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How To Turn Your Best Customers Into Referral Machines

  • Fabienne RaphaelFabienne Raphael

“Do you want more customers?”

I bet if I asked you this question, right now, you would answer: “Yes!”

That is why you invest a lot in building your audience, developing your relationships, connecting on social media, and building your email list.  You are doing all those things to achieve one goal: To keep your business healthy by constantly adding new customers.

You want to invest your time and effort where you know you will find your best prospects. But how, exactly, will you find those best prospects?

One of the best ways to find them is to enlist your existing customers to find them for you. And your existing customers will be happy to do this – if you provide them with an extraordinary experience.

How to Provide an Extraordinary Experience to Your Existing Customers

What does extraordinary customer service look like? Let’s take Disney as an example, because they understand this concept pretty well.

At Disney, the mantra is: “If you see a kid crying, you have to stop what you are doing, go over and fix the situation ASAP.”

Let me tell you a story. A family was visiting Disney World, and their kid was crying. An employee went up to the parents and asked what the problem was.

The problem was that the kid had missed Peter Pan.  And the kid was very upset.

The employee tried to fix the situation by giving a balloon to the kid.  In the meantime, he also asked some information about the family. Where were they staying? Where did they come from? When were they planning to head back home?

After that hard day, the family got back to the hotel.  In their room, there was a surprise for the kid.  It was a Peter Pan doll with a handwritten note from Peter Pan himself reading: “Hey, I’m so sorry I missed you!  The thing is I had to leave, because Captain Hook was giving trouble somewhere else.”

The kid got a smile back on his face, and the whole family was so impressed and happy that their next four vacations were at Disney.

Where do you think this family would refer you to if you asked them where you should go on vacation?

Extraordinary experiences like this one make customers spread the word.

Extraordinary experiences like this one turn your customers into referral generators.

So now the question is: how do you create these extraordinary experiences?

5 Ways to Receive More Customer Referrals

Referral #1: Create an Online Community

An online community is a place where your customers can connect with each other and  talk about their struggles – and their successes. It’s also a place where they can find solutions to their problems – either directly from you, or from their fellow community members.  If you provide a good experience, they will invite their friends and colleagues to join your community.

For example, recognize individual contributions from members by mentioning their work or by giving him something that the community perceives as valuable, like inviting them to write a guest post on your blog.

By doing recognizing your community members, you will open the door for more business than you can handle.

Referral Experience #2: Be a Welcome Guest

Think about how many cold emails you receive every day.   If you had the chance, you would only check emails that come from people you know, like and trust – people who you consider as welcome guests in your inbox.

By sending a cold email, you become an unannounced or unexpected guest. And, the chance that you will get a customer from that type of strategy is very low.

Instead of working hard to get the attention of someone who doesn’t know you, make better use of your time by nurturing your existing relationships with your existing customers. Become a trustworthy person by knowing what their needs are, and showing them that you can help them solve their problems.

On other words, show that you know what your customers expect from you – and that you know how to exceed those expectations.

Once you do, getting referrals from your existing relationship with your customers will become easier because you will be perceived as a welcome guest.

Referral Experience #3: Establish an Ongoing Relationship

Many entrepreneurs are focused on making the first sale to a new client.  And once they complete that sale, they just move on to the next one.  By doing that, you ignore the lifetime value of your customer. This is a huge mistake!

Your ultimate goal is an ongoing relationship with your customers that brings value to them, and referrals to you. If your customers perceive real value in your relationship, they will share that with their peers.  And you will profit from the power of word-of-mouth recommendations.

Never forget that, on its own, a transaction is a one-time event. When you focus on making the sale, you become a pushy seller. No one will refer a pushy seller.  You need to have your outcome in mind: It’s a long-term relationship, not a one-off transaction.

Build your relationship by offering your current clients great value. This could be exclusive previews of new products, a blog post you’ve written that targets their particular problem, or even just a shout-out in your emails or social media. Whichever way you choose to provide value, do it consistently, and often.

Do not fall into the trap of selling something in every other email that you send to your list. The consequences of this strategy are simple: you only get a one-time sale and a high rate of unsubscribers from your client base list.

This is about holding the relationships as sacred as they deserve to be.

The result will be repeated sales from the same customer, and most importantly, you will be the first person your customer thinks of when someone they know needs a service like yours.

Referral Experience #4: Ask for Referrals

Did you know that each of your customer has the potential of referring 52 other customers? How many do you think they would refer of their own volition?

Even if they had an extraordinary experience with you, only a  few of your customers will refer business to you on their own.

Increasing this number is all about asking your customers to refer you. Remember that a prospect from a referral is 90% sold on your service.

