TDW #006: The Referral Generator System

The Referral Generator System

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There are only two ways to get new business: inbound and outbound marketing.

Inbound marketing (e.g. leads come to you) is what most business owners are familiar with:

  • Website
  • Social media
  • Content marketing

But outbound marketing (e.g. you go to your prospects) is an untapped goldmine for many businesses. Most ignore outbound to their own peril, however. Mainly because it gets such a bad rap. I mean, who hasn't been on the receiving end of a pushy, sales-y, spammy, in-your-face marketer who just won't leave you alone?  

But when done correctly, outbound provides TONS of hidden opportunities for your biz. And there's no easier place to start than with referrals.

Referrals are like cheating.

They’re shortcuts to trust because you’re surfing in on the goodwill of whoever it is doing the referring for you. I've seen referral close rates bump up into the 70-80% range. Sometimes higher.

But referrals can be feast or famine. While it’s best not to depend solely on referrals to build your business, they can be a killer source of untapped revenue. Especially if you have a way to systematize it.

I started using the process below in our agency for new clients. While killer content is good for business, referrals from happy clients are even better. Most of our new clients had never asked their own client base for referrals—thus, the Referral Generator was born.

Use this step-by-step process to predictably generate referrals for your business. It's super easy to implement. You can be up-and-running in 10 minutes.

So let's get started...

Step 1: Build your list of potential referrals.

List out all the people below who have paid you money in the past calendar year. Make sure to include their name (duh), business, and email address. Bonus points if you add the service or product they bought from you. Open up your CRM or client list and copy-and-paste directly from it if you need to.

Step 2: Make the ask.

Send an email that says this (add your relevant details first, obvi):

Hi so-and-so,

Who are two people you know who have the same problem I/we helped you with, and could possibly be interested in my/our help? Would you be willing to introduce us via email/text in the next week?

Thanks for the opportunity to work with you.


I’ve found most people just need to be asked. And they’re genuinely excited to help. You should aim for a 50-60% response rate. Let’s do some quick math:

  • You ask 10 people for 2 referrals 
  • 50% of them respond with 2 referrals each
  • You now have 10 new referral leads for your business

Sidenote: if you find it exceedingly difficult to get people who’ve paid you money to respond to this request, you might have a bigger issue on your hands. Referrals are not the pinnacle of a good business, they are the starting point. If you can’t get referrals after this exercise, it might be time to reconsider your service / product / offering.

Step 3: Get better.

You don’t have to do this at the same time as asking for referrals, but I’ve found doing a “Help Me Make It Better” online survey a great way to naturally transition into the referral discussion.

If you want to keep it super basic, here's a survey you can put together with just three questions in it:

  1. Question 1: Would you say this product/service is worth more than what you paid for it? [Yes or No]
  1. Question 2: What could we do to make this product/service and experience better? [Long Form Text]
  1. Question 3: Anything else you're dying to let us know? [Long Form Text]

(It’s question 3 that usually gives us a testimonial-in-disguise. If this happens, we ask the respondent for permission to use it and bake it into our marketing materials.)

If someone who’s paid you money comes back with a glowing review, it’s super easy to ask them for referrals. Slam these questions into a survey platform like Typeform or Google Survey. Don't overthink it. Send it out and you’ve got a walking, talking, referral-generating machine.

Step 4: Build this process into your marketing automation.

The more you can automate this process, the better. Some of our clients have baked the referral-generating process right into their client management process and automated it completely through tools like Infusionsoft or Active Campaign.

If nothing else, place a reminder on your calendar to go through and complete this process at least once per quarter.

Step 5: Send a thank you note or gift to everyone who responds.

Write a handwritten thank-you note to anyone who gives you a referral. Period. You should already have a billing address on-file because these folks have paid you money. 

If you don’t have an address for them, just ask. Everyone loves getting real mail.

Depending on how generous you’re feeling, you could always send a nice gift through or some swag through

Happy hunting! Talk to you next week...


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