Having a word of mouth business has to be every business owners dream. But how do you create such a business. In this article I share 20 ideas to create more referrals so you can spend less on marketing and more time and resources creating amazing experiences for your customers, which is at the heart of all word of mouth businesses.

Referral Principles

People will go against statistics if someone they trust makes a personal referral.  Trust is that impactful. Trust is what you need.

People refer people when it makes them look and feel good.  Your job is to make it clear why a referral is good for them.  Make it self-serving.

  • People can be lazy.  You need to make it easy for people to refer you.  If it’s hard work, it’s not going to happen.
  • You need a system.  Leaving it to chance is not a good strategy.  Learn what works for you.  Rinse and repeat.
  • Don’t make it about you.  It’s about the person doing the connecting for you and the person they’re connecting you with.
  • If you’re not clear about your USP it’s going to be hard to engage people.
  • If you’re not clear who your customers are you’ll waste resources trying to engage with the wrong  people.
  • You need to know your core business numbers so you can make sensible investments.  When you’re clear about your numbers you’ll see clients and prospects differently. 
  • Unless you’re selling an online commodity the chances are you’ll not make a sale outside of a conversation.  Your job is to be in conversations, though don’t expect it to always happen in just one conversation.

Know your customers to get more referrals

You need to know who your ideal client is.  If you’re not clear then how do you expect your referral partners to be?

You should know the real self-serving reason someone buys from you.  What’s in it for them?

Be specific about the problems you solve for customers.  If you can’t be specific, referrers will not recognise the cue to engage them for you.

Ask – What will your prospect value that will build your credibility and de-risk them getting into a conversation with you?

Ask – How can this value be given by the person doing the referring in a way that makes them look good?

Know your business numbers to get more referrals 

Using resources to get clients is normal, at least at the start.  How much you invest to get a client depends on the value of a customer.  

When it comes to creating clients there are a few numbers you really need to know. 

  • How much does it costs to deliver the service?
  • What is the initial value of a customer?
  • What is the lifetime value of a customer? 

When you are clear on these numbers you’ll see the wisdom of an investment.

Know your USP to get more referrals 

Being really clear on the value you bring your customers is critical.  You also need to know why they should choose you over someone else.  You want to avoid apples v apples comparisons because the only differentiator then is price.  It’s not always obvious. Consider this – people don’t want a TV – they want Entertainment.  The real challenge of a new TV is getting it on the wall.  

Ask – What is on the other side of the service you provide for your customer? 

Possibly a better way of thinking around USP is to swap a meaning of the ’S’. You could reconsider it as a ‘Unique Serving Proposition’.   How does that change how you think about the service you provide?

I want you to be specific.  Which sounds better?

The fastest delivery in town 


Hot delicious pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or it‘s free.

De-Risk the process to get more referrals 

Most people are risk averse.  This means you need to de-risk the process for the client and the person doing the referring.  

This is why you see ‘try before you buy’ ad’s. This is why we have guarantees.  This is why we have likes, endorsements and validations.   It’s all social proof that this is a good investment.  The halo effect and personal trust all de-risk and lend credibility.  Whatever you do, look to absorb the risk and not pass it on to the customer.

Train people to get more referrals 

Train people about who you serve with stories, because stories are easy to remember.   Think about what the referrer will see and hear, and where.  Build these elements into the story.  Make the story relevant to the listener so they can imagine it happening.

Tell the story to people who know (or have a chance of meeting) the people you serve.  Ask yourself – Who else does the customer use?  Where are your complementary services?

Teach them what to say and how to say it.  Make it easy with referral cards and vouchers.  

Example – If you have someone who’s struggling with their remotely working employees, I’ve got something that will really help them out.  I have a comprehensive report and guide titled ‘Getting the most out of remote workers’.  If you have anyone who will benefit from that, give me a call. 

Create leverage to get more referrals 

Most people need a little encouragement to get them over the finish line.  Looking for ways to nudge them in the right direction is helpful.  Consider making your offers time bound.  Add deadlines and capacity numbers because they create a feeling of scarcity and scarcity motivates people. 

Give away something with a perceived higher value.  Bundle things together and create even more value and wow.   You can get creative and use this as a differentiator.  It doesn’t even have to be your services.  It could be a down-stream service provider’s voucher, free products, discounts or additional services.

Make them feel good by telling them that referrals help you and save you money, which in turn keeps prices low. 

Only work with those who will give you credible referrals.  A & B referral partners only!

