Social media is buzzing, QR codes are all the hype, and e-mail marketing is trendy, but where does that leave good old-fashioned referrals? Unfortunately for many startup companies, taking the time to consider the importance of referrals is the last thing on the “to do” list. After all, if you do a good job and someone wants to refer you, they can—it is out of your hands, right? Wrong. Believe it or not, it is not enough to simply hope someone refers your business to others. Someone may work with your business and say it is the best experience they have ever had, yet this does not guarantee that they will refer your business to someone else. In many cases, your clients and customers will have to seek out someone they know looking for your particular services. This takes some work, so you have to give your customers and clients a reason to do this work.
According to, a recent poll of businesses showed that “41.4% of businesses count on referrals for over 80% of their sales.” If you are a newer company and have not been working to generate referrals, don’t sweat it. Generating referrals takes effort, but it’s easy. Consider a few of the tips below:

5 Tips to Sending Your Company Name from Person to Person to Person

  • Give and Take—Working with a complementary company is a great way to generate referrals. If you can strike up a deal with another company that says you will refer their company if they refer yours, you are suddenly exposed to an entirely new group of people. These people will be in your target audience and will be getting a referral from a company they already trust, so your chances of hearing from them are great. The thing to remember here is the word “complementary.” You are not trying to partner up with your competition! For example, a holistic doctor may refer an organic food market, or a dentist may refer an orthodontist.
  • Coupons and Gifts—People love to be repaid for any type of work they do; even if the work is as simple as a referral. If you can create some sort of incentive for your customers to refer their friends, do it. This is probably one of the most popular ways a company increases their number of referrals.
  • Links—Here is a place where you can use those fancy social media marketing skills to help generate referrals. Whenever you send out an invitation to an event, and e-mail message, or have special deals on your website, be sure to include a button that allows viewers to “share with friends” or “share with colleagues.” In my personal opinion, people tweet because it is so easy—all you have to do is click a button. This should work just the same when it comes to referrals. People respond well too easy!
  • Testimonials—Consider gathering customer or client testimonials when sending out a newsletter, updating your website, or sending out an e-mail message. All you have to do is approach one of your clients or customers before they leave and ask them if they’d be willing to describe their experience. If so, have them sign a consent form saying you can use it in your advertising. This is, indirectly, a referral. Once people see the great reviews, they may be more apt to research your company.
  • Be accessible—Make sure you have plenty of business cards ready to go when your clients leave. Also be sure that your contact information is up to date on your website and easy to find. You want to make getting hold of you as easy as possible not only for your potential new customers, but for those doing you the favor of a referral.
Overall, asking customers to refer your company is completely acceptable. You do not need to limit this by asking for testimonials, but in fact you should be willing to ask your customers or clients to refer your business to their friends directly (and mention the free gift!). Although it may take a little bit of effort on your part, you will soon realize that referrals should be all the buzz, deserve all the hype, and could be the trendiest of trendy.
About the author: Amanda DiSilvestro is a writer on topics ranging from social media to office furniture at Business.comShe writes for an online resource that gives advice on topics including payroll services and background checks to small businesses and entrepreneurs.