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Asking for referrals: A cost-effective way to getting more clients

asking for referrals
By Kathryn Yanchycki, CPA. Last Updated May 9, 2024

Referrals are the most effective and least costly way of attracting new business. A referred customer costs less to acquire and is higher quality. But it is sometimes uncomfortable to ask for them. You could use some more clients but you don't want to come across as desperate or pushy.

So we sit back and wait, thinking, "If I deliver great work for my existing clients, the referrals will come." which may never happen.

Taking charge of your business using referrals is better. Knowing when and how to ask is key.

This blog post will cover why referrals are so important, ways to get referrals, tips for successful referral opportunities, and some customer referral templates for email.

Some of the best way to get referrals

  1. Offer incentives to reward your referring clients
  2. Opt into strategic partnerships
  3. Just ask directly
  4. Create referral marketing materials
  5. Add referral functionality to your website
  6. Be active on LinkedIn and other social media platforms
  7. Use your email signature
  8. Join a referral networking group
  9. Passive or indirect referral requests
asking for referrals

Why is asking for referrals so important?

As a business owner, you know how much time and effort goes into acquiring new clients. Not only that, but it can be costly. 

Referrals, on the other hand, are like free advertising. And the prospective clients that come from it are usually already loyal because they were referred by someone they trust who has had a great experience with you.

Ways to get referrals

Offer incentives to reward your referring clients.

If your clients are happy with your work, they shouldn't have a problem giving you a referral if they know of someone who could benefit from your product or service. But, everyone enjoys a little gift. 

These incentives don't have to be expensive. It could be as simple as a small discount on their next service or a $10 gift card. Inform your clients that they'll receive something in return for every referral they send your way.

Opt into strategic partnerships

To get referrals, you should also give referrals to other business owners you trust. Not only will people want to return the favour, but you'll be helping out people in your network by connecting with great people they need.

This can be done indirectly by sharing someone else's work, such as their latest blog post or their business in general, with your network. It can also be done by directly recommending someone your friend needs. Make sure you actually want to recommend that person because your friend trusts your opinion.

Do you know anyone who could use the products or services your client provides? If so, refer them to your client. 

Just ask directly

Getting straight to the point is sometimes best because even though asking for a referral is nerve-wracking, you are more worried about it than you need to be. It's not pushy or awkward if you've earned it by going above and beyond by providing excellent service. 

Focus on your best customers or those who mutually benefit from being asked. It's also important to highlight the benefit to the person they refer, and that you genuinely want to help them. This can be done in person, over the phone, via email or on social media.

It doesn't have to sound or feel pushy. Try asking:

  • Do you know anyone who could use our service?
  • Do you know anyone who would also like our product?
  • Is there anybody else you would recommend for my services?
  • Is there anyone else you know I can help?

These questions can naturally suggest a referral without making it seem like they have to do it, and it is a great first step before asking them to join your referral program.

Create referral marketing materials

This could be a business card, referral email template or referral card that includes your logo and contact information that read "Referred by _________ ." 

Some of our best, most trusted recommendations come from our friends. And having marketing material ready to go makes it much easier for people to share with their friends.

Add referral functionality to your website

Your company can use its website to receive a few referrals you don't even have to ask for directly.

You could add a referral program pop-up that appears after a purchase with a simple blurb and link to your referral landing page.

Be active on LinkedIn and other social media platforms

It is important to update your Linkedin and other social media profiles, which is a valuable tool for creating connections. You could even post a link to your referral program in your social media bio.

Be active on the platforms by creating, sharing and engaging with relevant content. This helps keep you top of mind, which is super important in getting more referrals.

You can even promote your referral program on your feed to all of your followers, which will remind and motivate people to tell their friends.

Use your email signature

Asking for referrals using the contact information in your email signature is an easy addition that may generate more referrals

It can be as simple as adding "Forward my contact information" as a CTA to remind them to recommend you to someone who could use your services, and it can be as easy as forwarding your contact information from the email.