Ask – How did you find out about us?  Why did you choose us?  Then leverage the insight.

Referral IDEAS & Systems

Here you will find 20 ideas to get your own creative juices flowing.  You don’t need to use them all and some of them can be combined.  Make small bets to try them out and see what works for you. 

IDEA 1 – The freebie 

Giving something away triggers a human need to reciprocate.  It’s powerful.  So what can you give for free that gives people the experience of your service?

It doesn’t have to be expensive or even cost anything.  It’s about the ‘perceived’ value. 

It could be free because it’s from someone else – someone down the value chain from you.  It could be something you already have.

IDEA 2 – The referral price

Make it easy to refer people to you by giving them a referral price for finding you new clients.  Check your numbers to make sure its viable but attractive.

IDEA 3 – Grandfathering

If you sign up for another year now I’ll give you last year’s prices.  This includes anyone you introduce, which will save them £xxx.

IDEA 4 – Lumpy mail

Send existing clients a thank you note and give them something they can share with others whilst looking good in the process.

IDEA 5 – Referral bonus

Everyone that refers a client to you gets something of value to them. The more they refer the more they get.

IDEA 6 – Worthy causes

Help worthy causes as a thank you for doing business / referring.  You feel good, the person referring feels good, charities are happy and your business grows – what’s not to like?

Don’t forget to tell people how they can donate directly too.

IDEA 7 – A competition or challenge

Referrals go into a prize draw. All you need to do is refer a friend.

It doesn’t have to cost much – vouchers from others / perceived value.

Free challenge where you learn in exchange for permission to have a conversation. 

Free promotion in your business to other businesses.

IDEA 8 – Just ask

If you’ve made a huge impression just ask.  This is especially impactful when you’ve just blown their socks off.  You might say ‘who do you love that you’d love to have this feeling too?’  Remember – if you don’t ask, the answer is always No.

IDEA 9 – Free consultation & benefits

The key here is to offer something that gives you the opportunity to lead the potential client into your full services.  Part of a freemium model.

Idea 10 – Be bold 

Offer to give them their investment back if they get people to buy your services.  Imagine I’ve just had your lawn treated and you say ‘get me 2 new customers and I’ll give you your money back!’  Do your numbers first though!

Idea 11 – Create excitement

Send a gift to a place where they’ll celebrate with others and tell them all about you.   It also supports your USP.

Idea 12 – Certificates & vouchers   

Create a voucher or gift certificate people can give away.  Be creative and package/bundle value.  Imagine them strategically placed with the person who your customer connects with / the business for the service they consume before you.

Idea 13 – Pay for referrals

I’ll give you £1000 for every £10,000 paying client.  This is an incentive.  Don’t confuse it with a bribe.

Idea 14 – Loyalty bonus

As a valued customer, here is something you can only use with me and only tomorrow.  There is also an extra discount for you and everyone else you bring with you.

Idea 15 – Host a special event

An event, evening, discussion, demo.  Give tickets away but have a seat limit because its exclusive.  Perhaps bringing a friend is a condition to attending.  Make it feel like a party.  Use the time to get to know your prospects and follow up with them.  Don’t sell  – just be likeable.

Idea 16 – Reciprocate first

Connect them to someone else first.  You can train them on how to do it for you.

Remember – thank people for referrals. Make them feel special and appreciated.  Send them a personal note.  Give them more than you promised.

Idea 17 – Lead the expectation

Thank the customer and lead their thinking – ‘Please keep in mind 3 – 4 people who’d love to have the same wonderful experience that you’ve just enjoyed.’

Idea 18 – Thank you note

For example…Dear Customer, it’s been our pleasure supporting you and seeing you achieve such a wonderful outcome.  

If you know of anyone who’s in a similar position, we’d love you to give them one of these vouchers worth £300 as a gift from you.

It’s because of wonderful customers like you who tell people about us that we can keep our costs low and our service high.

Idea 19 – The exchange

I’ll send all my customers to you if you send all your customers to me.  This should be for legitimate needs and in a complementary category.  E.g. for me as a coach, this could be a collaboration with a Personal Trainer. 

Idea 20 – The best idea ever

What if you were to serve your existing customers so powerfully they couldn’t help but tell people about it.

Ask – What’s the story you help your customers tell.  Whats the one word you want to own in the mind of your customer?

What to do next to get more referrals 

Go through your database of contacts and group people into referral groups.  Decide on an approach and craft the specifics.  Test. Measure. Rinse and repeat!

let me coach you every week via Email

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