customers’ values of sustainability and ethical apparel manufacturing. 

3. Stimulate customers’ emotions

Creating emotion is key in sharing your story. Think of companies that fought through turmoil and made it out on top. Or, a business that started because someone had a dream or vision of helping a specific cause (like TOMS was founded on the premise of giving quality shoes to children in need).


These types of instances tug at people’s heartstrings. And people are more likely to talk about a brand to their friends if that brand has a good backstory. People share the things that make them happy or upset (think of any viral video online – it probably plays with your emotions in one way or another).

4. Share behind the scenes

People value companies that are transparent with them. Honesty can help you build both confidence and trust within your customers. Many customers will come to respect you for being open with them.

Sharing what goes on behind the scenes – or even owning up to a mistake – can actually give you a leg up in the trust department. This also shows customers you respect them. As a result, they’ll return the favor and continue to have your back.

Shutterfly, the popular online photo printing service often allows cameras to go behind the scenes. They have done numerous news interviews and tours in local cities that are home to their warehouses.


By allowing people to come ‘in’ they are building their reputation with their communities, as well as allowing customers to see their operations. Many people find this both interesting and welcoming, leaving customers to feel good about their choice to buy Shutterfly products.

5. Provide unique content

Whether you have a blog, vlog, or social media pages, you may find that sharing quick tips and tricks, unique perspectives, insider knowledge, or other relevant information can be beneficial to your customers. You may even find that your customers will share your posts with others in their circle. This can result in your name getting out there, and possibly funnel more new customers your way.

For example, when a DIY art studio shares a tutorial of an easy holiday craft on social media, a teacher who happens to be a customer of the studio may share the tutorial with other teachers at his school.

redted art tutorial


Creating content is an easy way to dive into even more channels. You never know who might be researching what you have to offer. And if you offer advice or have content relating to your field, you’ll be even easier to find and you can better establish yourself within your industry.

If your clients are from the same industry, you can write a useful industry trend on a paper, create a blog post on how to deal with recent regulatory changes, host a Q&A session targeting new businesses, or invite referrals to a free webinar.

6. Create fun or informative visuals

It’s no secret that people share things that make them look good, smart, or funny. Therefore, people like sharing videos and infographics. If you create visuals that benefit the customer in some way, whether they’re helpful or entertaining, it’s likely that they’ll get shared.

This is a customer indirectly referring you. They approve of your message, and are passing it along – with your name attached!

science behind infographics


7. Develop a weekly email newsletter

There is no better way to stay top of mind than by sending regular email newsletters to your existing clients. Plus, if they are helpful or insightful, you can provide an even better customer experience for everyone.

Keep the amount of newsletters at a reasonable rate (especially if you are sending other types of email campaigns). You want to provide insight and value to your customers, without having every email trashed as soon as it hits their inbox.

By keeping content in newsletters interesting and helpful, as well as not over-sending, you can provide customer service on a more passive, yet still appreciated, level. All of this lays down a strong foundation of trust and creates loyal and referring customers.

Verbcast newsletter

8. Focus on your brand awareness

Pinpointing the best ways to increase your brand awareness can help you build loyal customers, increase repeat sales, and create a lasting impression.

The more recognition you have in your niche, the more effective you’ll be at building a solid story for yourself. Some ways to do this are:

  • Be entertaining
  • Share your knowledge
  • Jump on industry trends

Step 2: Improve customer service and support

Satisfying your customers can help you develop a large and reliable customer base. It can also help strengthen the pool of customers you can count on for repeat purchases.

By providing a great customer experience and enhancing customer loyalty, you increase your chances of referrals. This service provides customers with fuel to tell others about you, as it creates a story that customers can share.

As statistics show, businesses that go above and beyond a consumer’s expectations tend to be backed by an army of loyal customers. When it comes to making a purchase, 64% of people find customer experience more important than price.

The most significant source of genuine and long-term referrals is by providing excellent services, above and beyond what your competitors offer.

Here are some ways to amp up your customer service that will help you increase customer referrals.

1. Make it personal

We are in the day of automation. You probably have all the tools you need to make interactions personal, and people are counting on it.

