5 Proven Strategies to Get More Client Referrals for Your Agency

Author's avatar Marketing UPDATED Nov 6, 2023 PUBLISHED Aug 30, 2021 15 minutes read

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    Peter Caputa

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    News spreads fast online.

    And while there’s a popular belief that people are more likely to share a negative experience, especially if they received poor customer service, a few years back, a survey proved us wrong.

    It showed that almost half of the participants (49% of them) claimed they’d share a positive review after a good experience, compared to 30% of those who wouldn’t hesitate to post a negative review if unhappy.

    Why does this matter?

    Because people will look you up before they decide to give you a chance. And positive reviews from your happy clients are one of the best tactics to get business referrals, according to marketing professionals. It seems that word-of-mouth marketing still drives the best results.

    But are there more ways to get client referrals for your business?

    Sure there are! Jump right to the section you’re most interested in and pick up some of the best strategies to ensure more client referrals for your agency.

    What Are Business Referrals?

    When your existing client recommends your services to a prospect, that’s called a business referral. Referral marketing is a branch of marketing built around these recommendations, and some businesses focus on developing different programs that will help them get more business referrals from their clients.

    On the other hand, sometimes you get a client referral without developing a specific strategy or asking for it, just because a client has been exceptionally happy with your service or product.

    Our survey showed that most marketers do ask for referrals, usually on a monthly basis (29%), quarterly (21%), or biweekly (13%).

    How Often do you >Ask Agency Clients for Refferals

    Different tactics our survey participants implement when asking clients for referrals generate good results.

    Around 40% of respondents say the number of referrals they have varies between 6 and 20, while near 20% of participants said they had over 100. Impressive, isn’t it?

    How many client referrals do you have

    No matter how you get business referrals, they can be extremely valuable for your business.

    These are just some of the benefits:

    • You save time and money by skipping some steps in your sales process. For example, cold calling.
    • Referrals give you an excellent ROI.
    • Your prospects will trust a referral more than any other form of marketing.
    • Your customers act as your brand ambassadors.
    • You get to learn who your loyal customers are and nurture your relationship with them.

    Now that you know how your business may thrive on client referrals, it’s time to skip to the part where we share our secret with you.

    Here are the five proven strategies from over 30 marketing experts that can help you get client referrals, increase your sales, and boost your business.

    5 Ways to Get More Referrals for Your Agency

    Our survey showed the following:

    Almost all marketing professionals participating in the research said their main focus was offering extraordinary customer service when they wanted to get more referrals.

    Around 60% of them also leveraged the times when their clients were giving them praises and asked for referrals immediately, while around half of the participants gave referrals to others and expected the same in return.

    We selected the five most effective strategies our experts advise in the sections below.

    Most effective referral strategies
    1. Leverage the Power of Social Media
    2. Provide Exceptional Service
    3. Ask Your Happy Clients for Referrals and Testimonials
    4. Offer Incentives and Loyalty Programs
    5. Rely on Networking

    1. Leverage the Power of Social Media

    The days when people used social media just for fun are long gone. Today, we can consider these platforms a valuable source of information (after some filtering, of course), educational content, and – client referrals.

    “The majority of my clients are a result of consistently posting useful content,” says Anthony Gaenzle of Anthony Gaenzle Marketing.

    “My team and I create content, along with content from outside contributors, that adds a ton of value and answers questions for our target audience. We then focus on engaging in conversations and building relationships on channels like LinkedIn and Twitter, which ultimately leads to business inquiries based on the level of trust we’ve built as well as the authority that’s created around consistently publishing targeted, high-quality content,” explains Gaenzle and adds:

    “Rather than asking for referrals, our referrals typically come through conversations generated on various online channels, which has proven to be a very valuable strategy, and it’s a strategy that can then also be applied to help many of our clients grow their businesses as well.”

    Jeff Moriarty of  JMoriarty Marketing knows another way to get client referrals through social media. Offering a piece of advice can go a long way and get people to start talking about you.

    “One of the best strategies I have for getting new clients is through small business forums and Facebook groups. I normally help out businesses online with questions they have, and many end up turning into clients. It’s free to do and has paid over 10x over,” says Moriarty.

    Paige Arnof-Fenn of Mavens & Moguls agrees that a strong social media presence can contribute to your business getting more client referrals.

