Aug 232011

What’s Better Than Word-of-Mouth Customer Referrals?

Make it easy to get customer referrals using an automated Customer Referral System

One facet of customer relationship management (CRM) is encouraging top-of-head thoughts about you and enticing lucrative customer referrals from your existing client base. If customer care is an art-form, we could say having an undergirding system is the scientific counterpart. Most of us already know we need some type of customer referral system. The question for some becomes how to create such a system and is there any way to automate it?

Today we will look at how your traditionally paper-based strategy can become a part of your online world, cleverly but simply integrated to give you another spoke in the wheel of your marketing efforts.

You Need A Customer Referral System

Sometimes we try to get customers to take time to write testimonials, but listen, if they wrote a glowing 3-liner about you three months ago, what’s wrong with that? Nothing, nothing at all.

But one lone customer writing a rushed blurb about your services most likely doesn’t do justice to the work you’ve done for them; neither does it naturally engender any follow-on referrals from them. Why not create a system whereby your customers can simply — and easily — refer you to their colleagues, peers, and industry associates?

No doubt about it: As a freelancer, consultant, and small business owner, you need referrals.

Some clients won’t even think to refer someone to you without a little bit of prompting. They may be completely happy with the services you provided for them, but referring people to you is not on their list of priorities … – Vandelay Design 1Vandelay Design, 5 Keys to Building Referral Business, 24 Nov. 2010. Accessed 30 Jul 2011.

When you do good work, leaving a trail of satisfied customers behind you, you want them to pass along the experience to others who will benefit from having YOU be the one who works with them. But if you’re like other business owners I know, especially when your business is not a bricks-and-mortar establishment, consistently asking for customer referrals falls somewhere between “I hate to ask for a referral” to “I don’t mind occasionally asking for a referral.” And although customers might take it upon themselves to top of head you when the question arises, unless you are actively engaged in a project with them at that very moment, you’re leaving it to chance — and leaving money on the table.

How to get customers to refer you is just another challenge that you can overcome.

Trending Topic For Small Business

Customer Referral Systems - CoachNotesBlog participates in Word of Mouth Marketing SmallBizChat on Twitter

The time is (always) ripe to find ways to make it easy on yourself and give your customers a way to easily refer you. This subject is so popular today, you might even call it trending. I’ve read at least ten articles in just the last few weeks — about the how, when, and why of asking for — and getting — customer referrals.

I even participated in a Twitter chat session (#smallbizchat) on another facet of the topic. The essence of this particular Twitter chat was “word of mouth marketing.” 2Twitter chat: How to Use Word of Mouth Marketing to Promote Your Business Sponsored by Melinda Emerson (@SmallBizLady) of Succeed As Your Own Boss, co-hosted by social media consultant Tai Goodwin (@TaiGoodwin) of Practical, Profitable Social Media, with internet radio host Dori DeCarlo (@Dori_WordofMom) as guest speaker. Many of the questions asked during the session reflected the discussion in this article.

Question #9: What are some tactics or tools small business owners can use to empower their customers to share their experiences?

The short answer is “make it easy by using automation.” You can use the current, easily available technologies at hand.

While the discussion centered around word-of-mouth marketing, the tips and techniques put forth fit well with the concept of customer referral automation. For example, my input on Question #9 was taken directly from the section below on Collateral Materials.

As Gail Keith says, you’ll need a comprehensive strategy. 3Gail Keith, featured in Side Hustle Stories: How a freelance marketer built her business with referrals by James Clear, Passive Panda blog. Accessed 30 July 2011. What I would add is this: that comprehensive strategy should include some elements that are automated, accessible, and easy for your customers to use.

For good measure, Adam Toporek debunks the usual myths hovering over the business checkbook where customer referral programs (CRP) are concerned. He let’s you know that the old standby argument — ” I can’t afford it!” — simply does not fly. 4Adam Toporek, Does Your Business Need a Customer Referral Program?, Intense Fence blog. 03 August 2011. Accessed 07 August 2011.

Automation is Key Element of Your Online CRM Strategy

… you’ll need the right web tool, an understanding of it, and you’ll have to get your customers, colleagues, and well-wishers to climb aboard!

Perhaps you already use an in-house tool to keep you focused on customer relationship management activities, such as Sales Force (TM) or an open source tool like SugarCRM(TM). Once upon a time, I used ACT, Lotus Agenda (not purely CRM but quite effective), and the SugarCRM free version, which also provides a customer-facing portal. I spend a lot of time online, and so do my clients (and potential clients). My offline work has evolved to such an extent that I’ve had no choice but to consider where it would be advantageous to integrate some online business systems.

