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7 ways to attract high-value, no-cost referrals for your business

Posted by Celene Robert

December 27, 2021

Referrals are a sure-fire way to grow your business, but first you need a strategy to target the right audience. Here’s how to develop a referral program that benefits your business and your customers.

1. Develop marketing campaigns

Leverage email, text messaging and social media marketing campaigns to build awareness about your referral program. Use these platforms to attract and engage your audience, then funnel them through your process to become leads.

Promote your referral program by:

  • Displaying it on invoices, receipts, website or in-store checkout place.
  • Highlighting its benefits on social media, and creating a referral landing page with an attractive visual layout and call-to-action.
  • Placing a link to the program in your company’s email signatures.

2. Use a customer-first approach

Take advantage of word-of-mouth referrals. According to Nielsen, 83% of people trust word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and family, while 92% of consumers trust word-of-mouth referrals more than all other forms of advertising.

3. Elicit, don’t solicit

Avoid asking for referrals directly. Instead, deliver acts of generosity that bring value to your clients’ lives. These simple gestures will help clients remember you when someone asks for a recommendation.

In the book “Generating Business Referrals Without Asking,” author Stacey Brown Randall describes two methods for eliciting referrals:

  • Focus on relationships – People refer those who have an impact on them.
  • Deliver quality work – High-quality work keeps you at the forefront of clients’ minds..

4. Give incentives and rewards

Seek to reward each referral source, as well as give that referral an incentive to engage. These incentives can boost your referral and conversion rate:

  • Double-sided incentives, which motivate the advocate and the new customer.
  • Cumulative incentives, which stack credits for referrals to use all at once.
  • Discounted products or services when a customer brings successful referrals. 
  • Gift cards or prizes to entice customers to refer your business.

5. Create multiple avenues for advocacy

There are several ways to spur customers to provide you with referrals, and they largely center around providing stellar customer service. 

Inspire customers by:

  • Meeting and exceeding expectations.
  • Adding a customer loyalty program.
  • Engaging with them (customers) in an ongoing manner.
  • Making the experience shareable.
  • Sharing positive feedback from clients.
  • Distributing your content and resources across different channels.

6. Target potential referral sources

Zero in on good referral sources by:

  • Using your existing email subscriber list.
  • Recognizing people who recently made a second or third purchase. 
  • Tracking social media mentions and comments.
  • Finding active customers and asking them to share reviews.

7. Making social sharing easy for customers

Make it simple for people to access your referral program on social media. Provide a template that can be customized by each referral source and shared with a click.

Pointers for developing a strong referral network

Start by building good relationships with customers, employees, partners and vendors, and you will have a built-in web of potential referrals. Also, consider people who are influenced by your business idea, product or service, as they can be valuable referral sources. While friends and family are a natural place to turn, be sure they understand what you do first.

Be sure to thank your referral sources with a personal thank you on social media or via email. You can also send a thank-you message that includes a request to provide feedback or to participate in beta testing of upcoming products.

Track your referral program’s effectiveness

Analyzing your referral program data helps you understand how likely it is that customers will refer you. Things to analyze in your customer referral program include:

  • Referral sources.
  • Conversion rates per source.
  • Customer acquisition cost.
  • Benefits provided and availed by the referred person.


Celene Robert
Celene Robert

Celene heads up the marketing at Escalon. Passionate about helping companies grow their business, she spends her days finding new ways to bring essential business services to startups, SMBs, and growth-minded companies. Based in the PNW, she’s the proud owner of 8 pairs of Birkenstocks and a sassy, cuddly cat.

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