The best strategy I’ve found to ask for referrals is to give your best customers something valuable that they can, in turn, give away to their friends. It could be a strategy session, a short training video, or a free product demo. Trust me, most of them will give it to their friends!

This strategy works because your customers don’t want to feel selfish, so they share with their friends. And for you, it’s a way to ask for referrals without asking.

Referral Experience #5: Communicate with Your Customers After the Transaction

The most important things for humans are: feeling important, feeling appreciated and feeling respected. Your customers are no different.

The biggest reason a customer switches to a competitor is not the price, or a better product. The biggest reason is neglect.

Your customer wants to feel appreciated and not taken for granted. Your customers are the core of your business.

Build your business around them. Make your customers feel important by rewarding them for doing business with you or by asking them their opinions in a survey. Communicate with them on a regular basis not only to sell, but also to educate and add value to them. Always consider their needs and desires when you are planning a new product.

Your customers are your most important assets. Treat them as VIPs, and they will be YOUR best assets to get referrals.

Why Do Customers Refer Your Business?

So far, we’ve talked about five ways to encourage your best customers to refer new customers to you. Now that you know how to do it, let’s take a look at why your customers will want to refer your business.

 You may think people refer others simply because they have experienced good customer service. But nothing is further from the truth than that.

People refer for personal gain or to help people they know. People refer to help you (and you need to let them know you need help).

People refer because they trust you. No trust means no referrals.

People refer to build their own social currency and to be seen as the go-to person. People want to look good in the eyes of their peers.

People refer because they know the power of reciprocity: If they help you by referring business to you, there may come a day when you can return the favor.

Good customer service doesn’t make people refer you.

Think for a moment: good service is the minimum standard.  It doesn’t leave a lasting impression.

The only way to turn your existing customers into referral generators is to provide them with an EXTRAORDINARY experience with you.

Provide your existing customers with such an incredible experience that they would be silly not to do business with you again or talk about you and refer you.

Your Existing Customers:  A Gold Mine In Your Own Backyard!

Developing and maintaining a constant flow of new leads is the most important aspect in your business.

But, there is a cost related to any new customer you add to your business. To reduce this cost, you can and should be focusing on getting those new customers from your existing ones.

Your greatest and most cost-effective source of new clients is your existing client list.  They are your best marketing weapons.

Treat these clients like valuable lifelong relationships.  Nurture them and you will reap the benefits. Exceed expectations and existing customers will gladly send new prospects your way.

Stop fighting an uphill and costly battle for your success.  Focus on getting referrals from existing customers and success will follow.

How do you turn your customers into referral machines? Or, if you haven’t yet, how will you start to do so? I’m looking forward to your answers in the comments below!

37 thoughts on How To Turn Your Best Customers Into Referral Machines

John Yeoman

Absolutely, Fabienne! When we’re on-line we’re in a big crowded cocktail party. Everyone’s a stranger and everyone feels that way too. So the secret is: start low-key relationships with every likely person you meet. And give them something! So they remember you. In time, they’ll give you something back.

Fabienne Raphael

I agree with you John, we have to give something to build relationships. Let me add though that this “something” has to be valuable information and that can truly help the person.

Yes, the person might give you something back over time, but we should never have that expectation before “giving”.

Vidal G. Lebon

Fantastic. I call it the art to « WOW !!» your Client. I’m currently using only one of the five strategies and my business increased from 5 to 7 digits in a year … I look forward to applying the other principles !!
Thanks for the POST FAB!!!!

Didier Iyala

It’s a great post Fabienne. The examples given and strategies set worth for many. A lot of valuable things to use presented in a single article.
Bravo !!!!.

Moragh Carter

Thanks for the great tips and solid advice, Fabienne. I am sure they will serve me well when my planned new blog finally gets off the ground.

Fabienne Raphael

Thank you Moragh , I’m very please you loved the post . Just want to ask you what’s your strategy to help your blog to get of the ground . Do you have a launch date ? I checked Your blog ,my advice to you is to have a coming soon page on a wordpress theme with a domain name instead an about page.

Moragh Carter

Thanks for the advice. I know I need a wordpress blog with a domain name of my own, as well as my current wordpress blog, but I do need to get my creative writing course finished before I devote time to setting up that new blog.

I use the site mainly as a convenient hub for the links to my other websites.

I have made a note of your advice in a place where I can easily refer back to it and it will be put to good use when the time comes.

Thanks again !!

Kate Erickson

Great write up and solid advice Fabienne! Love your tips here – thanks so much for sharing them with us!

Anthony Tran

Great post Fabienne! I couldn’t agree more on all your points and I practice these tips on a daily basis with my business. You are so right that if you take the time to build strong relationships with your customer and offer them exceptional service they will not only be a raving fan, but will refer you future work and be more likely to hire you again for future projects.