Adding personalization in conversations, whether they’re via phone call, face to face, or in-app, is essential. Just by using a customer’s name or mentioning their interests, you can build your relationship with them, and that can translate to more customer referrals down the line. Opening your world to relationship marketing, in this sense, can be beneficial.

visme personalized email

2. Provide support on multiple channels

Customer service isn’t just how you go about talking to individuals. It’s how you offer to help.

Great support can come in many forms. If your business is big enough, you may even have a dedicated team. Regardless of size, you’ll find that all the best businesses of today are offering support through multiple channels, such as:

  • In-app chat
  • Phone support
  • Knowledgebase articles
  • Blogs
  • Video meetings
  • Tutorials
  • Demos
  • FAQs

Stellar service can carry you a long way. It can help you fill in the gaps and provide a better experience, even if your product is still new or up and coming.

3. Ask customers for feedback

In order to be a customer-centric business, you may need to find out how customers think you’re doing.

This might not seem like a direct way to get a referral, but if you can find solutions to common concerns, you have a clear way to make customers happy. And if you go above and beyond expectations, you may just see some referrals.

Remember, a customer who is satisfied but not blown away by your service might stay loyal, but they probably won’t go out of their way to recommend you.

shopify feedback email

4. Surprise your customers

People like to be surprised, to get better-than-expected care, or to receive a simple token of appreciation. Delivering something more and maybe even a little surprising is a great way to encourage customers to speak positively about your brand.

One example is how cold-pressed juice brand Suja Juice searched common hashtags to find people who were having a bad day and could use a pick-me-up. They then mailed out boxes of their juices to these people as a surprise. Some of these people were so delighted by this pick-me-up that they couldn’t help but thank Suja Juice on social media (earning the brand a valuable share).

suja surprise


5. Thank your customers

A simple “thank you,” can do so much for your brand. Regardless of how you do it – be it email, a phone call, a letter, or public recognition on your social sites – the important thing is to thank customers, especially those who are already talking about your brand.

People will appreciate this thanks, and your business, even more. You might even spark them to keep sharing, and you might get others to join in too. People love feeling appreciated.

dog with chewy thank you note

6. Keep your customers in the loop

Stay in touch with your customers by sending them a quick email (possibly with a coupon or sale inside). This will help them stay in tune with your business and perhaps encourage them to purchase again.

You can also send them updates regarding your business. People like to be in the know, especially when it comes to learning about new products and your vision. Engaging with customers online is a great and easy solution. You can provide quick email updates and blast it out for all to see at their own leisure.

And when customers are in the know, they like to share the knowledge. For instance, think of when Bath and Body Works has a sale, or when Kohl’s is giving out Kohl’s cash – you might have a friend or family member that fills you in.

omsom brand update: how to get referrals

7. Look for opportunities to go above and beyond

Make customers feel special with an above-and-beyond experience, whether that involves letting them in on a ‘secret,’ or by just offering your best customer service. You may even find that sending or giving a special gift can create an eager and pleased customer (and that can create a story to tell).

For example, Chewy.com, a popular pet care and supply website, has a few feel-good stories floating on the web.

One that comes to mind is a story of a repeat customer who received their subscription paid pet’s food as expected. But the pet had passed away before they were able to open the bag. So, the customer called Chewy to explain. Chewy issued a refund and told them to donate the food instead of sending it back. Then Chewy went above and beyond – they sent the customer condolence flowers.

Stories like this create customer loyalty – and draw people to continue shopping and supporting the brand.


Step 3: Make your product stand out

Once you have your customer service in check, you’ll be able to focus more on your product.

Does your product accomplish something unique or solve a need in a simpler or more intuitive way than others on the market? Most importantly, does it take away a pain point that the customer might have?

A business with a good product is able to fulfill a customer’s needs and wants. Zoom developed their product to achieve all that is mentioned above.


How to get more referrals using your product? Your product should meet the following conditions to drive more referrals:

1. Exceed expectations

Your product has to stand out to get customer referrals, especially if you’re in a crowded market. If your product or service works better, is easier to use, or does something a little extra, you may be able to exceed customer expectations, and move yourself into ‘you gotta try this’ territory.

