A Simple But Powerful Way To Get More Referrals

This week I am teaching EntreLeadership Performance Series here in Tennessee, and will be finishing the week off with a couple of Formula races in Savannah. I’ve asked some of the incredibly talented commenters of this blog to share their wisdom. Here’s a great post on getting business referrals by Joel Fortner. Joel’s company, BlueBridge Communication, specializes in helping entrepreneurs effectively market their business.

It’s a fact. Unless you stink, your business gets referrals. But do you know why?

Sure, great service, price, experience, products matter, but that’s not why people refer your business. They don’t do it to help you out or even as a favor, either. Rather, they do it to make themselves feel good.

Think about it. You have a fantastic experience at a local Italian restaurant. The following day, you get into a conversation about good places to eat. And what do you do? You recommend the Italian restaurant.

Days later, you run into the same person. They tell you they went to the restaurant you recommended and loved it!

What happens then? You feel great about yourself. You don’t, however, feel great about the business owner and how you helped grow their business and provided income to a server there.

No, it’s all about you.

Now why does this matter to you as a small business entrepreneur? If you’re like so many of your peers, you don’t ask for referrals from your customers because it feels awkward. You feel uncertain about their perception of you, like you’re asking for a favor; or you’re afraid they’ll think you can’t drum up business on your own.

This kind of thinking is wrong. People love to refer businesses they love, so don’t be afraid to ask your customers who clearly love you to refer you.

Question: How do you orchestrate business referrals?

This post is an excerpt from Joel’s new eBook, Small Business Guide to Marketing: Ideas You Must Know & Mistakes You Must Avoid. You can get the 30-page eBook for free simply by subscribing to his marketing blog. Click here.



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Meet Chris LoCurto


Chris has a heart for changing lives by helping people discover the life and business they really want.

Decades of personal and leadership development experience, as well as running multi-million dollar businesses, has made him an expert in life and business coaching. personality types, and communication styles.

Growing up in a small logging town near Lake Tahoe, California, Chris learned a strong work ethic at home from his full-time working mom. He began his leadership and training career in the corporate world, starting but at E'TRADE.

80 thoughts on “A Simple But Powerful Way To Get More Referrals”

  1. Love the post Joel. It’s so true. It is all about me! Going along with what you say here, it seems the best time to ask for the referrals would be when you customer is clearly excited about your product or service!
    I had a guy ask me for referrals just this week and I’m more than happy to come up with some names for him because I feel like he’s given me so much more value than I paid for! And he asked me for the referrals shortly after I told him that his value greatly outweighed my cost!! 🙂

    1.  @Skropp I have actually asked for referrals at the closing table!  when they are getting the keys to their new home – now that is the time when they are most excited!

  2. Thanks Joel. You are right on and I never looked at it this way. In the world of therapy, parents take their children to the best things possible for their child. When it helps, they tell other families what they are doing that helps. I haven’t recognized how that made them feel by making that referral. Food for thought!!

  3. Joel
    Thanks for posting. I recently posted a challenage on one of the groups at 48days.net to say hey let’s be bold and courageous in remembering to ask for what we need every once in a while. It is funny though how it is easier and fun to recommend someone than ask ourselves for a recommendation.
    Thank you for tr reminder!
    Live Beyond Awesome!

    1. @JenMcDonough I think that is the absolute beauty and genius of capitalism! I can refer someone out of the totally selfish desire of feeling good, and yet it helps the business I recommend AND the person I referred!! It’s a win-win-win!

    2. Jen, I would certainly recommend you  to others!  Wow! Just visited your website. It is beyond awesome!! 🙂  And also beyond awesome the fact that I live in Minnesota too. I’m merely 30 mi away from you.  How cool is that?

      1.  @lilykreitinger 
        Well jeepers creepers, thanks for the nice note!  I actually am going to take Joel’s advice and send a note out to all my medical contacts I am linked up with to ask them to consider sending out and/or take action on  a blog I posted yesterday (http://www.livebeyondawesome.com/attention-healthcare-leaders-i-can-help-you-bring-in-more-dollars/) as I KNOW it could be a solution for many. This is SO NOT ME! Joel’s advice came at a GREAT time!
        WHAT?!  30 miles away. NO WAY! That is a hoot Lily!!!!!! 

  4. For my clients during tax season, I strive to give them better service than they’ve previously had. Quicker turnaround time, more comprehensive explanation, and friendlier service than the competition. So far referrals have really helped increase my client base. The flip side of this is remembering that customers can always leave you if you get complacent. Continue to consistently give them reason to refer you, no matter how long they’ve been with you.

      1.  @JoelFortner
         You’re so right!  And I needed to be reminded to take the lead to ask them…I find myself being the shy one who doesn’t really like to ask favors.  Even when I did ask for referrals, I made it more of a promotion (refer xx people and receive a $$$ cash refund for each).  I guess that’s kinda cheating though isn’t it?  I haven’t gotten to the point of asking without bribing LOL

        1.  @JoelFortner
           Yes, it did.  Not as much as I had anticipated at first, but it definitely picked up once people saw me putting money back in their pocket.