Annalicia Lynn

Such great advice, Fabienne! Thank you!!!

John Lee Dumas

GREAT article…packed to the brim with value…but I would expect nothing less from FAB!

Jamie Bird

Hi Fabienne: I really enjoyed this post. I’m just starting my business and this gave me a lot of ideas for adding value. The Disney story was really telling because when I think of them I always am satisfied as a customer.

Fabienne Raphael

Thank you Jamie i’m happy you enjoyed it , Disney gets it and there is Zappos also
that’s very good at it you can check the book Delivering Happiness. BTW what is your business ?

Jamie Bird

I’ll add that book to my reading list. I’m in the midst of starting up a freelance art and writing business but I’m in the very early stages. I just started the ABM here and am trying to make heads and tails of wordpress so I can set up my site so I haven’t really opened for business yet. I plan to stop by your site later today. I still have a lot to learn.

Fabienne Raphael

Great Jamie, Stay focus and don’t give up .

Elizabeth cooper

Great reminder to always be thinking about your cutomers

Fabienne Raphael

You’re right Elizabeth. If we always keep that in mind, the customers will more easily feel understood. Your message will resonate with them. They’ll tend more to like and trust you!


Excellent advice in this article – customer relationships are essential to be successful with any kind of business. Showing genuine appreciation for your customers and making an extra effort to help your customers encourages them to continue to buy your products or use your services as well as recommend you you to others. This approach also works well with any client relationship. What I love about doing business through the Internet is the willingness of people to develop and participate in a community, whereas offline it seems to be more challenging to bring people together. Refferals are an excellent idea.

Fabienne Raphael

You right on. Internet make it easier now to build a community and this is a powerful tool to use to get referrals for your business.

Heather Bayer

This marketing advice is so relevant to my business which is in tourism and hospitality. With so many players in the accommodation market it is difficult to be seen amongst the throngs of other similar locations. Getting referrals is the lifeblood of our business and these tips are invaluable – I’ll be sharing this with my audience!

Fabienne Raphael

I’m happy you love it Heater ,Thank you for sharing.


Thank you Fabienne,

Expert advice, succinctly put. A cut out and keep for me.
Thank you again and my best wishes for your further success.

Fabienne Raphael

Thank you Zarayna.


Great post, Fabienne.
Upselling your customers, and offering them something that’s even more valuable is a sure fire way to increase revenue, build trust, and gain referrals. Thanks for the guide on how to go about doing that.

Fabienne Raphael

Thank Debashish, Trust is everything.

Josh McCormack

This is fantastic. It sums up so much of what I’ve been saying lately on the value of individually cultivated relationships over the more scaleable, impersonal mass distribution of content with hopes that it will emerge from the ocean of other content to attract people.

Fabienne Raphael

That’s the way to go Josh.
People buy from people they like and trust.
Thank you .

Rob Newman

I enjoyed your article, Fabienne.
What’s the best way to setup an online community? There is open source software for online community websites, there is also software for creating a forum.

I’m in the process of creating a blog to help people build their business online an your idea sounds like a winner.


Fabienne Raphael

Thank you Rob,

Private Facebook group is the easiest and the fastest way to start. Provide good content, solve their problems and they will become your advocates.Don’t forget ,you have a community, only when people can hang together WITHOUT your presence.


Trust and respect are definitely the keys to any good relationship. Treating your customers with a sense of honor and gratefulness is naturally going to stroke their ego – and who among us would ever say no to that ? Thanks for the good reminders.

Fabienne Raphael

So true , thanks Virginia .

Gary Greenfield

Thorough and on point info , Fabienne. Thank you. My answer to your question is it starts at the start, if you’ll pardon the redundancy. From the onset of the relationship, the customer has to feel a deep sense your focus is on their needs. Then, after “the sale” and each of their referrals you absolutely must acknowledge their effort! As you say, people don’t want to feel forgotten. If you start the relationship right and never end it the referrals will be never ending.

Fabienne Raphael

Great point Gary, and I think this the big Difference between a marketer and a pushy seller. You Should focus on your customer needs first, and your end results will be more than what you expected from him or her.

Fabienne Raphael

My pleasure Sharon.

Sharon Brodin

Great article, Fabienne – Thanks!

Sonia Thompson

Hey Fabienne – sooooo true, delighting your customers is the key to keeping them come back for more. It’s a great reminder that we’ve got to work to go beyond just delivering a “good” or “satisfactory” customer experience. You’ve gotta deliver one that’ll make your customers remember you for always. 🙂

Fabienne Raphael

That’s the ultimate goal .

Thank you Sonia

Comments are closed.