2. Satisfy existing customers

A happy customer is likely to develop better relations with you. You must delight the customer to win their loyalty, both by providing good customer service and having a good product.

Jeff Thull, President and CEO of Prime Resource Group and author recommends that you ask yourself the following:

  • Do your customers enjoy their interactions with you?
  • Do you listen to your customers enough to understand their problems?
  • Do your clients believe you are providing professional guidance?
  • Are your clients sure that your products and services will meet the required standards?

3. Create a trigger that makes you memorable

Link your brand or product to ideas or environmental factors. That way people may talk about you in a broader sense, aside from just what you “do.”

LiveChat advises, “Design products that are often triggered by the environment and create new triggers by linking your products and ideas to prevalent cues in that environment.” Think of how Corona beer is associated with the beach, and Oreo as “Milk’s Favorite Cookie.”

oreo milk's favorite cookie

If people remember you thanks to those triggers, they just might talk about you. That is an easy way to have a successful referral program.

4. Be creative and innovative

By being innovative in your segment, and by having original ideas, you may push yourself ahead of your competition. You can try doing this by offering a new or specific product, using an unusual marketing idea, or even by having a creative company culture.

You’ll want to draw attention to yourself, in good ways. By being unique, you can do just that.

death wish coffee

Death Wish Coffee focuses on the depth and strength of their brews, and has even trademarked the phrase “the world’s strongest coffee.” This is unique in a market that focus on smoother brews.

5. Set benchmarks in your industry

Get your clients to trust you by showing them that you have knowledge on the subject, and maybe even solutions to their problems that are slightly beyond your direct product capabilities.

This does require a certain level of effort, but the long-term benefits will outweigh the effort. When your brand becomes a thought leader in your segment, word of mouth will soon appear.

6. Honor your product/service promise

If you say you’re going to do something or offer something, follow through with it. Consistent alignment with your messaging is vital. If you say you’re the fastest landing page builder, for example, then your product and service should reflect that.

By living up to your promises, you exude trust and that helps build word of mouth down the line.

You may find that getting customer feedback can help you move your product forward, while still offering exactly what your customers want and keeping your promises. Good NPS software can help you get and decipher feedback.

Step 4: Give value to get referrals

Businesses that offer something of value deliver a great return for the user, better than what the cost is. They leave the customer feeling like they would choose to pay more for the service if asked.

If you establish your value with a few people, they will share the experience with friends. Many people know that sharing valuable information makes them valuable, too. Great customer service in addition to a great product can help you up to your value on top of offering something for a good deal.

Take Southwest, for example – their customers rave about their value. No, they aren’t considered the luxury airline, but for their price point and the level of customer service they offer, they make customers happy. And those happy customers share their experiences with others.

southwest transfarency

Here are some ways to instill value into your brand, and build referrals.

1. Be generous with your clients

Being generous is one of the most underrated things you can do in your business.

Whether you’re giving “extra work” that is outside of the scope of your agreement, or sending a small gift to your clients as a gesture of appreciation, generosity can go a long way.

You could also send a card on their birthday or during the holiday season, especially if you write a personalized note on it and you invest in good quality materials.

Go the extra mile with your current clients and they will want to give back to you in any way they know how. It’s human nature. It’s the power of reciprocity.

2. Leave something on the table

You’ll want to keep wanting more. Better yet, you’ll want to create something that keeps people coming back, time and time again. CrossFit is a great example of this. This type of workout has been driven by the immense support of adopters.


In fact, you’ll know a CrossFitter when you see them because they will likely let you know they do it. Whether it be by talking about it or wearing some CrossFit merch, people swear by it. Best of all, many people who CrossFit can do so within the comfort of their own home. Though, most CrossFit gyms can attest that customers love meeting up to work out together too.

This sort of community has taken a practical approach to the gym world, and as a result, is booming in popularity worldwide. They corporation doesn’t often have to do too much marketing. In fact, they just mention a meetup or new routine, and the word of mouth about it spreads organically – because people are wanting to stay in the know.

