How to Ask for Referrals and See Your Business Thrive

Updated on June 3, 2021
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Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Referrals can be an effective way to help your business grow. By having your current customer base reach out to those you know, you’re effectively reaching their markets in addition to your own. This is a slick way to reach more customers, faster. It’s also a method that can allow you to grow without blowing a big marketing budget.

Because customers trust their network, they are likely to follow through. Meanwhile, by reaching warm leads, you’re spending less, but still bringing new business home. It’s a scenario that’s great for all involved. By rewarding customers for new closed deals, they’re incentivized to keep referring, all while you stand back taking in new clients.

As the business, it’s great to ask for referrals, but you also don’t want to come across as too salesy. That’s why, by having customers bring the leads, you benefit, but without scaring away potential business. Did we mention this is win-win?

So, how to ask for referrals?

This article will outline key ideas that will help you ask for referrals. We’ll cover direct vs. passive ways of asking for a referral, tips for asking for referrals via specific mediums, and more.

Four essential tips to ask for referrals the right way

Before moving forward with the referral process, your business will need to look over these key steps. It’s important to have them down before you can ask for a referral. Doing so will help you be more successful and effective when bringing in referrals to market your business.

1. Know the right people to ask

First things first, who should you ask for referrals? Sure, you can ask everyone, but you might be less likely to find results when spreading your efforts too thin. Instead, by focusing on a key group, you can make pointed moves toward referral growth.

Customers who are loyal and happiest with your services are the most likely to refer. These will be:

  • Repeat shoppers
  • Those who have had good customer service experiences
  • People who have spent the most money on your products
  • People who have spent the most time with a product or service
  • Customers who have already complimented you (in a conversation, on social, or in a review)

2. Ask for referrals when it’s most convenient for customers

If it’s too much work, customers will be less likely to share your business with others. In order to secure their referrals, it’s best to bring it up when customers are most likely to strike. Some key times are when customers have just checked out, or via a follow-up email after a positive customer service experience.

Also, ask yourself – when will referral rewards be most enticing? These will be your ideal times to ask for a referral. When customers are hyped up about your brand, they can do your best word-of-mouth marketing. Cash in on these opportunities by finding the ideal time to ask.

If you send monthly invoices or work on a recurring contract, you can reel in customers by reaching them as they’re paying. Send a quick note that offers them to save money or earn a free month if they refer a friend.

3. Find times when customers are their happiest

When is a customer excited about their experience? Perhaps just after purchasing. Other times might be when their product arrives or after a service has been complete. Or maybe they’ve just left you a glowing customer review or testimonial. Find the times when your loyal customer is most engaged — this is an ideal time for you to ask for a referral.

This works for every type of business, so you don’t need to worry about being a service-based company or a retail brand. When your customer has a good experience, you can kindly ask for a referral. Approaching them at this time leaves you more ready to get a response.

Asking for a referral at this time works because you know the customer appreciates your brand, and therefore, will be more likely to suggest you to those they know.

4. Make sure the ask feels natural

Remember that overly sleazy sales pitch you’re trying hard to avoid? You can ensure you avoid it by asking customers for referrals in a way that feels natural.

For instance, don’t push someone to refer right after they’ve become a new customer.  Rather, get to know your customers first, then ask for a referral once you’ve established a good relationship with them.

Also, remain loyal to your brand in word choice and tone. For instance, a company that sells luxury products is more likely to approach their customer by saying, “We appreciate fine taste and so do you.” But a company that sells less expensive products is more likely to jump in with, “Like free stuff?!” Know your tone and how you can approach the audience in a way that feels authentic.

Then, all that’s left is to approach them in a way that isn’t too direct. Be sure to ask gently, and give customers the option; you should never make them feel like they have to refer.

It’s also worth mentioning that referrals won’t magically take place – the ask is necessary in order to close new business. Find a way to do this without being forceful and find your best match in newly referred customers.

How to ask for referrals directly

When contacting existing customers, there’s an art form to getting in touch. Note that you’ll need a reason to contact them. Emailing or texting just to ask for a referral can seem aggressive and might not be well received. Especially by potential clients – you’re not a sales rep, after all. However, if you’re offering a sale or updating them about a new service, you have a reason to reach out about your brand.

Next, make the request feel personal. Include their name in an email, thank them for their business and mention your appreciation for their loyalty to your brand before requesting a referral. These are just a few ways to help the customer feel like they are being personally recognized. Personal requests are also more likely to be well received and can spark more successful leads.

In this instance, it’s also important to keep the ask natural – avoid being too aggressive or salesy. Lean into the ask with a statement like, “We’d love to offer you a free month,” or by asking a question like, “Know someone else who would love our service?” These lead-ins still ask for a referral, but avoid being too salesy in the process.

How to ask for referrals indirectly

Another approach to asking for referred customers is by remaining less direct. If you don’t like the idea of asking upfront, you can always reach out to customers later and tell them about your referral rewards system more subtly. These passive asks can be done via email, texts, social media, and more.

For example, you could briefly ask for referrals in marketing emails, check-in emails, and email newsletters; at the end of phone messages; on your website homepage; in public social media posts; or on business cards. You could even mention the rewards you offer for a referral in your email signature.

This approach can be used by brands who want to remain more hands-off, but still want to ask for referrals from their existing customer base.

5 mediums you can use to ask for referrals

Whether you’re a small business or a large company, when asking for a referral, it’s good to jump straight to the point. Avoid wasting existing clients’ time or losing their attention span – jump straight to the point. Don’t beat around the bush either. Be clear in what you’re asking so there’s no confusion in what’s requested of the customer.

