The Secretly Sneaky Referral Strategy to Boost Sales

Nothing sells like a friend’s recommendation. “Man, you gotta see the new Avengers movie.”

We trust the folks in our lives, and they trust us. It’s part of the social contract we all subconsciously abide by. In the past, to fit in was to survive. And to offer great advice, what could be more valuable than that?

But you’re a marketer, you’re an entrepreneur… what does this have to do with you?

There are two things that matter in business, acquiring and retaining customers. For a FREE detailed breakdown on both, see this post.

But virality is king in any business or industry. Whether that’s onboarding friends to Facebook, Paypaling someone cash or that Blue Bottle Coffee you can’t stop raving about, customer referrals are king.

I know what you’re thinking, incentivized referrals. This isn’t another one of those posts.

You know Airbnb’s refer-a-friend program, and countless others, like Cash App, which gives us both $5 for joining, plus $1 OFF at any coffee shop.

That’s easy, that’s a given. If you don’t have an incentivized referral or affiliate program in place, do that now. We’ll wait…

Better than just Refer a Friend

There was an entrepreneur once, he was describing his sales cycle. It was the slickest thing I’ve ever seen. And the best part, how he generated leads — his customers.

It wasn’t some roundabout scheme or crypto-collusion, it was great service and a smart ask. It went something like this:

After you’ve been working with a client for a while (or a user, or a customer — customize as necessary), you ask them, either in person, or via email for a little favor. It goes a little something like this.

“Hey Bob, we’ve been working together for a while now and I hope you’ve been beyond satisfied. But here’s the thing, we don’t do marketing or sales so we can dedicate 100% of our time and effort on you and improving our product to help your business thrive. If you know anyone you think might benefit from working with us, we’d really appreciate if you referred them to us so we can continue to spend ALL our time focusing on you and your business.”

It’s that simple.

Hook. Line. Sinker.

What user or client wouldn’t want to help? After all, they want your dev team (or product team, accountants, etc…) completely focused on serving their needs, not Facebook ads and funnels. And everybody knows somebody, especially somebody like them. Entrepreneurs are no different, they cluster around like-minded individuals, many of whom would be perfect clients/customers.

Adapting Referrals to B2C Products

It’s obvious the system is brilliant when it comes to B2B clients and growing your business. But what if you’re a B2C business selling widgets or building an app? Can consumers be brought along the same self-interested path without their own bottom line business motive?

Remember, to get results, you have to tell people what they want to hear. Here’s how, and why.

But why would the strategy be any less effective? It comes down to how you position it. If for instance, Microsoft asked me to post about my experience with XYZ product and recommend it to a friend, what incentive do I have? Short of looking cool as an early adopter, none.

If however, Sally’s Sea Shell Shore had a note out front saying “Send your friends our way so our sea shell searchers can spend more time combing the sands for incredible shells,” well, that’s ll something else entirely. Now, telling your friends means next time, maybe Sally has that colorful Conch which would go great on your kitchen table.

And the same is true of an ice cream shop (more flavors), a first-person shooter (more levels and skins) and meal app (more recipes). As long as your business has a homey, startup-esque feel to it, customers will be more inclined to help you succeed.

So, play to your strengths, play the little guy card.

Help our mission-oriented David slay the evil Goliath

Everyone loves an underdog story, and to be on the winning team and the right side of history.

What To Avoid

We’ve all been inundated with refer-a-friend scamminess. Don’t come off like the next Airbnb. It costs too much and jades customers with the seemingly ulterior motives of the referrer. Does he actually think I’ll enjoy it, or is he just shilling for a sweet deal?

To combat this, make your messaging quite distinct. Avoid saying “Refer-A-Friend,” or the cheesy popups right after check out.

The best time for the real ask is after they’ve been using the product/service a bit, once it has proven its value in their life/business. The timeframe will vary, use your judgment. It’s even a good idea to forecast your intentions ahead of time.

“Just fyi, we’re going to be asking you in a few weeks how you love the product… If you do, and it makes your life awesome, we’d ask that you yada yada yada…”

Boosting Your Referral Rate

Go, implement something similar, now. The lessons apply to most businesses, and increasing your referral rate even a small percentage can have exponential impacts on the growth of your company.

If you need help with any of this, or with customizing even more powerful systems to scale your sales and marketing, let’s chat. You can find out more about me and working together here.

Get to work. Virality is like compound interest, which according to Einstein, is the 8th wonder of the world…

A lot of this comes down to network effects as well. Check out the 5 types of network effects and how to hack them here.

Learned something? Share this around to help others build their businesses better!

And if you need help, I’d love to chat and help take your business to the next level.


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