Recommendations, referrals, and reviews are an essential part of running a business. But how do you get them? Let’s cover how to ask for a referral.

Yep, asking customers and clients for referrals, recommendations, and testimonials is a good way to help you share your products and services with new customers. One of the easiest ways to get a steady stream is to create a habit of asking for a referral

Whether you’re running a formal referral program, or simply need some testimonials to put on your website, you can ask happy clients to recommend you through email.

Unlike social media where messages are easily lost, email messages come straight to a customer’s inbox. You can send more personalized messages, and encourage customers to give you a referral or recommendation. 

Here are our tips on how to write an email asking for a referral:

Reach out to the right people

Before you even start crafting email copy, you need to make a list of the people you’re going to reach out to. You might reach out to a large list, or just a few choice customers. Either way, you need to be deliberate about who you ask.

You should be already keeping track of customer feedback. Which customers are already happy with what you do? These customers are likely to provide you with positive recommendations and would be willing to refer you to their friends.

If you run a software service, you might reach out to the people who spend the most time in your dashboard. If you sell goods on an e-commerce site, you might reach out to anyone who’s spent more than $200 with you in the past couple of months.

Hit them at the right time

Nobody wants to write a recommendation for a product or service they’ve forgotten about. You need to ask clients and customers for recommendations and referrals when they’re getting value out of their purchase. That means hitting them at the right time.

For example, if you were a florist who provided your services for weddings, you’d want to ask for a recommendation shortly after the event.

how to ask for a referral

If you wait too long, the bride and groom may have forgotten what it was like to work with you. The flowers will be long gone– and so will your recommendation.

The right time depends a lot on your exact business– as well as whether you want referrals or testimonials– and it’s worth experimenting with different times to see when you get the most positive responses.

If you have a lot of customers and can’t email them all personally, use an email service provider (ESP) to set up trigger or time-based emails. You can automate your requests for referrals by asking customers 10 days after they’ve purchased a product, for example.

Highlight your successes

When you’re making the ask, be sure to highlight the personal successes and benefits that your customer received. This reminds them why they have a relationship with you, and bring up positive feelings.

For example, here’s an email a jewelry retailer might send to encourage the customer to make referrals. Notice how it leads to the benefits of the earrings:

Hi Lucy,

I hope you enjoyed your new gold leaf earrings. The handcrafted style goes with any outfit, and we hope you’ve had a chance to show them off!

I wanted to reach out to see if you might be interested in our referral program. For every friend that orders jewelry using your unique referral link, both you and that friend will receive 20% off an entire purchase.

Click here to make a referral. Rock those earrings!


If you work as a consultant, you might highlight some of the projects you’ve worked on with the client. If you sell software, you might highlight some of the features the customer has recently used. When determining how to ask for a referral, always keep your industry and strengths in mind.

How to ask for a referral

When asking for a referral or recommendation by email, don’t waste time with extra words and irrelevant information. Keep it short and sweet and get to the point as quickly as possible.

American Apparel, a clothing retailer, sent a very simple email asking for referrals. The messaging is concise, clear, and straightforward. It’s obvious what American Apparel is asking their email recipients to do.

American Apparel referral program

Follow American Apparel when sending your own emails. Keep it short, sweet, and simple.

Use your best email etiquette

No matter what industry you’re in, you need to use your best email etiquette when sending emails asking for referrals or recommendations. Here are a few quick tips on how to ask for a referral in email.

  • Use compelling subject lines. If clients don’t open your emails, they’ll never get a chance to see what you have to say. Be sure to use compelling subject lines.
  • Don’t buy email lists. This is a spammy practice and an all-around no-no. Don’t do it.
  • Personalize as much as possible. Personalizing emails with specific information increases email engagement rates. Here is a great email marketing personalization checklist, from Campaign Monitor, to grab some ideas from.
  • Make sure emails are mobile-friendly. Many people open emails on their smartphones, so make sure all emails you send are mobile-friendly.
  • Use an ESP (like Campaign Monitor or MailChimp) if sending to a large list. If you’re sending referral requests to a large list, and you want to set up a triggered or time-based email campaign, use an email service provider (ESP).

Need some awesome client referral template ideas? Here’s an article to get you started.

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Posted by Megan Mosley

Megan Mosley is a writer for Referral Rock. You can find her poking around online or tweeting about marketing, small businesses, SEO, or even sharing funny memes. She is addicted to coffee and uses it as a fuel to keep her going through the day.