3. Align your pricing and packaging around value

Value-based pricing allows you to price your product at what the consumer thinks it’s worth. Even better is if you offer different packages – which allows consumers to pick which package deal makes the most sense for them.

Take a SaaS business, for example – a customer might not need to use every single piece of the tool being offered, so instead of paying full price, they pay a lesser price for just a portion of the tool.

Canva, a design and layout editing tool offers everything from a free version to a pro plan (and enterprise beyond that). This way, they can offer the tool and limited functionality to users who may only need light use of the tool, but also offer a little more to paying customers.

Customers from each category like the tool so much, they often share their experience with others. And a non-paying customer can easily refer a potential paying customer, because the tool is priced to be valuable for all.

4. Give discounts and refunds with little friction if warranted

Think of Amazon Prime. Before Prime, Amazon was already a popular online shopping option. But with Prime, they have become even more irresistible. Why? They offer special shipping, they save time, and they are just super convenient.

They’ve also made return shipping a breeze. By offering easy shipping methods and locations, they have beat the market and become the first choice for many shoppers.

Step 5: Manage your brand reputation

A stellar review can act as a referral in itself. When someone is looking for a new product or service, they would likely prefer visiting a store recommended to them by a friend.

Thus, when a customer gives you a five-star review, more new customers are going to gain confidence in your business and eventually become loyal, evangelizing customers.

A good reputation management tool can help you manage your brand across multiple review sites and platforms. Here are more reputation management strategies:

1. Manage reviews and work to reverse negative feedback

The reviews you have can encourage a sale… but several negative reviews may cause people to look elsewhere.

With that being said, knowing how to turn negative comments around can be quite beneficial to your business. Remember, users often talk about the experiences they have with others, good or bad.

If someone shared a bad experience, adopting reputation management strategies to reverse the situation becomes urgent and necessary. This could also turn the situation into a positive review, or even a referral.

Managing your online reputation is a must. It’s up to your brand to be aware of what is being said, and to do damage control if necessary.

example of response to negative review


2. Manage your reputation on Google

Most businesses can be found via a quick Google search. And many businesses’ search results will yield reviews. Therefore, claiming and updating the information listed on your Google My Business page is beneficial. Plus, you can host reviews there!

As you can see, a simple Google search for a nearby dog groomer will show some of the top picks, as well as their reviews and overall rating. So if you aren’t doing damage control, you may not make a great impression (or even make it to the snippets).

petsmart services

3. Manage reviews on major sites like Yelp

Many third-party sites provide reviews and insight to future customers. Yelp is one of the big ones. In fact, many people still go directly to Yelp to do a quick service business comparison.

So make sure your name looks good on Yelp, and on any review sites relevant to your industry. Otherwise, a bad review (that you might not know about) may live there and prevent potential customers from checking you out.

4. Manage and claim your profiles on social media

Building your profile on social platforms can help you further execute your brand message. Plus, it’s a good thing to be where your customers are.

Yu can easily connect with a ton of potential customers – of all ages – on social media, whether you’re B2B or B2C. But, you have to provide them with all the tools to connect with you. Social media drives word of mouth.

So, build up your profile to be branded and helpful as possible:

  • Use a branded image for your feature or cover image
  • Make sure your company name is your Twitter handle/ Facebook name
  • Use the same protocol (as you would with in-app chat) when talking to customers via direct message
  • Make sure you link to your website
  • Use your company logo as your profile picture


With Twitter, brands (of all sizes) can easily get into conversations and be discovered. Twitter can help you learn what’s going on in your niche, as well as provide you a platform to talk about it (with others who are actually interested).

“Twitter lets you have an open conversation with your prospects and leads”, as mentioned in this article by Statusbrew.

As you can see, retweets are simple and effective. Plus, they yield further communication and connection – helping you increase your network!