Have you taken a look at automating, or even partially automating, your customer referral system? (Remember, first things first . . . if you don’t presently have a deliberate, comprehensive strategy, you first want to start thinking about that.) If you need to get up to speed on what to look for in such a system, read or skim these articles:

With these concepts under your belt and an understanding of what’s important in an automated customer referral system, you’re ready to drill down to the place that gets your customers moving and shaking on your behalf.

Integrating An Online Customer Referral System
Into Your Offline Work Flow

Automate Your Customer Referral System for More Word-of-Mouth Marketing Success - Control Panel2

Integrating any kind of online automation into your offline workflow (or even your online workflow!) can be hard and downright confusing. But it doesn’t have to be! A surefire way to keep it simple is to start with what you already have in hand:

  • You already know about word-of-mouth marketing
  • You are a master at giving good customer service
  • You’ve got paper, even if it is only digital paper
  • And “no sale referrals?” I’ll bet you’ve had some!

Re-Shape Word-of-Mouth

Word-of-mouth marketing is as old as {fill in the blank}. We want others to shout about our services from the mountaintop! We can move this along by bringing our customer referral systems out of the dark ages and into the light. Fellow business consultant, Sherryl Perry asks a key question that could get you excited about moving in this direction:

When was the last time I was truly innovative? When did I go with my gut and implement a change to my business based on my own original thought processes and gut instinct? When did you? — Sherryl Perry, 5Sherryl Perry, Have You Been Innovative Today?, Keep Up With The Web blog. 4 August 2011. Accessed 21 Aug 2011. Sherryl Perry asks this evaluative question of the small business owners and consultants who read her popular blog.

Traditional word-of-mouth marketing works well. Kick it up a notch by using an online system. It’s innovative and fun for clients if done right. Automating the entire process, or partially automating it, is like putting your word-of-mouth referrals on steroids!

Let’s take a look at some things you can do with your automated customer referral system that make it easy for your customers to pass along qualified referrals on your behalf.

Better Customer Service

You can give even better customer service by automating a portion of your interactions with current clients when they make a referral. How?

  • Send automatic “Thank You” notes to the referring customer — write the note one time, customize it, and you don’t forget to send it; bonus: it keeps you at the forefront of your customer’s mind
  • Allow your customer to extend a discount to anyone he refers — feels good, sounds good, generates tons of good will!)
  • Give an existing client a discount on future purchases or an actual cash incentive — which you can spin any way you want, i.e., “it lowers current cost of services,” “it contributes to their ROI”

See how an automated customer referral system can help you stay on top of communication with existing clients, generate continuous good will, and keep your name, your service, your product front-and-center?

Repurpose Your Paper

You’ve got paper, even if it is only digital paper . . . we’ll put that to wider use.

Just like in the real world — offline — people still want to see something in writing (even if they’re reading it online). You can effectively place your collateral materials into your client’s hands, so to speak, to help them get comfortable with referring you to their network.

Using materials you’ve already developed, your traditionally paper-based strategy can become a part of your online world. Cleverly, but simply integrated, it will give you another spoke in the wheel of your marketing efforts.

Showcase Your Capability

Automate Customer Referral System for More Word-of-Mouth Marketing Success 2

Marketing materials. Collateral materials. Public relations materials. The phrases are almost interchangeable. The goals are virtually the same: to showcase what you can do for existing and prospective clients, to share what you have already accomplished, and to highlight partnerships or community-related involvements.

Small businesses use some form of these documents offline every day. They work just as well online; they can do double-duty when you place them in the hands of your existing customers, fans, cheerleaders, and well-wishers.

Old-Fashioned Collateral Materials

  • Fact Sheets
  • Brochures
  • Price Lists
  • Case Studies
  • Capability Statements
  • White Papers
  • Survey Responses
  • Press Releases
  • Media Kits

Revise and refresh your existing materials. Load them up into your customer referral system. Make sure your clients know how to attach them to emails or download and print them out. They can even be snail-mailed along with a Letter of Introduction. Just to be on the safe side, you can locate or create step-by-step video tutorials that show your clients how to do any of these tasks, then add them to a special “how-to” section of your customer referral system. :)

Don’t leave it up to your existing clients to market your services, especially when your expertise is in more than one area. Sharing all your capabilities with your customers increases the likelihood of ongoing customer referrals.

