How to ask for referrals like a pro.

As promised in my how to say thank you for referrals post, I wanted to talk more about how to get referrals in the first place.

Word of mouth referrals are the number one most effective way to gain more customers. Period. If you have referrals filling your books, advertising becomes easy as pie and in some cases, not even necessary.

Here are a few tips to creating an thriving referral network that will keep your business booming:


This may seem all too simple, but I know there are many people who do not practice this. Bottom line is if you don't ask for referrals, you are less likely to receive them. So start here!

Remember, delivery is key ... we all know what it feels like to have someone walk up to you, shove a business card in your face and say "call me if you need X, Y, or X," and then walk away. In all honesty when that happens to me, the business card goes straight to the recycling bin.

I want to work with people who first and foremost value a relationship with me and that give a creative delivery to what they do. And most importantly, give me a reason why I should work with them. (Same is true about social media ... want me to like your Facebook page? Give me a reason!)

In the book Referral of a Lifetime, the author Tim Templeton suggests sending a "warm letter" just to update your contacts of what you are up to and what you are offering. The more personalized and entertaining (it's fun to include a story or two) you can make it the better. This is a great way to make the big ask. Have fun with it!

Remember, as long as you are in business you should be asking for referrals. It's not a one time effort. Keep trying new approaches and make it a daily practice.

Provide a complimentary sample of your product or service.

People are more likely to refer once they have experienced your services or product, so make it easy for them and give it to them for (gasp!) free. Especially if you are just starting out.

Want more bang for your efforts? Seek out mavens as guinea pigs for your products.

Do you know of someone who just can't help but tell all their friends when they love something? Perhaps someone with an online following within your target market? These are the people you want to know about your offerings. It will likely be worth you time/investment to provide a complimentary taste of what you offer. Make them a deal so good that it will not be possible for them to say no.

Be concise and unexpected.

Snail mail stands out above all the electronic noise ... utilize it! Send samples, gifts, and special invitations.

As always, offer some sort of incentive. Never, ever email someone asking them to do something without offering compensation or barter/exchange. It's Karma! People are busy and their time is precious. Respect that.

Keep your ask short and sweet. After taking Alex Franzen's "I Heart Email" mini course I have much gained much respect for the brief email. I have decided to make that part of my practice and you should too.

Give Referrals

This one works like a charm, and I believe it to be one of the most effective/powerful ways to receive referrals.

Experience a product or service that you love? Tell your friends and send them as many customers as possible. Trust me, it will be noticed. 9 times out of 10 the subject of your referrals will send them right back at you.

I think about the following lyrics from a childhood camp song, Magic Penny, all the time. The song is about love, but it can be applied to pretty much any exchange that happens in life—it's especially fitting for referrals.

"It's just like a magic penny, hold it tight and you won't have any. Give it away and you'll have so many, they'll roll all over the floor." - Magic Penny Folk Song

So what do you think?