Easy Twitter tips:

  • Use relevant hashtags, but don’t overdo it
  • Try to tag your sources and give shout outs
  • Be sure to follow people back (your business profile should seem well engaged)
  • Your business Twitter page’s handle should be your business name
  • Twitter works best when you are active – so be sure to share, retweet, and post often
  • Post visuals to increase engagement
  • Share at the right time. According to Buddymedia’s study, “apparently no industry has users that are engaged on Mondays or Tuesdays.”


This platform is more networking-heavy than other social platforms. However, tagging relevant people in the content you share can help you broaden your network, and maybe even develop some new partnerships. Because of this, it has great potential to promote your business!

And if you create a company page, your employees can then become ambassadors of sorts – and your name is essentially shared with their network.

Quick LinkedIn tips:

  • Give shout-outs when relevant
  • Be sure to make connections: If you tag them, add them as a friend too
  • Use notification suggestions: LinkedIn will alert you of work anniversaries, new positions of your contacts, and birthdays, and will provide you a quick response message
  • Post relevant content that your business produces


Like the other social platforms mentioned, Facebook is a great tool for lead generation and building brand awareness. With just a little work you can gain momentum for free, or speed it up with paid Facebook ads.

The biggest advantage of Facebook is that a wide variety of people often search for recommendations from friends and groups they are in on the platform. By having a business profile set up, you can easily be shared or recommended.

And people can even use the search bar to find businesses near you (just like a Google search) and filter by places their friends have visited.

You also have a way to share great content and answer customer inquiries. So, it’s a win all around.

Simple Facebook tips:

  • Fill out all your “About Me” section: People want to know how to reach you and when you’re open
  • Add your story to the “Our Story” section: Gives some additional insight into your branding and image
  • Be sure to like other business pages too (especially partner pages and those you have mentioned in your content)
  • Share visuals: This will help you stand out when new content is shared
  • Claim your vanity URL: Get rid of that random number you’re automatically assigned
  • Be as responsive as possible and get yourself the “Very responsive” badge
  • Add a CTA that jumps to a specific part of your website
  • Share at the right time

Buffer found engagement rates are 18% higher on Thursdays and Fridays: “The less people want to be at work, the more they are on Facebook!”

Step 6: Expand your network and reach

Make friends, help out others, and support other businesses. You’ll find that this is an easy recipe for expanding your customer base.

As you expand your referral network, you are deepening your roots into other territories. Meaning, you’ll likely expand your network of people who are willing to vouch for you. Fortunately, there are a ton of ways to expand your network and develop referable relationships. Here are several tips:

1. Share your client bucket list

Every business has its goals. It is time to make that list of companies you would love to work with. Make inquiries from your clients about their experience with that company. It is possible to find a match and secure new clients that easily.

2. Partner up with other service providers

Seek partnership with companies that provide complementary services for referral programs. For example, professionals with bookkeeping practices might team up with accountants to promote their services, as well as offer discounted prices for every referral client.

3. Create a list of buyers you want to work with

Check out possible buyers’ LinkedIn profiles to see whether you’re connected in any way. If so, reach out to them via your network – whether it’s an individual, a company, or a group.

4. Treat your clients as partners

Let customers know you view them as a strategic partner, and tell them you hope they’ll do the same with you. Create referral partnerships to establish other formal channels to share referrals.

5. Take advantage of LinkedIn outreach

Use LinkedIn’s Advanced Peoples Search feature to improve your odds of success instead of searching blindly. It saves you time to make a sit down with a customer to tell them about the connection. LinkedIn is the best source of second-degree connections for specific keywords, locations, industries, etc., so it is easy to find a reliable referral candidate to give to your customer.

6. Join a referral networking group

Business networking groups are where local business owners gather once a week or so to practice their elevator pitch, socialize, learn a new skill, and give each other referrals. It can be time-consuming, but it’s one of the best ways of generating referrals without really having to ask. Use Meetup to find a group near you.

Remember, it’s not just about you. So share your wealth (and network) with others too!

7. Engage in their work

You can show your clients that you sincerely care about them by commenting on their Facebook status or blog, championing one of their causes or new products, mentioning problems that you notice (like their website not loading quickly enough), or backing their Kickstarter campaign.