Expand Your Reach. Increase Your ROI.

I have had some affiliate marketing on my blog … but I never even thought about implementing it myself for my own products/artwork. — Franziska San Pedro, Flavor Designs 6Artist, chef, and artblogger, Franziska San Pedro showcases her beautiful designs and shares tips with other artists at Flavor Designs. Quote is from this comment.

Another bonus of having your own customer referral system in place? It doubles as an affilate management system. You can expand your reach, increase your return on investment, and have a virtual sales team working on your behalf.

No-sale referrals are a way of life on the internet.

What do I mean by “no sale” referrals? I’m talking about referrals you get from those who are not your clients. They have not necessarily used your services or your product but could still refer you to someone who does need what you have to offer.

This idea almost runs counter to “only recommending what you use,” but think about it: you might refer a friend to a business associate who provides a service very different from your own services. You can recommend that associate because you know she does quality work, takes care of customers, and charges a fair price. Well, these are the same reason someone who doesn’t use your services might recommend you!

We know the power inherent in personal recommendations.

That being said, why not open your customer referral program to those with whom you have not yet done business? When someone in their network of savvy online users asks for a recommendation, they will likely do the same thing you and I do … ask others. If your name, service, product comes up, be prepared for those who monetize their blogs or do some form of affiliate marketing step to come check you out.

They will first take a look at your website, look at your FAQs, check to see if you have a forum or customer service mechanism . . . They will then cast about for your referral or rewards program. It’s a good idea to have your customer referral system highly visible and easily accessible.

Now, having vetted you, when they pass along the recommendation, they will want it to be accompanied by a customer referral link. Why? Because if you make a sale from their referral, they’d like a little incentive to send more referrals your way.

Manage in-house commissions, too.

I pay Interior Designers a commission when they work with me but I don’t really talk about it on my website. More stuff to look into, it’s on my list! — Franziska San Pedro, Flavor Designs 7ibid.

Finally, as in the case of Franziska San Pedro, who pays commissions to designers who work with her, a customer referral system (doing double-duty as an affiliate management system) is a simple, easy way to track those commissions. This kind of system would work for her and her designers, too.

Call to Action . . .

When you automate your customer referral process, you give customers another way to easily share your capabilities with friends, colleagues, and industry associates. You go from out-of-sight, out-of-mind to top of head … fast! Want more tips on how to make it super easy for existing customers to share your good work with their peers and colleagues? Tune in next time!

Test-drive a customer referral system today:

Demo the JROX Affiliate Management System
Demo IDevAffiliate System
System specifically designed to Create resources for your customers (and affiliates) using WordPress
System specifically for ClickBank Product Owners

Vernessa Taylor - Technology Consultant & Editor of CoachNotesBlog

P. S.

What do you think? Do you have a customer referral system in place? Have you considered automating it? Do you need more info? Share your thoughts in the Comments section.

Image Credit: Customer Service by Frits Ahlefeldt-Laurvig/ via Flickr, licensed Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic.

Link to this page:

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Vernessa Taylor

Technology Consultant, Business Writer at Local Business Coach Online (LBCO)
Founder and editor of the blog here at LBCO. Thanks for reading, sharing, commenting and visiting. See you next time.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Vandelay Design, 5 Keys to Building Referral Business, 24 Nov. 2010. Accessed 30 Jul 2011.
2. Twitter chat: How to Use Word of Mouth Marketing to Promote Your Business Sponsored by Melinda Emerson (@SmallBizLady) of Succeed As Your Own Boss, co-hosted by social media consultant Tai Goodwin (@TaiGoodwin) of Practical, Profitable Social Media, with internet radio host Dori DeCarlo (@Dori_WordofMom) as guest speaker.
3. Gail Keith, featured in Side Hustle Stories: How a freelance marketer built her business with referrals by James Clear, Passive Panda blog. Accessed 30 July 2011.
4. Adam Toporek, Does Your Business Need a Customer Referral Program?, Intense Fence blog. 03 August 2011. Accessed 07 August 2011.
5. Sherryl Perry, Have You Been Innovative Today?, Keep Up With The Web blog. 4 August 2011. Accessed 21 Aug 2011. Sherryl Perry asks this evaluative question of the small business owners and consultants who read her popular blog.
6. Artist, chef, and artblogger, Franziska San Pedro showcases her beautiful designs and shares tips with other artists at Flavor Designs. Quote is from this comment.
7. ibid.