    “Having a good online reputation is incredibly important to building a strong professional service business,” says Arnof-Fenn, and you can do it by:

    • Giving lots of talks and using examples from your experience – this can lead to people talking about you online
    • Joining networking groups to meet people who are the multipliers in your industry, they talk to everybody and know everyone, they have large followings so you need to connect with them online too
    • Being active on social media so you can share your talks and content and your followers can help spread the word
    • Generating lots of fresh content that will push down any negative comments or reviews

    2. Provide Exceptional Service

    Do you remember the last time you were so amazed by a service you received that you couldn’t wait to tell your friends about it? Like Sean Si of SEO Hacker puts it, “it’s all about keeping a good relationship with the client and doing a good job that they won’t be able to resist referring us to other companies because they know that we will be able to help their businesses just like we were able to help theirs.”

    Well, for many marketing experts, word-of-mouth marketing is still king. Olivia Tan of CocoFax agrees: “Word of mouth marketing is the best form of marketing that your business can adopt. It is because this type of marketing is done by your loyal customers and your prospects are getting some real experience of working with your agency or company,” explains Tan.

    Vickie Pierre of MyCarInsurance123.com confirms that clients who are impressed by the whole customer experience you provide are most likely to refer new business to you, in a truly genuine manner.

    “A client who is genuinely satisfied with your services won’t have to be convinced to spread the word about your services; rather, he or she will do it willingly,” says Pierre and adds that sometimes, exceptional service can mean that you’re dedicated to getting it right even if you failed to meet your client’s expectations the first time.

    “In our commitment to honor their vision and to deliver the best product possible, we kept at it. We met, we brainstormed, and we worked until our client was completely satisfied. And for us, working to earn their trust is still a job well done. By providing stellar service, we build trust and reliability. When it comes time to ask for that referral, the relationship is already there, and provides the foundation we need to move forward,” explains Pierre.

    David Hoos of The Outloud Group takes a step further and really focuses on nurturing his relationship with his most loyal clients. “Cement your relationship with your best clients as often as you can,” advises Hoos.

    “Invite them to co-present with you at events. Get meals with them when you’re traveling in the area. When they do refer someone to you, send them a nice gift. Beyond saying thank you, it helps to solidify you as the agency they are most likely to refer others to when they hear the need arise.”

    That’s indeed exceptional customer service! And if combined with other strategies, it can do wonders for your agency. Emily Hall of Liquid Web NZ suggests a combination of over-delivering on your promises to the client and giving them discounts if they refer new business to you.

    “Firstly by ensuring that we over-deliver and provide exceptional service for our clients. Reputation is really important and it has paid off making it a priority,” explains Hall, and adds:

    “We also tried an email campaign with an offer for a percentage reduction in our monthly retainer for each closed referral lead they pass on. A couple of clients are now getting their entire service for free now due to the referrals they’ve provided – and we’re happy to do that, so it works well for both parties involved.”

    3. Ask Your Happy Clients for Referrals and Testimonials

    Do you know that saying that advises us not to make promises when we’re happy? Well, that’s exactly the timing that you should use to get a referral from your clients.

    Are they delighted by the service you’ve just provided? Ask them for a referral while they are over the moon. Although there’s a good chance they’ll recommend your services to another client even without you asking, you may see an increase in the number of client referrals when you start asking for them.

    “The ‘secret’ to getting client referrals is simple, yet powerful. It’s about making it easy for your happy clients to say great things about you. The rest takes care of itself as the power of word-of-mouth by happy clients spreads throughout their networks and the world around them like wildfire!” shares Ingrained Media’s Jordan McCreery.

    “Unfortunately, many agency owners don’t realize this simple fact and spend countless hours wooing new prospects while struggling to retain existing clients. Stop working so hard at attracting new prospects! Instead, focus on how you can make it easier for your current clients to recommend you to friends and colleagues.”

    Jonathan Aufray of Growth Hackers says you should take advantage of the fact that many business owners, CEOs, and companies are well-connected and they may get you some excellent referrals. Still, you need to ask for them – people are busy with their own jobs so they may need a reminder.

    “When you know you deliver outstanding services to your clients and that they’re happy to work with you and have the results they want, ask them for a testimonial and for a referral. Most companies, business owners, and entrepreneurs are well connected and they know fellow businesses who could be interested in your services. But, if you don’t ask for referrals, they probably won’t do it for you,” says Aufray.

