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The Secret Behind Every Great Referral Program

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You want to attract more clients who match your ideal customer profile. You’ve tried online advertising and other digital marketing strategies, but you aren’t seeing the ROI you were hoping for. You know word of mouth has the power to make or break a business and you know you should be doing more to generate buzz in this area. It’s just that you hate asking clients for referrals— it feels so heavy-handed.

Let’s confirm one thing right away— a great referral program is easily one of the most profitable growth strategies for creative agencies and consultants. It will attract qualified leads who are more inclined to trust your brand since they have a real, tangible connection to your business (the person who referred them).

In fact, clients acquired through referrals have a 37 per cent higher retention rate than their non-referral counterparts, which is an undeniable advantage for any creative CEO.

Now, onto the discomfort you feel at the thought of asking clients for referrals. This is hurdle I frequently encounter when working with creative CEOs and consultants, and in all honesty it is one I struggled with myself in the early stages of my own business. The reality is, it absolutely can be awkward to ask your valued clients to promote your services on your behalf. But it doesn’t have to be.

Here’s what you need to know.

The Secret Behind Every Great Referral Program: Effortless Discoverability

Here’s the thing— the easier you make it for your existing clients to learn and engage with your referral program, the less time you’ll need to spend encouraging clients to send you referrals.

This really is the most important thing you need to know about how to increase referrals and expand your business with excellence.

Here’s how you can integrate your client referral strategy into every aspect of your client experience:

1. Include a Strong CTA on Your Homepage

Websites are an invaluable asset when it comes to promoting referral programs for service businesses. Include a call-to-action on your homepage that links to more information about your referral program and its benefits. Be sure to highlight what existing clients can gain from recommending your services to others (a discount on their next invoice, a gift card, a free value-add, etc) and to clearly state the steps clients must take if they want to participate.

2. Email Your Most Loyal Clients

For anyone wondering how to generate referrals from existing clients, this is an absolute must. Clients who have been with you for a significant period of time (6+ months) are your most powerful force. They have experienced the value you provide and are most likely to advocate on your behalf. Send a personalized email to these clients thanking them for their on-going support and include an update about the launch of your referral program. Add the link to your web page so they can easily refer to it in the future if they have any questions.

3. Use a Post-Purchase Pop Up

If your clients are able to purchase products on your website or schedule an appointment, you can likely set a promotional pop-up to appear after they’ve confirmed their booking or purchase. This is an ideal way of asking clients for referrals, since they can quickly decide if they are interested or not. Be sure to frame your content in an educational way. For example, “Did you know you can get 20% off your next booking by referring a friend?”. Remember, your pop-up should link back to your web page where clients can read more about your program.

4. Provide Social Media Graphics

If you want to create a buzz about your client referral strategy on social media, you’ll need to make it ultra-easy for your clients to post about it. Providing your existing clients with ready-made social graphics (and captions, if you’re feeling ambitious!) is an excellent way to do this. Graphics like this one from Wild Earth Pets set clear expectations and let viewers know exactly how to get involved. Why not provide a similar graphic to your loyal client base with a caption like “I’m proud to be a (brand name) client! Are you looking for (type of service)? Use my ambassador code (INSERTCODE) to receive (incentive) when you (book/purchase)next!”?

5. Client Portal Reminders

Do you use a portal software like Zendesk or Dubsado where clients can access important documents like invoices and contracts, see project status updates, and access other pertinent information? If so, this is the perfect place to point out your great referral program. You could even film a short educational video about the program and include it in your client on-boarding process (within the portal). Ideally, all new clients will access their portals during the on-boarding process, making this a wonderful way to ensure they become familiar with your client referral strategy.

The more avenues you utilize to make your referral program accessible to clients, the more discoverable it will be and the less you’ll need to remind clients in face-to-face interactions. Instead, your program will become another recognizable component of your brand that speaks for itself.

And that, my amazing creative CEOs, is the secret behind every great referral program!

Your Move

Even a fully-discoverable client referral strategy can fail if your existing clients aren’t happy.

My WOW Your Clients Playbook is a step-by-step manual that includes everything you need to create the best-in-class experience your clients deserve. With this comprehensive guide, you’ll be able to deliver an exceptional service that streamlines retention, renewals and referrals.


Come over to our Free Exclusive Community where you can find support from other CEOs on the same journey.


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