8. Spread knowledge in your industry’s community

Consumers are 43% more likely to buy a new product when they learn about it through social media.  By becoming a trusted resource in your industry, you can provide people with knowledge in your field. They can then use that knowledge to make better and more informed decisions. And when a customer feels confident, they are more likely to share that knowledge with friends, family members, and colleagues.

9. Find your best brand evangelists

The process of evangelization is all about finding out who the natural ambassadors and promoters of your brand are. They are the people who are knowledgeable in your field, and who already use your type of product. They may even admire your product specifically. All of this makes it easy for you to engage with them and encourage them to spread the word about you.

Finding these evangelists is important because they have an influential pull in your market. They usually have a high power of persuasion with their audience and following, and that can be great for your business.

10. Form different online and offline communities

An inexpensive way to increase visibility and reach is to create a community or communities of common interest. By creating such platforms, you are enabling people to talk about products (yours and those related), plus exchange views, tips, ideas, and even possible improvements.

You may even find there are already groups all about your niche on social sites (score!), which you can join and pave the way to your product too.

11. Use Twitter

Like LinkedIn, Twitter is a great place to meet people and businesses who are like-minded. You may find that you can even build a ton of traction to your site by sharing your thoughts and expertise on your Twitter page.

If you are sharing valuable content, tagging people when due, and using a few relevant hashtags, you can find a whole group of people who might benefit from what you have to say.

Step 7: Ask customers for referrals

Referrals are similar to customer reviews. If you offer high-quality services, you may not even have to ask for referrals. But asking for referrals the right way can help you move the needle. Here are some quick tips to get in the right mindset.

  • Ask at the right time. Timing really is key. Take advantage of opportunities when your client has been impressed by your work. This includes when they give you unprompted praise, leave a positive review or comment, or make a repeat purchase.
  • Offer something before asking or taking. It’s a two-way street, and no one wants to be on the road with someone who is hogging the whole lane. So, be sure to present some sort of referral incentive.
  • Don’t just ask for any referral. Request your customers to recommend high-potential customers who will be interested in what your business offers. Here are more tips on how to ask for referrals.

Let’s dive into more tips on how to ask.

1. Make asking for referrals a requirement

The biggest mistake companies make is that they aren’t asking for client referrals in their sales process. Most of the time, if you have a salesperson or some sort of onboarding strategist, those individuals are working directly with your client. Asking for a referral can come up naturally in the conversations they are likely already having.

You greet your potential customer, you understand, evaluate, and suggest the best possible solution, and then let the close of a sale hang. When in reality, this is the perfect moment to take action.

You don’t have to ask directly either. You can phrase it in a way that isn’t too pushy.

2. Be specific about the types of referrals you want

When asking for a referral, be specific in regards to what kind of referral you’re seeking. If you’re looking for individuals with a high net worth, say so. If you’re seeking out companies, mention that.

Tell your customer who your target audience is. That way, you won’t waste time pursuing referrals who won’t yield you the results you want.

3. Think outside the box

Some clients are uncomfortable about referring. But they could be willing to help your business by giving another type of endorsement. Try asking them to:

  • Leave a review of you
  • Leave a positive comment
  • Give a short text-based or video testimonial
  • Be part of a case study

These are ways that they can endorse and recommend your business, without giving a direct referral.

Others may not be allowed by their employers to refer. It can be difficult to get them to let you know who else they are working with (especially in a B2B, or when client confidentiality is in play), but you can spin it so that instead of asking for a person or business’s name, you can give them the resources to send someone your way instead.

Either way, you must honor the decision of the client on whether they are willing to issue new referrals or not.

4. Subtly ask for referrals via multiple mediums

Many companies miss out on referrals simply because their customers aren’t even aware that they are looking for them. Odds are, you’ve missed out on an opportunity to subtly encourage referrals.

Here are a few ways to do this:

  • Mention referrals in the transactional emails you send to customers
  • Ask for referrals in a company newsletter
  • Send a personalized greeting card to your current customers – thank them, and then ask for referrals
  • Be even more indirect. Your email signature is prime real estate to ask for referrals, especially if that’s via a link to your formal referral program.

referral in transaction email


5. Ask customers to be your references

Nearly every salesperson has at least one customer who loves them and their company. These customers are the perfect people to recruit as references, assuming that they’re coherent and presentable (as they will be representatives of your business).