  5. Now, this is a challenge for a high S-C.  We don’t like to bother people, ask for help or cause any kind of inconvenience.  It’s safer to think that if our product or service is super awesome, the referrals will happen naturally. Shows you how much I know about marketing.  However, I found the perfect workaround for my personality profile. Do the same as in sales skills. Think you are SERVING and helping their lives be better by providing your service or product and you’re just asking for an opportunity to spread the love and you’ll be OK.  (I know Aaron is going to “Here, here”  this).  Make this day awesomely wonderful!!

    1. @lilykreitinger AS a fellow high S-Cer I completely agree with joan–er…I mean Lily’s observation! I HATE bugging people. Haha. My wife loses her mind when I text instead of calling, but I just figure if they’re busy a text won’t bug them like a call would…
      But, you’re the marketing guru Joel, so we find a way to make ‘er work!! Lily hit the back of the net, we’ve just gotta convince ourselves that we’re asking so we can help more people…which we are!
      Second, I wish I had a really cool saying like Aaron and Chris do… I was tempted to jump in and steal the “here here” from Aaron, but that’s not being sporting! So I’ll just keep working on one…maybe something like “there there” or “BahAH!” idk, we’ll see what develops. I gots ideas like will smith’s got ears! (big and out there…hmmm maybe not the best analogy!)

    2. Love this approach, Lily.  I’ve had a few discussion about asking for referrals and personality styles.  You’ve outlined a great way for an S to go about this.

    3.  @lilykreitinger I think one advantage of the more introverted personality types rests in the fact that we very rarely make an effort to do something outside of our comfort zone UNLESS we are very passionate about it on the inside. That makes what we do on the extrovert side have a much greater impact — and often others recognize how big of deal an introvert acting extroverted is. 

    4.  @lilykreitinger Lily – I always coach my team that if they truly believe we offer the very best service of any other company – wouldn’t the client be best served to use us?  Wouldn’t it really be just WRONG for them to go anywhere else?  Wouldn’t they SUFFER to use anyone but us?!?!   It’s an OPPORTUNITY to serve the client better than anywhere else in the WORLD!

  6. Thanks for this Joel.  Some of us entrepreneurs fail to ask for the referral because we see the tiny imperfection in our offerings.  That’s suicide…  Ask for the REF!  
    I’m so glad you posted here this morning.  I connected with you a month or so ago & I have meant to spend some time with your blog.  Admittedly, I had not done so until this morning.  It is obvious that you care about serving small business.  To quote SKROPP… “The E-Book’s value greatly outweighed my cost.”  Seriously, the information is very valuable.  Thank you for that.

    1. @CabinetDoork Hey, be careful quoting me…we don’t want my head getting so big I get get through the web portal into the blog…. Haha

      1.  @Skropp  @CabinetDoork Seeing that you’re already in, your wouldn’t be able to get out. That’s even scarier!

  7. In the healthcare setting, we send out customer satisfaction surveys via an independent national firm.   The results ask about the patient’s (sorry, customer’s) experience from the valet parking attendant to the discharge volunteer that wheels them back to their ride waiting outside.
    This is a point-blank opportunity to ask for a referral with ALL questions based on answers ranging from “never, occasionally, frequently, usually, or always.”   We strive for “always”, and the more “always” responses we get back, the more likely the customer is to refer us to others.
    Great post, Joel.   As usual.   
    (Lily has proven to be Chris’ Joan Rivers, you are his Jay Leno…..Lily minus the facelifts, you minus the chin!)   

      1.  @Skropp  @skottydog Robin Williams and Bette Midler.  They were the last guest hosts just before he retired.
        (and yes, I cheated and used Wikipedia!   NO ONE knows that much about Johnny Carson!)

        1. @lilykreitinger @skottydog Neither did I! Totally before my time. I have a DVD of a Rat Pack concert that Johnny MC’d but that as close as I get 🙂

        2.  @skottydog Am I Robin or Bette?? I stayed up late once to watch Johnny Carson because John Denver was on. Never did see Johnny. Did he ever even do the show??

        3.  @Skropp  @lilykreitinger  @skottydog C’Mon!  I’m not THAT old!  I’m only 41.  Admittedly, I was a kid when he was on, but he didn’t retire until I was a teenager.  Surely you guys were at least walking the earth when Jay Leno took over!

        4.  @cabinart Not for the last year, I think.  Jay Leno slowly transitioned in the same manner that Rachel Cruz is beginning to at the Ramsey organization.   Seamless transition, as Dave says.
          I would say you are more like Bette.  Talented, but without the crazy that Robin brings to the table.  Well, (foot in mouth here) but they were BOTH crazy….Bette was less crazy!   Am I off the hook?  🙂

        5.  @skottydog I am so culturally illiterate that I know next to nothing about most of those people. Robin makes me laugh, but his politics make me cry. And I don’t know Thing One about Bette. So, no hook. 😎

        6.  @skottydog  @Skropp  Here we go into the age thing again. I am just one year younger than you friend.  The simple reason for me is that it was not mainstream in Mexico.