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  71 Responses to “Customer Referral Systems: Automation is Your Secret Key”

Comments (68) Pingbacks (3)
  1. Hey Vernessa, a automatic customer referral system is a great way to increase any online business. If you could make it an easy and fun system for a customer and maybe throw in a discount for any future purchases for those who take the time to complete one, it would really provide another positive outcome for those who take part. A win win situation for all involved.

    • Hey Sire, I’ve seen some creative “creatives” inside some customer referral systems. Of course, we usually call them affiliate management systems, but that’s kinda splitting hairs.

      Yes, they can be fun – for example, I recall one fellow who sold a video software. For his customers, he created videos that we could post on our own sites that already had our referral code embedded in the video. That was neat because almost everybody likes to see a video.

      You have the right idea about how easy it is to share discounts … I hope more service businesses will consider how much of a business booster this can be. Talk soon!

  2. Hi Vernessa,

    Thanks for the shout out. You have covered so much ground in your post, I don’t know where to begin. One tip that stood out was refreshing your marketing collateral. Making sharing easy is a huge part of being successful with referrals. The more your materials can be easily shared and do the talking for you, the better the chances of the referrer’s endorsement being on message for you.

    A great and thorough post! All the best.

    • Hello Adam,

      Happy to give you (and your excellent guest writers) a shout out. I thoroughly enjoy your customer-centered topics.

      Too often, leaving a stack of business cards with a client to “pass out” is the extent of (pseudo)collateral materials getting in hands beyond the client’s. I agree with you about allowing marketing materials to “do the talking.”

      You know, I know I’m kind of going against the grain here. In the same way service businesses and consultants find it difficult to figure out how a customer referral program can work for them and their clients, automating that system will seem foreign, too.

      I’m thinking automation is actually the way around the hurdle. Come at it from another angle, plug in those “refreshed” marketing materials, then make promoting the system another spoke in the wheel. After a while, consultants and service businesses won’t even notice they’ve “created” a customer referral program! LOL

  3. Hey Vernessa!
    I love the idea of an automated CRM! I tell people all the time that when you have an online business it’s not like clients have a pen or magnet with your name on it that they see every day. You need to do other things to keep your name in front of them. This is a great concept!

    • Hey Alicia,

      Thank you so much! With your VA activities, you’re in a wonderfully unique position to help your clients adopt methods that keep them “top of head.”

      And this is so easy to implement … even if the technology at first blush seems other-worldly to clients, you could set it up for them, train them how to use, and do some occasional maintenance. (Think “profit center!”)

      Let me know if you want to dig around in this a bit more. We can toss around some ideas and set up some demos. So glad to see you in the house!

  4. I love this article about automating the CRM, I feel this kind of work is something really different and is giving so much of information and also it helps in minimising the CRM cost and helping in investing the same in something that can enhance the business purpose. I love your Idea and also the concept.

    • Hi Lea,

      Not sure how I missed your comment; my apologies! Thanks for dropping in to share your thoughts. You are so right about minimizing cost over the long run — an upfront investment (mostly in time) really pays off here.

      Hope you’re enjoying the changing seasons with all their wonderful colors!

  5. Hi Vernessa,

    thanks for quoting me :-)
    You gave me a lot of great new ideas that I am going to use. In fact, you have a ton of great advice! Overall, there are only winners in an automated referral system. Just updating my blog, so work in progress for easier navigation and referrals.

    Thanks again,
    Franziska San Pedro
    The Abstract Impressionist Artress

    • Hello Franziska,

      Lovely to see your face in the place! I’ll bet you’re having a lot of fun re-designing your blog. Even before I head over to see your latest work, I can tell you have the idea factory churning just from looking at your signature link!

      I love quotes. They capture in-the-moment thoughts that help me write about what’s important to those I serve. You, my dear, are quite quotable!

      Let me know how I can help when you’re ready to demo a customer referral system. :)

  6. Hola Vernessa,
    Love the article. Wow, when you go in depth, you go IN DEPTH! Thanks a lot, you gave me more ideas (as per usual) with this post. Right now I have kind of a little twist I have going with one of my sites that is a semi-automated CRM I guess. Basically when folks sign up they receive a confirmation email that includes a unique trackable link that they can share with their friends. We give away prizes for people that share it the furthest. This has really helped to increase our subscription rates. Thanks again for this post, I shared it with my network.