Ask your best customers whether they would be willing to serve as a reference for you. It’s highly unlikely they will turn you down, especially if they believe in you and in what you’re doing.

Now that you have a reference or a testimonial, you can use their words as part of your pitch to new prospects. They will also be empowered to serve as a referral source for you.

If you can recruit multiple people or companies to serve as references, you’ll start seeing the difference not only with your conversions, but also with new business referrals from your biggest fans.

6. Add a link to a form on your website

If you want people to know you want referrals, make it evident. A customer may talk about you, but never actually write down or give your information (other than your name) to others. This can turn a lead cold. As they might forget about you, or move on to another source that they have information on.

But, if you remind customers to refer on your website, or in their login portal, you are giving them the information they need to send people your way. Plus, it’s easy to provide all the relevant information to the potential client.

activecampaign enterprise referral program

7. Ask a new customer

You should definitely be engaging your customer base to try to easily gain new business.

But don’t forget to ask new customers too.

Since they just agreed to exchange some of their hard-earned money for your product or offer, it’s likely that new customers still have a positive view of your organization. And since they are so new to your brand, they probably haven’t referred anyone to you in the past. Their network is completely untapped.

Be reasonable about it, though: you don’t want new customers to receive a referral request immediately after they click the “buy” button.

Also, when you reach out to ask them for a referral, check in with them first and see how they like your service or product so far.

8. Get more referrals through email

Maintaining a good email list is a great way to continually develop your relationship with customers. Not only will you be able to send them updates and vital information, but you have a list of people to ask for referrals.

You’ll have to figure out which people are the right ones to ask, and focus on when to ask, so segmenting your email lists is a good thing.

You also want to be sure to use your best email etiquette, as you don’t want to annoy them or come off as being spammy.

At the end of the day, you are competing with others for their attention in their inbox, so be wise with how you ask over email.

How to Get Referrals + Win More Customers [8-Step Framework] 1

9. Ask after a positive customer encounter

Use a good positive customer experience as fuel for conversation, asking for a referral, and building a relationship.

When you receive praise from your client about work well done, instead of just saying “you’re welcome,” you can transition that praise into a referral. In fact, a satisfied customer is an easy one to ask. So, ask them to tell a few of their friends or contacts who might need your services.

10. Ask after a positive review

Those who write positive reviews are obviously fans of what you do. Use this as an opportunity to follow up and ask for a referral. You can send them a thank you card, email, or comment and mention that you’d love if they passed on the word about your brand.

Chances are, since they are happy with you (enough to write about it), they will likely be happy enough to share you too. And they likely won’t be annoyed when you ask either.

11. Ask a lost customer

If a customer decided not to go with you because you weren’t a good fit, you can still turn this into an opportunity. They may know someone who could be a better fit. Don’t be afraid to ask.

Step 8: Create reward-based programs

Incentives and rewards don’t necessarily mean cash and discounts. There are many ways to incentivize an advocate to give a referral.

Requesting your clients to find your referrals implies no direct benefit to them. That quickly makes them forget to hunt for referrals.

When you offer incentives for referrals, customers will be more motivated to make them, and will put more effort into bringing you new business.

Choose a reward that fits your values and one that motivates your clients, e.g. store credits, discounts, free products,gift cards to non-competing businesses, or branded swag.

Creating a reward-based program to get more customer referrals is not the only reason to create a program. A program also gives you signals, to see how referable you are. This allows you to measure and affect customer referrals and turn your word of mouth efforts into a marketing channel.

Below are great types of rewards based programs you can run with some examples:

1. Customer referral program (refer-a-friend program)

Using customer referral programs streamlines the referral process and wins the confidence of your customers. If customers can share your brand in just a few clicks and get rewarded, this makes them much more likely to share.

They will also be more comfortable with sharing your information because everything they need is organized in one place (which improves the credibility of your business).

