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Customer Acquisition: 9 Creative Ways to Ask for Referrals

Written by on October 26, 2020

How much does it cost to acquire a new customer? According to Hubspot, it can cost anywhere from $7 to a whopping $400!

What if I told you there’s a way to get around that cost and land new clients without paying a single cent?

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That’s the power of referral. It’s the reason why it’s such an important part of the customer acquisition equation.

But how do you get a slice of the referral pie without stinking of desperation?

In today’s post, you’re going to learn why referrals are important and 9 creative ways to ask for them that will:

  • Boost your bottom line
  • Reward your current customer base
  • Lower your customer acquisition cost

Let’s dive in!

How Asking for Referrals Will Grow Your Business

#1 Referrals Build Trust

Referrals are the easiest and fastest way for you to build trust with a potential client. The referee has done all the hard work for you by raving about their results. 

All that’s left to do is follow through with an amazing onboarding experience and show your new client they were right to trust the recommendation.

#2 Saves You Money and Resources

Referrals are such a powerful tool for growing any business.


People would rather give their hard-earned cash to someone they know or who was recommended to them. Doing business with total strangers is risky, especially as the world shifts to remote first work culture

As more people spend more time online, they feel safer buying from a familiar face. 

In fact, in a study by G2 and Heinz Marketing, 92% of B2B buyers said they are more likely to purchase after reading a trusted review.

By increasing the number of referrals to your business, you’ll save money on marketing and your sales team doesn’t have to spend as much time nurturing potential clients through the sales funnel.

#3 Increases Your Sales Revenue

When someone comes to your business through a referral, they have the intention of purchasing from you.

It’s almost a guaranteed sale, and you skip all the steps of the sales cycle and go straight to closing the deal. Much less heavy lifting required!

How to Ask For Referrals Without Reeking of Desperation

1. Ask Your Best Customers for a Referral

The biggest mistake most businesses make when it comes to referrals?

They exhaust themselves by contacting every single customer on their database.

Not only is that going to waste time, but it’s not going to get you the referrals you want. Instead, you should focus on approaching your #1 fans.

Go through your customer list and highlight the people that:

  • Rated your services or products a 9 or 10/10. These are your TRUE fans that are going to be the best brand ambassadors.
  • You have a good relationship with. It will make the ask feel more natural and the chances of them following through on the referral that much higher.
Customer Acquisition for New Small Businesses Customer acquisition is perhaps the most important and difficult parts of any business. Find out how to make sure you get customers for your new business. READ MORE

2. Create a Customer Satisfaction Survey

So how do you identify those TRUE fans? You can start by creating a customer satisfaction survey.

The best part? You only need to ask one question: 

“On a scale of 1 to 10, how likely would you be to recommend our products or services to your friends and family?”

Bada bing bada boom! You’ll have identified potential customers to approach for a referral. Furthermore, this is an excellent thing to add to your business’s customer service skill set

3. Ask for a Referral When Your Customer is Happiest

The best time to mention your referral program to your customer is when they are over-the-moon with your service.

This can be when:

  • The customer has just purchased your product or had something installed
  • Mentioned how happy they are with your business
  • They have an incredible customer support experience with your team
  • They’re well-rested and more prepared for making decisions

After your customer is happy and satisfied with your service, casually slide in a referral ask.

4. Ask for a Client Testimonial

If asking for a referral doesn’t sit right with you, request a testimonial instead.

You can use testimonials from clients as powerful social proof in the following ways:

  • Add them to your sales page. Include a picture of your customer to bring in that human element.
  • Share it on social media and shout out your client. Everyone loves feeling acknowledged and valued.
  • Use your testimonials in proposals or pitches to potential clients. It’s an easy way to demonstrate your value and show off past results.

So how do you get testimonials?

Instead of asking for one and leaving your client to their own devices, create a questionnaire that’s going to guide them through the process and give you the answers you’re looking for.

