A Free Guide on How to Ask for Referrals


“The best thanks you can give us is a referral!” 

How many times have you seen businesses with a tagline similar to this? Referrals are the critical make-or-break point for businesses these days. You’ll be happy to know that getting them is a lot easier than you think. And, to ease your mind, we’ll answer the age-old concern of many small business owners:

No, asking for referrals does not make you look “desperate.” 

Or at least it shouldn’t, if you’re doing it right. Here’s what you need to know. 

Just ask 

Seriously, how many of your sales reps are flat-out asking customers for a referral either during or after the transaction? Google has gotten more SMBs in the habit of asking for reviews from customers as part of a closing conversation, but it’s still not something that everyone is comfortable with. But how can you ask? Here are a few quick and easy one- or two-liners that anyone can manage, including a mix of formal and casual options:

  • Hey, if you’ve got any friends or family members that are in the market for [product/service], send them my way! 
  • Do you know anyone who’s looking for [product/service]?
  • Can I ask a favor? [Customer says “yes”] If you had a good experience, could you leave us a review or tell your friends and family? 
  • Which of your colleagues/partners/peers could benefit from the same solutions we’ve provided you?
  • Have you heard about our referral program? It’s a great way to get a deal if you’re looking for more [product/service] in the future. 

If you have provided an exceptional level of service and delivered the solution they sought, the chances are high that people will refer others to your business based on that alone. Therefore, it might just take you asking to gently remind them to spread the word. 

The last one gives you the chance to start a conversation about your referral program (more on that next), which will also incentivize them to think about recommending others. 

Start a referral program 

As mentioned, a referral program is a great way to incentivize the referral process. You can offer some type of reward for the client who refers someone and the new person that is referred, giving both people a reason to consider using your business beyond all the solutions that you can provide. Just make sure that you do offer incentives for both parties in this program. One-sided referral programs are far less successful, generally speaking. 

You don’t have to make a big process of this or anything. There’s no need to invest a lot of time or money in setting things up. Just:

  • Choose the type of referral program and incentives you want to use.
  • Create a page on your website for the program. 
  • Create links and ads in other content to notify people of the referral bonus. 
  • Send out an email newsletter about the new program.
  • Send occasional reminders to keep people thinking about who they can refer.
  • Consider doing seasonal, holiday, or other specials that make your referral program even better.

In no time, you’ll have a slew of new leads that you didn’t even really have to work for, and you’ll have shown your loyal customers, once again, that you’re the best for a reason. 

Timing is everything 

Of course, asking for referrals does require a little finesse. You’re obviously not going to ask leads for referrals when they’re in the early stages of the customer journey—they have no personal investment yet and aren’t even sure that you can deliver what they need. Asking for referrals at the end of a transaction or interaction, however, is a great choice. You can get real feedback from people, too, and then go on to ask them to spread the word. 

Think about timing with your communication method, too. If you’re emailing, the late morning and early afternoon hours are best. If you’re sending out a text campaign, you might choose a time in the evening when more people are likely to be on their phones. This may require some trial and error, but eventually you’ll find the perfect time to get those referrals. 

Business cards are great for referrals

Even though many people live in the digital age these days, physical tools like business cards are still rather effective. Plus, you can even make virtual business cards that you can hand out to people so that they can pass the word along to others. A business card is handy for several reasons. It’s a tactile way for people to learn about your business. They will hold onto it and when they need help, or someone they know does, they will think of you. 

You can simply give a few extra business cards to your clients as part of your process and then let them do the rest. Of course, be sure to tell them that you’ve given them the cards for the express purpose of sharing with others. That way, they won’t just set them aside and forget about them. 

Social media referrals 

A great way to get more genuine referrals, and to make a stronger connection with your audience, is to ask on social media. You can simply ask, let people know about your referral program, or even share the referrals you’ve gotten recently and then ask others to do the same. There’s so much that you can do here, including creative TikTok videos and more. 

Once the referrals roll in, will you be ready?

Generating new leads is great. However, you’ve also got to have the resources on hand to field them as they come. Fortunately, you can partner with the virtual receptionists at Smith.ai so that you’re not doing it all on your own. In addition to being your 24/7 answering service, we can also offer support for your outreach campaigns, as well as lead intake and appointment scheduling. To learn more, schedule a consultation or reach out to hello@smith.ai

Business Education
Written by Samir Sampat

Samir Sampat is a Marketing Manager with Smith.ai. He has experience working with businesses of all sizes focusing on marketing, communications, and business development.

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