Most referral program software provides you with ways to run, invite, manage, and reward referrals, making your referral program a smooth addition to your existing marketing strategy.

The Shutterfly referral marketing program offers a set gift for the customer-advocate and the person they referred. The gift is a free photobook, which is one of their hot commodities, so it’s a great incentive to refer.

shutterfly refer a friend

2. Influencer marketing

People trust social media influencers – they look up to these influential names for ideas and guidance on what to do, wear, and eat. So, if it makes sense for your business, try an influencer program to rev up your word-of-mouth marketing.

Influencer marketing software provides a platform for influencers and brands to meet. And it helps brands run a smooth program while laying out expectations for the influencer upfront, and while making it easy to pay the influencer for their work.


3. Brand ambassador program

It’s no secret that people trust recommendations from friends. And the next best thing is a brand ambassador. Why? These people love your brand and aren’t afraid to share it and tell you about their genuine experience using your product.

Manually searching social media for people who have mentioned your brand can be time-consuming and frustrating. Brand ambassador software can help you find people who have used your branded hashtags, or who have tagged you in their posts.

The Xbox Ambassador program is community-focused. They connect gamers together and look for experts or those who appeal to certain communities surrounding particular games to connect with other gamers.

Ambassadors can unlock rewards by completing certain missions and entering sweepstakes.


4. Partner program

Partner businesses can be so important in building your referral network. Most partners have similar customers, and the best part is you’re a non-competing business. And if you can both satisfy or fix a pain point for the same customer, it’s an easy win for everyone.

A channel partner program helps businesses build a larger network by sending customers between preferred or partnered businesses. It’s a form of recommendation that a consumer can truly trust.

Drift SaaS partner program

You can also start a referral partnership, where you form partnership agreements with your best customers, and ask them to recommend your business to people they know in return for a commission. It’s like a customer referral program, but more formalized.

5. Affiliate program

One popular type of partner program is an affiliate program, where content creators promote a company’s products and encourage their audience to click affiliate links to that company’s website. When an affiliate link click results in a purchase, the company rewards the responsible affiliate with a commission on the sale.

ActiveCampaign has a great example of an affiliate program. If an affiliate convinces another person or company to purchase via their affiliate link, they will earn 20%-30% of that new customer’s payment.

ActiveCampaign SaaS affiliate program 2

6. Advocacy program

Affiliated sources can be a great way to spread brand recognition and build yourself as a trustworthy source. And you can churn up some serious word of mouth. Here are some great advocate marketing software options.

OpenText offers an advocate program that rewards advocates with points towards incentives. Things like attending seminars, referring partners, and beta testing can earn the advocate a reward. The key here is that the advocate is helping build the product to be the best is can be, not just by sending people to it, but by offering ideas as well.


Customer centricity: The foundation of word of mouth referrals

What do all the above steps have in common, besides outlining how to get referrals? They’re all ways of creating a more customer-centric business. Being customer-centric involves much more than good customer service. When you run a customer-first business, you prioritize the customer’s experience at every stage – before, during, and after their purchases.

Yes, customer satisfaction is always the goal. But there are many other customer-centric factors you can use to move a customer from being satisfied to becoming an advocate who refers their friends. When your business is truly customer-centric, the customer is at the heart of every decision you make, their needs are most important, and building relationships with them remains central.

  • Developing a customer-centric business starts with creating a customer-first culture. Everything you do as a business should be looked at in the eyes of the customer.
  • And creating a customer-first culture starts with your business’ leaders. This sets the tone throughout the organization. Every action and decision follows a trend and sets a precedent.

As customers appreciate your attentiveness to their needs, they’re more likely to remain loyal to your business, and leave positive online reviews of you (increasing your business reputation). And most importantly, they’re more likely to refer their friends to your business.

How to get more referrals: Next steps

At the end of the day, customer referrals come to the businesses that deserve them. When someone gives a referral, it ties their reputation to you and uses their social currency.

To get more customer referrals, your best bet is to develop a customer-centric mentality. In the end, every one of our steps in the framework above provides for better customer experience. If you’re doubling down on your treating your customers how they want to be treated, it’s hard to go wrong.