How to ask for referrals in an email

Email referral requests are one of the easiest ways to reach your customers. Follow-up emails are common, so customers won’t be alarmed about hearing from you, and they will likely open and read your message. Hit your customers’ inbox by thanking them for a purchase or checking up and seeing how they’re doing with your product or service. In the message, you can easily ask for a referral through an email template.

Or, to make it more direct, send the email specifically to ask for referrals. Here you can highlight rewards and remind them of the benefit of referring customers. Don’t forget to personalize it, either, so you can relate directly to your customers vs. being mistaken for spam.

Some examples include:

  • Do you know someone who could use our service?
  • Refer a friend and earn!
  • Give and get – give a referral and get cash in your pocket

Then sign with your company name or offer reviews from current clients to seal the deal.

Take a look at these referral email samples for inspiration in writing your own message.

How to ask for referrals on your website

Your website is the main hub of your brand – it shows off who you are and what you have to offer. It’s also a place for customers to sign up for your products or services. Using this platform to ask for referrals is a great way to approach word-of-mouth marketing online.

Of course, one of the best times to ask for referrals is right after a customer makes a purchase. Use these referral ask tips on your website to take advantage of this crucial time.

Consider creating a dedicated landing page that asks customers for referrals. It’s a page that customers can be directed toward after completing a sale or renewing, in order to piggyback off your positive momentum with them.

If you’re using referral software, you’ll already have a referral presence on your website.

In addition, try using these proven tips to help land customer referrals from your website.

  • Create a thank you page after a purchase. Shower customers with how grateful you are, then provide a link that takes them to the referral landing page.
  • Create a referral pop-up instead of a page and tell customers about their referral options each time they purchase or interact in a positive way.
    • For example, Pottery Barn Kids offers a pop-up that customers can use to share the brand with friends on different mediums –email, Facebook, and Twitter. The pop-up appears after a purchase or tracked repeat visit to the site.
How to ask for referrals: Pottery Barn Kids

You can also entice customers to land on your referral page on their own. Try making a compelling image or graphic that resides on the home page, or in a footer/header area that they can see no matter which page they visit.  This will direct customers towards referring even if they haven’t just made a purchase. After all, what if they’re visiting the site prior to a purchase and looking to save?

How to ask for referrals on social media

Asking for referrals on social media can be done in two ways. You can address the general public, asking all of your followers for a referral, or you can ask a specific user. This is true no matter what social media platform you are using: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc.

For instance, if a customer posts or messages about something positive – like a great experience they had with your brand – you can respond by thanking them and asking for a referral. You can do this with a private message while personalizing the message so your customer feels appreciated.

Or, reach all of your customers at once with a general post that goes out to the masses. For instance, “Love our brand and know someone else who will too? Refer and earn!” This can drum up excitement about your referral program while reaching all of your customers at once. Check out this example from Acorns.

Acorns referral program ask on Facebook

You could also make the best of both worlds and create posts that shout out to customers who brought in successful leads. For example, “4 new referrals today! We are so thankful for our loyal customer base.” This will make referring customers loved, while enticing others to make referrals of their own.  

Meanwhile, if you have referral software, you can link it to these posts in order to send customers in the right direction.

How to ask for referrals in a phone call or video call

Phone calls are another natural way that you can thank your customers for their business. If a customer is responsive and enthusiastic about your brand, this can be the perfect opportunity to mention your referral program. Ask if they’ve heard of it and if they know anyone who would be interested in benefiting from your services.

You can take other approaches too, like:

The expert approach: Know what you’re talking about inside and out. But rather than telling them like a know-it-all, teach them. Show you’re an expert, but don’t force it. Take an educational approach in order to gain customers’ trust and show them the value of your brand.

Solve problems and empathize: Your customers will often just want to be heard. Empathize with them and show them you understand what they’re dealing with. Being heard can go a long way. Being able to skillfully help with their problem can also go a long way. Then, once you have gained their trust, you can ask for a referral from your newly found friend. You can even phrase it, “Do you know of anyone else who’s dealing with similar problems?” as your leeway in.

Give them special attention: No customer wants to be brushed off. Even if you’re dealing with a simple issue or something that was dealt with quickly, express your thanks. Show how grateful you are for their business and take a minute to make it personal. Then, after your appreciation, you can ask for a referral.

You can also send an email after the call – for any of the scenarios – thanking the customer for their call. This is an ideal time to ask them if they have any questions and to ask for referrals.

How to ask for referrals with a business card

Business cards can be a great way to – quite literally – hand off information between customers and their friends. In fact, it’s a common practice among friends and can ensure that no information is lost within the cracks. With the actual business card in play, the new customer has access to your address and contact information. Easy peasy.

Consider handing out business cards that folks can pass along to their friends and family members. It’s a physical way others can hold onto your business info and get in touch. Meanwhile, the referring customer earns for passing along a name. Add a line on the card where the referrer can write their name, or keep it simple and ask the friend who sent them.

Sometimes it’s the simplest mentions, like “Send your friends our way!” that can lead to business growth through referrals.

Ask for referrals and grow your marketing efforts

Finding success in your referral program is a natural progression of understanding your customers and reaching them when they are most likely to refer their friends. Consider their best experiences, and when you can piggyback on them with a polite ask, and understanding when and how to ask for referrals.

This can feel like a tricky process, but really it’s just all about staying true to your brand. By meeting your customer when they’re the happiest, you can spark momentum and create referral marketing success.