    • Hola Rohan,

      Your system sounds very effective. Prizes at the end of the rainbow are a great inducement for people to enthusiastically participaate in email marketing campaigns.

      It’s wonderful you’re automating a portion of your customer referrals. You said “trackable” — do you have a series of metrics you’re watching other than conversion to an opt-in?

      • Oh it just tracks the number of signups that I got from that person’s unique link. On the back end I can see the top 100 folks that signed up (first level) and the number of signups that came from their unique link. It’s a pretty straightforward set up, but it works. Most folks don’t use it, but for the ones that do, sometimes they would be responsible for 25 sign ups in a day.

        I think they’re some people that are just natural sharers or that are really passionate about your offerings. When you come across those folks, and they just happen to have networks as well, you’ll see a nice spike in subscriptions.

        This stuff really works. Your article is spot on!

  7. Referrals = win.

    When I owned a web hosting company several years ago, word of mouth as well as an online referral system got us so many more clients than we ever hoped for.

    Great article.

    Link Luv Added by Vernessa … Read Nazmus’ article: What are Stock Dividends?

    • Hi there!

      Yes, a word-of-mouth referral is like gold — the ultimate testimonial that gives a new customer confidence in using your services. And being able to track referrals is icing on the cake. It’s lovely that you had the best of both worlds.

      Next time you leave a comment, remember to use a name in front of your keywords. (You’ll notice the link luv was removed because you didn’t use a real name.)

      • Gotcha :)

        hope I did it right this time.

        • Hey Nazmus!

          Love your attitude … so added some link luv back to your previous comment! :) Good info over on your stocks site. I can see why you got serious word-of-mouth referrals when you ran your webhosting service. Thanks for coming back over.

          • Thanks :) I try to help people when I can and I guess that’s what people find appealing. And I’m an advocate of sharing good and useful information, so I’ve retweeted this post.

  8. Wow, professor Taylor, will the quiz be open-book? I hope so! :)

    This is an outstanding resource. Thank goodness for Evernote. I need to read this over and over, taking the bits I need when I need them.

    Interestingly, I did a semi-automatic client testimonial system for a mortgage lender’s website. It never occurred to either of us to plug in a request for referrals! DOH!



    • Ahh, yes, Mitch, definitely open book! And I’m always available to YOU for any questions you might have.

      Now you’ve got a value-added proposition you can go back and present to your client. :)

      Speaking of professor-dom, I see you’re running a not so “ho-hum” experiment. I await your results — which are sure to be as entertaining as they are informative. LOL

      • Heh, both he and I are pursuing new career paths – his, no doubt caused by a certain industry collapse; mine, caused by lack of awesome information such as your blog. :)

        Thanks for being here for me. I do hope to have some more updates from the lab …



  9. Hi,

    I am really impressed your new system of automating the CRM, I really feel that this kind of automation is suitable for small biz or even big biz. I know how important it is to learn and develop our self on new technology as well.

    • Bonjour Leonor!

      Bienvenue sur mon site! Yes, automated customer relationship management is generally suitable for both types of businesses. Larger businesses are more likely to use automation to standardize the process. Technology-focused and web-based companies also seem more likely to have an online customer referral system than other types of businesses.

      But smaller businesses can learn a serious lesson from them: it just works! So from software developers to business-building consultants, automating customer referrals will provide a very nice business boost. Merci bien … Thanks for commenting!

  10. Customer referral system is an effective way to increase your business I recently adopt it on my domain and web hosting site and I swear with in a month my sales graph shot at top.

  11. Great information, Vernessa. I especially like this tip: “Allow your customer to extend a discount to anyone he refers — feels good, sounds good, generates tons of good will!” That’s one I haven’t yet offered, so I’m now going to add that to my thank you emails. Thanks for sparking ideas!

    • Donna, it’s a pleasure to know you came upon an idea you can use immediately. Adding some extra love to your Thank You page is an excellent way to both foster good will and reduce buyer’s remorse.

      Appreciate you stopping by sharing your wisdom!

  12. How are you liking the new ComLuv, Vernessa?

    First time on your blog and I must say you offer some incredibly detailed resources here!


    • Welcome Ana, it’s a pleasure to have you drop in!

      I often enjoy your tutorials and info sharing so it means a lot for you compliment the resources around here.

