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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 are 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

We’ve got you covered when it comes to perfecting your referral email design. Here are some good ways to get on the right track.

Maintain an email list

Email lists are a great way to develop a relationship with your customers, and to keep them updated on things that are going on with your business. They are an extremely cheap, easy way to bring customers back, and it is a tool that every business should be using. Email lists are also a great way to promote referral programs (which will help build repeat customers).

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 ask for referrals via email:

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.

Image of flower for flourist referral example

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 in an email

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.

Referral email examples:

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 example

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

Here’s an enticing offer with a short, but little longer and simple email from uCraft:

Love Ucraft? Don’t miss out on 6 months free uCraft Website plan!Hi Lucy,Earn 6 months free uCraft Website plan and also give your friends 30% off*when they use your link to buy something!It's super easy!

It states the benefits outright. Remember, anytime you are asking for a referral, your customer will be asking what’s in for them. So your email should motivate them to share by clearly stating how they will benefit by making a referral.


YouFoodz, an online food company uses this in a way that a customer can clearly tell the benefit. Their mail read as below:


“When someone makes their first Youfoodz order using your unique referral code, you’ll both score a free meal. The more you give the more you get….


Refer 1=1x free meal, Refer 2= 2x free meal, Refer 3= 1 Week free meals!”


Their reward tier is pretty enticing. Even if the customer is not able to refer 3, at least they can aim at referring one person with a surety of a free meal!



Make a stunning first impression. First-time impressions do matter in email marketing and more so when asking for a referral. Create something that will keep lingering in your customer’s mind long after they opened your mail. To achieve this you can use images combined with design and your copy to create a visually engaging email.


Poprageous, an apparel brand, makes a striking impression by including models dressed in their products in their referral emails. This makes their emails eye-catching and vivid and increases customer engagement. At the same time, they endorse their brand.



A Call to Action is your deal breaker or maker in referral emails. This is the point at which a customer decides between referring you, doing nothing or trashing your email! Make it impossible to ignore and create an impression of urgency.


Kiwi, a travel booking company put their call to action as below:



Another great call to action by Xoom



Personalize the email. Make the receiver of your email feel special. Create a deeper connection between your brand and customers that would move them to share your product. One way to do this is to include their name in your email.


Riff Raff & Co, a toy company, send personalized emails to their customers immediately after purchasing a toy informing them that their toy is on their way and at the same time requesting for a referral. What makes it more personalized, is that this email is sent immediately after purchase, so the receiver will definitely relate with the referral message.


“Hi[Customer’s name] Thank you…………..get 5 of your friends to purchase and get a second Riff Raff & Co sleep toy for free!”



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 the best email 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).

Bonus: Be sure to use email signatures

This acts as more of a reminder or ongoing program promotion. The cool thing about using your email signature as a reminder is that it can be seen every single time you send an email. So you may not directly be asking a customer, but because they have seen you mention referrals time and time again. You will be the person they think of when they are ready to refer someone.

Additionally, if you use referral software, adding a link to a referral program in your signature is a great idea.

The popularity of your brand, product or services you are offering does matter. At the end of the day, your business is competing with other emails in their inbox. Whether you want to learn more on how you can improve your email newsletter or learning how to ask for referrals and asking the right questions can make a big difference.

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


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.