How to Ask for Referrals Without Feeling Uncomfortable: 3 Simple Strategies

The idea of a referral-based business sounds way too good to be true.

Honestly – a biz that gets a massive number of its customers from referrals and word-of-mouth alone? It has to be an urban legend, right?

Turns out, this urban legend is just like that one about the alligators in the sewers – it’s 100% true.

(At least, we think the alligator thing is true.)

Point is, you can actually grow a business by focusing hard on referrals.

Did you know that the lifetime value of a referred customer can be up to five times of a non-referred customer?

Do you want to learn how to ask for referrals and get what you want? How do the pros effectively use the referral marketing channel? Keep reading for all our knowledge on asking clients for referrals.

How to ask for referrals without feeling uncomfortable

Why don’t more people actually ask for referrals?

It’s most likely because asking for referrals can feel ridiculously awkward. It’s the cheapest form of advertising around, but asking for business referrals can make some people feel desperate or pushy.

Let’s face it: asking for referrals is awkward! For as bold and brazen as we are when it comes to sharing our own personal details on social media, it’s pretty rare that we’ll go and straight-up ask someone else to talk about us – and especially to talk about just how awesome we are.

But here’s a secret: your clients and customers want to sing your praises. And some of them will do it no matter what!

As for the rest, though, you can take a few little proactive steps to get that referral on their radar without that awkward feeling.

Here are three of the best ways to ask for referrals that are completely pain-free!

1. Make it easy for them

Create plug-and-play referral items so that they’re ready to go, and people don’t need to spend time writing out messages about you and your biz.

What you create ultimately depends on your industry and how you like to spread the good word, but the most common types of message include:

  • Asking for referrals via email
  • Shareable social media images
  • Click-to-Tweets
  • Other types of pre-written social media posts

(Fun fact: pre-written stuff like this is often called swipe copy! Okay, well, we thought that was a fun fact.)

You won’t necessarily do this for every single thing you offer, but picking and choosing can be really worth the effort – especially when it comes to things like sales, seasonal promotions, and new offers. A few strong pieces of swipe copy can give you a real boost when you want it most!

2. Be direct when asking for a referral

Wanna ask for something like this without feeling all weird?

It’s actually kind of like asking for a testimonial – but that’s a whole ‘nother blog post.

Here are three basic rules to follow when you’re nailing down your phrasing:

Keep it brief. The simpler, the better – especially because when you’re technically asking for something, you want to respect the other person’s time. (This is why being able to offer swipe copy is so ideal!) Don’t use long phrases to ask for referrals. Cut right to the point: if they’re happy with what they’re getting, why not spread the word?

Be specific. If there’s a certain type of exposure you’re shooting for, ask for it! Maybe you want to get noticed by your customers’ friends and fans – inviting them to tag you in an image or a Tweet is one of many great examples of asking for referrals.

Twitter referral

Giveaway opportunities like in that Tweet are just one example of how to convert fans into advocates.

If your products are particularly visual, you can also invite your customers to share their best snaps on Instagram and to tag you there – you can even suggest that they mention a friend who’d love your stuff in the caption!

A referral request doesn’t have to be pushy or even super-specific – just giving a gentle nudge in the right direction can make a big difference..

Let them know what’s in it for them. Depending on what you’re asking, a little incentive can go a long way. (Can you say swag? Actually, you probably can. It’s a pretty easy word to say.) Letting people know that rewards await referrals can really entice them to take action!

Here’s a great sample email asking for referrals from clients:

sample letter asking for referrals from clients

Other times, referrals can take the form of partnerships – trading off with other businesses whose products you’d like to promote yourself. (Just make sure that they’re businesses you actually want to promote, because honesty in this sort of thing is pretty important.)

3. Plan ahead for them

Sometimes, the best referral is the one you give yourself – and that means referring existing customers to products and services they might not have realized you offer.

Sure, they could stumble upon them on their own – but they could also not. So why not make their lives a little easier?

Here are a few ways to give a client referral for your own services!

Make it obvious. Send an email toward the end of your work together (or include it in the wrap-up process), and clearly spell out the next best option for working together again. Tell them briefly why you’ve chosen this for them, what the benefits are, and how they can book it (or buy it) now.

Simplify the steps. If someone’s already a customer or client, they probably don’t need your life story again. (Imagine telling your good friends where your bathroom is every single time they visit.) Give your repeat clients and customers the good-friend treatment when you reach out with new offers.

Don’t make it about you. When you share the offer to work together again, be clear, and focus on how it benefits them. If you truly don’t have an offering to share right now, let them know that you’ve enjoyed working with them, and that you’re always building new services and products you think would be a strong fit for them. (And then, actually follow up in the future!)

Do the work for them. Let them know you’ll follow up if need be. You could try something like this line we saw in a recent sales email: “Please spend some time carefully considering if you’d like to go ahead. If you have any questions, just write to me or call me. If I don’t hear from you in the next two weeks, I’ll make contact with you again.”

It’s simple, it’s clear, and it makes the reader feel supported – just make it easy for them to opt out, too.


How to ask for referrals in an email

Wondering how to mention a referral in an email? You may choose to dedicate a whole email to ask for a referral like the example we showed you above. You could add your referral request to a general subscriber email or newsletter or send a referral request after a customer makes a purchase.

Next time you’re stumped for what to say when writing a letter asking for referrals, why not use a referral email template like this one:

Hi X,

We’re very happy you’ve been using us for [enter benefit of your product service] for X time.

If you have friends or family who would benefit from [company name] we’d love for you to share us with them.

For every person who signs up via you, we’ll give you a $5 voucher for your next purchase [or whatever benefit you want to offer them]. Just tell them to use code XXXX.

Thanks so much!

Remember to keep it short, to the point, and clear. Make sure the steps for someone to make a referral are easy too.

How to ask for a referral from a client

Now you know that streamlining and simplifying your process of requesting referrals makes the whole thing feel a lot more natural – and less awkward!

Get to it and start asking your clients for referrals in a more subtle way than you have before.

So, do you ask for referrals from your clients and customers?

Do you give them without being asked?

Let us know what you think in the comments below!

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  • Anita Dow

    Great insights here with usable tips.When I am a satisfied customer I sometimes go out of my way to give referrals unprompted. That’s a way of giving. I find it awkward to ask for referrals though – perhaps because that’s a way of taking, and I’m not good at demanding something of others. However, if people are naturally geared up to be happy to give referrals, perhaps we should realise that asking is really no big deal.

    • Tom VanBuren

      That point about “giving” and “taking” is such a useful way of summing up how weird it can feel to ask about this stuff. You’re totally right, though – when you think about a satisfied customer’s perspective, asking doesn’t seem so bad at all!

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