      CommentLuv Premium is the top of the heap – awesome sauce as Andy can say. :) I haven’t experienced any problems with install or usage. I should probably report in the Beta Testers forum that I can now actually see everyone’s Twitter link since I changed my theme last night. What about you?

  13. Hi Taylor,
    This is really very good and informative article. This is very helpful for the neophytes in Customer relationship management. Well thanks for the information.

    • Hi Shivam,

      Welcome to CoachNotes blog. You have put together a very nice coupon site. It’s the first time I’ve seen one running the lovely Thesis Theme. I think you could say having an attractive site where customers drop in to pick up coupons, discounts, and daily deals is a great starting point for customer relationship management.

      There are now coupon collaboratives where site owners are putting their heads together to see how to increase traffic and bring bigger deals together for their customers. Perhaps you could put your heads together and come up with more great ideas for developing long term customer loyalty? Thanks for showing up today, see you soon! :)

  14. Yeap, I agree with the post . This is really very informative to know how this customer referral software will help in better customer care. It really helps the readers to know what are the inputs and the necessaries required for this purpose. I guess you will have even better response for this software when you launch it on a larger scale. I Just love the way they have tried to explain this topic.

    • Hi Lola,

      It’s great to see you here! I’m glad you gained some insight into the concept of using software automation to help with managing the customer referral process. I’m not actually launching any software at this time. The references are made to existing softwares or services that can be used for this purpose.

      Thanks for your comment!

  15. But automation is so impersonal. What about building ongoing relationships? Engaging users? What value does this add?

  16. Today we will look at how your traditionally paper-based strategy can become a part of your online world, cleverly but simply integrated to give you another spoke in the wheel of your marketing efforts.

    The entire article focuses on integrating automation into your existing customer referral strategy. Automation for the sake of automation can be impersonal, but instituting any practice that helps your business run smoother and moves you towards your goals is a good thing.

    Come on back over and read the article. I think you’ll get what I’ve shared in it.


  17. This is the most interesting post I’ve read here. I’m more and more amazed of how much work you have to invest to a likely success. All marketeers say it’s piece of cake, :). I know it’s not. I like a lot your plugins.

    • Hi Daniel,

      You are so right, it is not quite a “piece of cake!” Like most practices, marketing gets easier with constant attention to it, but things change and we have to keep up with the changes.

      Which plugins do you like? Some of my favorites that I install on all my blogs and most of my clients’ included the Ajax Edit Comments, WordPress plugin and CommentLuv. Both have free versions but I use the paid versions so I can get the premium features. 😀

      You might want to pick up one of the “subscribe to comments” plugins too so people get notifications whenever someone responds to one of your great articles. What else have you found to be useful?

  18. Hi Vernessa,

    What a thorough exploration of automation for stimulating and managing referrals. Nice work!

    To me this step in the funnel is a high leverage one. Having done the hard work to get the first customer, it’s usually less difficult to them ‘upgrade them’ to a referrer (better still an evangelist, if you can!). So in some sense you cash in on your initial effort.

    Certainly automated processes can and should be embedded to do this. I’m not yet at a point to develop this stage of my funnel, but I will be, and I’ll check back here to re-read your post when that time comes.

    Thanks, and thanks for linking me in to ComLuv Premium, I really appreciate it!

    • My pleasure, Jym. I love how you engage your audience, both provoking and giving thought provoking comments.

      Yes, automating some part of the customer referral process is pretty high level, at least in terms of thinking about where and how it fits.With such a low cost of entry, and time permitting, it can be tested no matter the volume of clients. (In fact, with a low volume and a few willing friends-as-affiliates, getting one’s feet wet with the idea and the processes is not such a bad idea.)

      Let me know when you’re ready to incorporate it into your funnel. I’d be happy to help in any way I can. :)

      • Thanks Vernessa, kind of you to say so – I actually find your comments to be amongst the most stimulating to respond too as well, we often seem to be on similar a wavelength…

        Appreciate the offer – the time will come, so… thanks again :)

  19. I agree 100% that taking time to thank not only customers but those who referred customers to you is a must when fostering business relationships, making those in your business community more inclined to continue holding you in high regard, as you seem appreciative and even willing to reciprocate their help.

    • Hi Julia,

      You are absolutely right. “High regard” can never be bought, so it is truly priceless. There are so many ways we can show our appreciation. Automating some part of the process is just icing on the cake.