Ask questions like:

  • What were the reasons that led you to hire us?
  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your overall experience as a client?
  • Do you feel the work you received was worth your investment?
  • What specific results or goals did you experience from working with us?
Free Ebook: Small Business Customer Strategies 101 Download our free ebook, Small Business Customer Strategies 101 to find out the best ways you can get your new customers and keep them around for longer. READ MORE

5. Create a Referral Program and Reward Your Loyal Customers

Consistently growing in popularity, referral programs are a great way to motivate current customers to help you find new customers.

After all, who doesn’t like making a couple of dollars off a simple recommendation?

You can reward your most loyal customers by:

  • Giving them a discount off their monthly subscription with you
  • A cash-back system
  • An Amazon or Starbucks gift card
  • Access to a premium membership

No matter what you do, as long as your customers feel valued, they’ll be more inclined to help you out.

6. Take Advantage of LinkedIn’s Search Features

Sometimes when you’re asked for a referral your mind draws a blank. Help your customers avoid brain fog syndrome by approaching them with a name or a company you’d like to connect with.

It’s an easy referral technique that’s going to save them time and get you one step closer to landing a new customer.

How do you find potential clients your customer knows? Through LinkedIn.

Log on to the platform and use the Advanced People Search feature. It will quickly give you a list of second-degree connections that your customers can refer you to.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Click on the search bar at the top left of the page.
  • Select “People” from the drop-down list.
  • Select the “2nd” connections option.
  • Refine your search with additional filters such as industry, title, location and keywords.

7. Give the Gift of a Referral Before You Ask

Make your customers feel all warm, fuzzy and full of gratitude by giving them a referral first.

It will make them way more likely to return the favour as you both get something in return.

All you need to do is write a networking email with a strong subject line introducing your customer to a company that can solve a problem in their business or life.

However, you need to make sure you send your customer to a great company. If your referral leads to a bad experience, it could potentially sour your relationship, and you won’t get a referral in exchange.

8. Build a Network of Referrals

What exactly is a ‘network of referrals? It’s when you team up with other companies and refer customers to each other. Because let’s face it. Customers are much less likely to buy if there aren’t referrals or reviews readily available. 

For example:

Imagine you’re a business coach who helps people create an online services business.

Once you’ve helped them find a niche and create a product, they’ll most likely need help with:

  • Writing sales page copy
  • Email marketing
  • Building a website
  • Creating sales funnels
  • Setting up Facebook Ads

These are all things that are out of your scope of work.

But instead of leaving your clients to solve these problems by themselves, you can refer them to a network of people you trust.

Likewise, if your friend who builds websites lands a client who is struggling with creating packages that sell, they can refer them to you.

9. Start Taking Advantage of User-Generated Content

FOMO: the fear of missing out. It’s a powerful referral tool for your business if you use it correctly.

So how do you stir up those feelings amongst your potential clients online? User-generated content (UGC).

Social Proof: What Is It and How to Cultivate It Social proof helps establish your credibility in the eyes of consumers. Here is how you can begin cultivating social proof. READ MORE

85% of users find UGC more persuasive than brand photos or videos. It’s a virtual endorsement or an unofficial ad) of your product or service.

The result is incredible social proof that no amount of Facebook Ads can buy.

You can encourage user-generated content by:

  • Running a competition or giveaway on Instagram
  • Creating a branded hashtag
  • Offering rewards
  • Sending a PR package to your biggest fans

It’s Your Turn! How Do You Plan on Building Referrals to Boost Your Business?

While asking for a referral is nerve-wracking, here are some things to remember:

  • People like to help other people. If you have a referral program in place, people will like helping you even more.
  • The worst thing that can happen is that they say no. The world won’t end. Your business won’t crash and burn. You simply move on.
  • Getting a referral isn’t the luck of the draw. While it can happen without any effort on your part, those opportunities will be few and far between.

If you want to leverage the power of referrals, you have to take action. Waiting around for it to happen to you isn’t going to help your business or boost your stream of leads.

By being proactive and serving your customers to the best of your ability, you will make it that much easier to ask for a referral without feeling desperate.

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