Join a referral networking group

Networking groups allow business owners to gather to interact with each other, learn new skills, get feedback and gain network connections. These connections are a great way to generate new referrals and offer referrals to your clients looking for other services.

It is a mutually beneficial opportunity for your local business community and is especially important if you work from home.

Passive or indirect referral requests

Passive referral requests can be included in follow-up emails, email newsletters, transactional emails, phone messages, social media posts, business cards, or even your email signatures. While these are more passive ways of inviting people to refer their friends, they still work.

Or ask for a testimonial instead. That will allow you to have something you can use on your website or in your marketing material. 

Tips for asking for or naturally attracting referrals

Make clients your priority

Improve your client experience in any way possible, and go above and beyond to ensure they're as satisfied as they can be before requesting referrals.

While you'll always want to do your best to deliver on time and within budget, look for ways to exceed your client's expectations whenever possible.

Happy clients may already be praising your work to their friends and colleagues, but it's best to ask those clients for a referral too.

Provide value first, then ask

You can provide value to your clients by building trust. Show them that you genuinely understand what they need and can help them solve their problem. Then you can ask, "Do you know anybody facing similar issues that I could help with?

Building trust can also be achieved by showing your expertise. Always take time to answer your client's questions fully. You can also share helpful information, such as articles your client would find valuable. Then you can ask, "Do you know anybody who also wants to learn about this topic?"

When you build that trust by providing value, your happy customers will have no problem referring you to their network.

Reach out to the right people

Before you even start crafting your referral email template, social media post, or phone script for your referral request, you first need to know who you're reaching out to. You need to be deliberate about who you ask; the best people to ask for a referral are your best and happiest customers. 

Make it personal

Instead of sending a broad, generic referral request to all your contacts, it is to personalize your request for each person. This will allow you to bring up specific interactions, work you've completed for them or other common traits.

Make sure the request feels natural

A referral request shouldn't feel like a cold call or a cold email. Asking for a referral should be a natural progression after you've spent time building a relationship with a customer. It shouldn't be the first thing you lead when you meet a new client or customer. When you have a positive, long-standing relationship with someone, it should be easy to naturally ask for a referral within the conversation and be genuine. 

Remember that people like to help others, especially if you've done a good job and built a good relationship with your client.

Make it easy for them to refer

Make it as easy as possible for people to refer you by having templates available for customer referrals immediately and contact information easily accessible. This could be an email script written for them, including links to your website or contact information and a little about how you help.

Have your name, phone number, email address, and website everywhere, including your invoices and in your email signature. Have a way to contact you on your social media profiles as well. If your clients don't have your contact information, don't expect any new referrals.

Recognize and thank your referral sources

When you do the work asking for referrals, and you finally get a referral, make sure to thank the person who connected you. It should not be taken lightly to receive a referral as that person has taken the time to reach out to their network on your behalf and vouched for you and the value of your product or service.

When you show people you appreciate their help, they are more likely to send more referrals in the future. To show appreciation, call them, send an email or a card shortly after - put a reminder in your workflow so you don't forget. It can be short but personalized to show them how much you appreciate them connecting you and contributing to the success of your business.

Offer your referral sources a reward for referring a new customer to you or send them a gift. The gesture can go a long way, even if it's something small.

Follow-up and stay in touch

Whether or not you have asked for a referral, staying in touch with your client is important. You always want to keep those connections and the door open for future referrals.

A few ways to do this are to: 

  • Follow them on social media accounts so you can keep up with their posts and updates - interact and send congratulations on key events.
  • Set up Google Alerts for your client's name or business so you can stay up to date with important business or personal news.
  • Ask to go for a cup of coffee to visit.

Schedule reminders in your calendar to keep in touch with your clients regularly, catch up or see if you can help them with anything.

When to ask for a referral

Now that you know easy ways to ask for referrals, it's essential to know when to use them.

It's important not to ask too early in your relationship before performing any actual work, but don't wait too long. Look for moments when your clients are the happiest and are praising your work.