        7.  @lilykreitinger  @Skropp Well, you don’t look a day over 25, judging from your profile picture!   There. Now does that at least get ONE of my two shoes out of my mouth?  :^}

        8.  @skottydog  @lilykreitinger  @Skropp I never understood the “day over” line… I mean, you would think a person would like to be a day over 25 rather than a decade, century, or millennia over 25 (which are the other options, right?).

        9. @skottydog @lilykreitinger 41??!??! Isn’t that like death’s door?? Haha. If I was born when he was still on I wasn’t old enough to know and/or care haha

        10. @skottydog Hey I’m pretty good at digging too! I almost think of it as a game…dig a hole then see if I can crawl out…maybe I was meant to be a lawyer……

        11. @Skropp Yeah, realized I’m not so young anymore when I heard Guns n’ Roses announced on the radio as classic rock. Also, most of the people I work with have never seen “Young Frankenstein”. Or heard of Mel Brooks. Okay, NOW I feel old.

        12.  @skottydog  @Skropp @lilykreitinger Oh-oh, I think all you children might need to address me as “Mrs. Cabinart” out of respect for my advanced age.

        13. @skottydog I totally know what you mean!! The stuff I listened to in school is now on “flashback Fridays” you know, groups like NSYNC, Matchbox 20, etc. haha. Ok, so I’m not that old! Sorry!! Haha

  8. Great points Joel. Even at a nonprofit – we need to remember to ask for recommendations – if people have a good time volunteering, telling their friends will bring more volunteers, who might become donors or shoppers in our thrift store. Definitely need to be more proactive in asking!

    1.  @CarolDublin ESPECIALLY in a non-profit!  Just a few weeks ago, our food pantry at church  needed some help – I didn’t find out until 2 weeks after the need had passed.  My question to them – why didn’t you share the need – and ask for help? 

  9. Great thoughts, Joel! Since you asked for referrals, I went to your blog, subscribed, got my e-book, and referred you on Twitter. I’m looking forward to reading the e-book soon.

    1. @JoshuaWRivers SEE!!! Joel wrote this book for selfish, shameless self-promotional purposes!!!!! Youve been found out Joel!!! Don’t deny it!!

      Haha. I’ll say it again, isnt it neat how in helping others you can help yourself and in the process of helping yourself you help others??? I LOVE capitalism!!

        1.  @JoelFortner  @Skropp  @JoshuaWRivers I love it too – Joel – can you teach us?  BTW – For some reason (my fault), I could not connect to the link – can you send to me?

  10. Thinking about referrals, I just added 15-20 links to my website. Most of them were from friends on here.

      1.  @LouiseThaxton If everyone would like to see who I added, you can check it out. If I missed yours, let me know.

  11. BTW everyone and off topic.  If you’re on Twitter, follow the #CLoBlog hashtag and add it to your tweets if you want us to read them.  We were including everyone on the tweets, but tribe is growing fast and we all don’t fit in the little 140 character text box.  I also suggest creating a list. That way you can selectively follow the tribe’s posts without sifting through your whole Twitter feed.   This Twitter lesson brought to you by lilykreitinger.com  🙂

    1. @lilykreitinger SHAMELESS SELF PROMOTION!! SHAMELESS SELF PROMOTION!!!! P.S. yes, please use the hash tag!! We love keeping in touch there too!

        1.  @Skropp  @lilykreitinger You all are so much fun that I actually considered Twitter for a brief moment. I might need to go lie down, take some deep breaths, reconnect with my inner Cave Woman. . .

        2. @cabinart @Skropp @lilykreitinger You think we’re fun here?? You should see us on twitter… Just this evening Joel said lily didn’t like me, Jon told Chris he’d give him 2 gum balls for every tweet he sent while racing, Laura called me goofy, and we came up with racing inspired blog post tiles for Chris to use… Just sayin…it’s CALM on here! Haha

  12. I subscribed for your ebook too. Like Joshua, I fell for your “scheme” (and was happy to do so!)
    You are spot on in your reasons as to why I don’t ask for referrals. There is a third reason – I don’t think about it!!

  13. From clients – After a loan is closed, our clients receive a survey – which if completed, they receive a gift card.  In that survey, we ask the question “who do you know that would benefit from our services….” and we periodically get contact information from our clients.
    Just yesterday, I had lunch with a current client (they closed on their home purchase today) and we talked about referrals.  He told me what department of the Army in which  he worked, and I said, “we would welcome any referrals you have for us …” and he was VERY agreeable!  As are all our clients when we ASK!
    Our business is almost 100% referral based – so, asking for referrals is natural to us.

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