How to get referrals (guide)

This post is a 5-minute guide to get referrals for every professional or small business.

Over the last few years, there’s been thousands (no millions) of post written about this subject, but still, no luck. I have helped clients and a few friends get setup on getting referrals. I found myself explaining over and over again the basics of:

  • referrals are the  best way to grow your business
  • asking for a referral is intimidating but apparently the most effective method
  • excellent and remarkable service is a great place to start

If you are new to getting referrals, this will get you asking the right questions and then doing something that works. If you know someone who needs a little help getting started, send them a link to this post. Let’s get started!

First, because we all are marketers we often forget to look at four essential things from the consumer’s point of view.

  1. Why on earth should I give you a referral?
  2. Yes, I know it’s important to you, but why is it important to me?
  3. I have my reputation to lose if I refer a friend to you. You might screw up, in which case they’ll hate me. Or you might somehow do something that, through no fault of your own, disappoints.
  4. The act of recommending you isn’t easy.

So given the lose-lose design of most referrals, you need to redesign your expectations and just follow these five steps:

  1. Create with Remarkable. Make it easy for someone to bring up and talk about what you do (by changing the nature of your service or product).
  2. Megaphone Marketing. Give your best customers something of real value to offer to their friends (a significant gift certificate or coupon, a secret menu, a rewards card). Once you take that action,not giving that gift to a friend feels really selfish.
  3. Paying. The payment plan of referring rarely works, because you’re not just asking for a minute of my time, you’re asking me to put my reputation and credibility in the game. Just avoid this method.
  4. Make a choice. Understand that you’re going to get a lot more low-risk referrals than high-risk ones, and the choice you have, is either to figure out how to become a low-risk referral or embrace the fact that you have to be truly remarkable in order to earn a high-risk referral.
  5. Be worthy. Not just in the service you provide, but in your position in the marketplace. I’m far more likely to refer someone with a back story, relatively unknown or someone who’s an underdog. That’s why saying “thank you” in acts of kindness (not so much in words) goes such a long way.