This could be:

  • After a purchase
  • After they've had an issue solved through customer support
  • Once you've completed a project or helped them achieve a significant milestone during a longer-term project
  • After they've given positive, unprompted feedback or praise about you, publicly or in conversation with you.
  • After they've given a high score on a customer satisfaction survey

Don't wait long after these milestones — you don't want them to forget about you and the incredible value you've provided— but wait just long enough for them to see actual, noticeable results. 

Customer referral templates for email

Asking for a referral through email is easy and efficient, and it may already fit into your current workflow, which could include sending follow-up emails to your clients or a thank you email after they purchase. 

With a new client, you can talk about how happy you are with their results, contact you if they need anything else (just have a purpose!) and then ask for a referral. With a long-term client, you can be a bit more informal with your ask but first, thank them for their business and loyalty over the years. Be sure to mention your great work and the incentive or referral program, but keep it simple.

Try one of our referral email samples to ask your customer or colleague to take advantage of your referral program without feeling too pressured. And an additional sample to thank when they send a referral your way!

Ask for a referral from a new client or customer

Hi [client name],

I'm so glad you're happy with the results of working with us. I knew working together would be a good match. Please let me know if there are any additional ways I can help or if you have questions.

I'm always looking to help more people [how you help them] so if you know of anyone who needs [your product/service offering] or if anyone ever comes to mind, feel free to pass along my contact information. I would love to help them achieve the same results and offer [your incentive] to you for connecting us.

Kind regards,

[Your Name]

Ask for a referral from a long-time client or customer

Hi [client’s name],

I hope your week is going well!

I wanted to thank you for [name a specific way they've helped you, such as being a loyal customer for a given number of years].

We appreciate that you continue to trust us for [name a specific need your business has met]. 

I was wondering if you have anyone in mind who could also benefit from [your solution]. Feel free to connect us with them via our referral program. In return, you will get a discount on your next service.

You can access our referral program here.


[Your name]

Ask for a referral from a strategic partner

Hello [partner's name],

As you know, I offer [your product/service offering] and help my clients with [what you help with]. I've noticed that many of my clients could benefit from your service and vice versa. 

I would love to refer any of my clients who need [your product/service offering]. [If you already have a referral, let them know how they can connect.]

Do you currently know anyone who would benefit from [your product/service offering]? I'd be happy to help. Here's a link to my referral program if you send someone my way.


[Your name]

Thank your referral source when you get a referral

Hello [referral source name],

Thank you for referring [name] to me for [your product/service offering]. I look forward to working with them soon!

To show my appreciation, here's a [incentive from the referral program] - enjoy!

Thank you again for connecting me, and I look forward to talking again soon.


[Your name]

If a customer seems reluctant to give a referral:

Emphasize that a referral is a way to help a friend out with a problem and let them know that the referral will come from them, not a cold call from you.

If a customer can't think of any friends at the moment:

Ask if they'd be willing to share your business in another way, such as through a testimonial or on their social media. You can also send a link to your referral program in case they think of any friends to refer later.

Don't wait too long - just ask

Many people make the mistake of thinking referrals will just come without asking for them, or at least asking for customer feedback on your work. The more often you ask for referrals, the easier it will get. But if you want to gain more clients, you'll need to implement one or more of the simple strategies we outlined. 

Ask for a referral after you've built a relationship or the client is thrilled with their service. Then be sure to have multiple opportunities for your clients to make a referral or give a testimonial. Approach referrals by being natural and making it personal, and offering an incentive or at least a thank you.

When you play the long game of nurturing the relationships with your existing clients and ask for those referrals, things will eventually pay off for your business.

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Kathryn Yanchycki

Kathryn is a Chartered Professional Accountant with over 7 years of experience in both public practice and industry accounting. She has had the opportunity to work with a wide variety of individuals and companies, which gives her a unique perspective on what it takes to be successful in the industry. Kathryn loves all things business and productivity and has been able to combine her love for creating content into writing for accounting firms looking to improve their businesses.