    “When you receive a testimonial or praise for your work by a client, this is the right time to ask gently whether they know someone who could be interested in your services. Don’t be shy. If you know you’ve delivered exceptional services, they will be happy to do so. They will help you and their contacts at the same time. This is a win-win situation.”

    Testimonials you get from clients and customers who are satisfied with the results you got speak a lot about your business and can serve as referrals. But, there’s something to learn from less favorable testimonials, too.

    Tiffany Lewis of More Meaningful Marketing reminds us of the importance of testimonials and referrals for your business. “If a client has had a favorable experience, they will likely share with their network if someone has a need. Referrals are the best way to attract ideal clients because nine times out of ten, people refer those who are similar to themselves to your business.”

    But here’s where Lewis underlines the benefits of more challenging experiences. “The key is not just asking favorable clients for reviews. Even the difficult experiences can teach you something worthy of implementing on your next project.”

    4. Offer Incentives

    Offering incentives to your loyal customers who refer new business to your company is another excellent way to go. Why not reward them with a small “thank you” for bringing you revenue?

    Charlie Patel of 99 Robots has a whole strategy built around referral incentives. “Every quarter, we have an email that is sent to clients with a new offer for a referral,” explains Patel.

    “For example, we recently offered a free video ad for any client that refers us a client. It’s extremely valuable, something most companies need but don’t have time to create, and showcases our skills. Previously, we’ve also offered a free pack of custom-designed ads as well as copywriting for a web page.”

    Alex Birkett of Alexbirkett.com does something similar and considers it a great trick. “Pay your current clients to refer you to new clients. We always create a “Client HQ” in Notion for our clients, and we have a banner at the bottom that says “refer us and get a $X reward.” It has resulted in a ton of new clients.”

    Sometimes, incentives that pay off may turn into whole loyalty and referral programs. Many companies embrace these strategies as they seem to achieve excellent results.

    Miranda Yan of VinPit also suggests creating a referral program that will offer a token of appreciation to clients who enhance your business.

    “We have started a referral program that offers rewards for clients who have got us a new client. We make sure that we thank the customers who contribute to our business through personalized emails,” explains Yan.

    “We encourage them to write us an honest testimonial. We also like to educate our clients about our offerings, and once they are satisfied, we treat them like our partners. Encouragement is the only way to get referrals, and we feel no shame in asking them to recommend us to their friends as we trust our product and ensure that their contribution is well rewarded.”

    5. Rely on Networking

    Friends in need are friends indeed! And partners and colleagues in need can help a lot when business is slow, so these types of relationships are a valuable asset you should nurture along with your relationships with clients.

    Paper Box SEO’s Russell Michelson advises partnering up with other businesses “that offer complementary services. Since we only do SEO, we’ll often refer PPC, social media, and web design work. In return, agencies that don’t do SEO will refer clients to us.” Isn’t this the definition of win-win?

    Nick Shackelford of Structured Agency agrees that this is an excellent strategy for getting more client referrals. “What gets us some of the best referrals is the work we do with other agencies,” says Shackelford. “Changing the perspective of having a competitor into an allegiance can benefit both parties, helping funnel in clients for various niches in a complementary and coordinated fashion.”

    For some, networking is even more reliable than getting a referral from a happy customer.

    “Networking is by far the best way to really advance the number of referrals that I get. Whilst word of mouth from clients can be a good avenue, I find that the long-established relationships that I can build based on trust over a period of time through networking will always lead to warmer and more substantial leads in the form of referrals,” confirms Steven Helliwell of Orange Media.

    Do Great Work That People Will Talk About

    There are many excellent strategies for getting more client referrals that generate extraordinary results, but it all comes down to this: provide exceptional service and do great work that people will want to talk about. It costs (almost) nothing and will get back to you in form of a respectable reputation, high trust in your service, and increased revenue.

    However, sometimes people need a little push to spread the good word, so there’s no harm in incentives and referral and loyalty programs that will remind them how much you value their positive reviews and recommendations.

    These five strategies have a long tradition of driving great outcomes for marketing experts we talked to, so the only thing left to do is to implement them in your business and enjoy the effects.

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    Stefana Zaric

    Stefana Zarić is a freelance writer & content marketer. Other than writing for SaaS and fintech clients, she educates future writers who want to build a career in marketing. When not working, Stefana loves to read books, play with her kid, travel, and dance.

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