Asking for Business Referrals: 7 Proven Ways that Work Today

how to ask for referrals

In business some things never change, like the power of a personal referral or word-of-mouth advertising.

Then again, some things in business are constantly going through changes, like the way those personal referrals are gained and communicated.

Let’s take a quick tour through current best practices for winning those ever-so-powerful personal referrals.

1. Ask. Simply asking customers for referrals is the traditional, time-honored strategy for getting business referrals. It’s based on the fundamental truth that if you don’t ask for something, you won’t receive it. Most of the following strategies, by the way, can generally be filed under the broad label of “ASK!”

There are a few tips that can help you become better at asking customers for referrals. First, be sensitive to situations and relationships and craft your requests based on those factors. For example, it’s appropriate to ask established clients and customers for referrals as well as brand new clients and customers. However, the way you ask needs to be different.

With new clients you would want to say something like, “I want this to be a long-term relationship and will always do my best to meet your needs. If I do that, can I count on you for some referrals?” With established – and happy – clients, you can take a more direct approach.

2. Leverage your links. Any email that goes out from your business with a special offer – or great content – should include an easy way for recipients to share it with their friends. The same principle applies to things such as “Thank-you” pages or other web pages that could be appealing to the friends of visitors. Make it easy for them to send these offers to others.

3. Establish a referral program. Award perks to established customers or clients who refer people to you. A good way to boost this is to incorporate it into a feedback or survey system. When you get positive survey results, conclude the survey with a pitch for your referral program that clearly states the benefit for the existing customer.

4. Give a perk for giving gift cards or gift certificates. Restaurants and movie theaters are doing this a lot today: The people who buy a gift cards also gets a small gift card themselves. Of course, many people end up buying the gift cards for personal use, but hey, that’s good for sales too!

5. Be a referral giver yourself. The Golden Rule – Do unto others as you would have others do unto you – is good to follow when it comes to referrals. If you’re always asking for referrals, but never offering them, how can you expect your clients to give you their support? Start banking some goodwill. Don’t expect an immediate double-digit ROI, although you might be surprised!

6. Exploit LinkedIn connections. Organically build your LinkedIn network and then find connections you share with individuals you would like to be introduced to. You need to be sure that the people you approach when you’re asking for a referral or introduction don’t feel like they’re being used, so be sure that you have an honest relationship with them. Always ask if it’s okay that you mention their name when you used the LinkedIn message service to send prospects a note.

7. Track your success. This is probably the most important tip. If you don’t make your pursuit of personal referrals an integral part of your marketing and advertising efforts, you’ll end up dropping it. Ads sales people call you all the time to keep you active. You get bills that denote your marketing efforts. These serve to keep these programs top-of-mind. However, your personal referral marketing is more subtle and can slip through the cracks if you don’t make a proactive effort to monitor it. Here are some ideas:

  • Post reminders for yourself.
  • Journal what you do.
  • Send thank-you notes to customers and clients who are cooperative.
  • Develop an asking for referrals script.
  • Write and then hone an asking for referrals letter.
  • Collect good sample letters asking for business referrals.

When asking for referrals becomes second nature, you’ll find that new doors open up to you far more often.