      Thanks for coming over and joining the conversation. :)

  20. Refereal System is one of the best form of online marketing as more people affiliate to benefit while you make more profit. Though it might be very challenging as in every business, the first thing is to establish trust with your custmoers and referers. thought i should add this thanks.

  21. Awesome post, thanks for taking the time out to write and share this with us. Trust is the foundation of any relationship. Trust me, I know from a lot of experience with the field I am in. I have seen big businesses almost fall apart, because of something as simple as certain words that are used in certain ways, because it made the ceo feel like they could not trust their employee. If something so simple can be so big in a big organization, than one can only imagine how important it is at a personal level and not just, because it is the right think to do.

    Thanks again, Ricky

    • Hi Ricky, welcome to CoachNotes Blog.

      You are so right. Trust IS simple.

      We certainly have to reflect what we want others to be, so we start by being trustworthy — the whole “man in the mirror” concept. Since our motivations are almost hidden in online spaces, there are things we can do to engender trust and show our trustworthiness.

      And whatever characteristics we bring to customers online, should already be a part of our character offline.

      Thanks for sharing such a thoughtful comment Ricky.

  22. Hi Vernessa,

    Customer service is one of the most important aspect of a business. I read a lot of company reviews and customer service is always tackled. So I agree that a better customer service should be practiced in any business. Exceed your customers’ expectations by giving them a satisfactory assistance. :)

    • Hi Tiffany,

      You hit the nail on the head …

      Exceed your customers’ expectations by giving them a satisfactory assistance.

      Only after making sure their experiences with you and your work are satisfactory can you hope to receive referrals from them. If your company is ready to automate part of the customer referral process, having satisfied customers who are internet savvy is an extra plus to making that happen.

      Appreciate your comment, Tiffany. Hope to see you again. :)

  23. I’ve been struggling on how to improve my ways on getting more clients and automation would be great. My instances are… how much it will cost me? I’ve been considering this for quite sometime now but still having trouble coming up on effective ways to make it work for me. Reading your post gave me additional ideas. You’re right, customer satisfaction is the key to get more clients and the word-of-mouth is not enough. Thanks!

    • Hi JohnC – Welcome to CoachNotes blog.

      My absolute first response to “how much will it cost me” is that cost is relative. The bigger question is “can I afford not to do this?” I say that to you because I tell myself the same thing … and often arrive at “I can’t afford not to have working on my behalf!”

      That self talk gets you around to action. “I need this … let me figure out how to make it happen.”

      I’m glad you got some additional ideas from the article. If you want to talk about it further, share your thoughts here or use my contact form to send me a private message. Oh, and automating can be done very inexpensively! :)

      • Yes, that is the big question for me. If I can afford this kind of automation. Got me thinking again…whew!

        • Hi JohnC,

          Are we talking about implementing customer referral automation on the law firm’s blog? Or on a personal blog?

          The types of systems I have the most confidence in — and therefore feel good about recommending to clients — are coming in at less than $50 month. That’s if you’re opting for a monthly, hosted system with the proper feature-set. Even if you’d rather control the system completely, by installing it yourself on your own servers, we’re still talking only a few hundred bucks.

          Customer referral systems (and affiliate management systems) are making a difference in these economic times. They are a big differentiator when it comes to using the assets we already have in hand: our valued customers. :)

  24. Vernessa,

    I have been looking for an article that discusses customer referrals completely and to be honest you have satisfied me. You’re right. Automation can really make it easy for you and for the part of the referring client. I believe this is a very great way to boost sales. Thanks!

    • Welcome to CoachNotes Blog Dennis,

      You are right on the money: boosting sales. :)

      Businesses who are looking for ways to mitigate the economic impact faced by shrinking finances will do well to pay attention to maximizing the assets in hand — current clients. The weird (but delightful) reality is that our current clients are happy to help us out because we have satisfied their needs.

      I’ve continued to research the best tools for small businesses who want to take advantage of this type of system. Let me know if I can help you as you move into this arena.

  25. Hi Vanessa,

    This is a very detailed post and lots to digest. Referrals are indeed they key to success. You mentioned that word of mouth is like gold and indeed it is.

    Before investing in a referral system people do need to make sure they have a referable business. Hoping to get referrals for products that don’t work, services that are misleading or poor customer service is a waste of time. Sometimes you first need to make sure the fundamentals are in place before you take the next step.


    • Hi Nik,

      Thanks for stopping by. You are so right — a ragged offering does not lead to many referrals. Let’s hope any business owner reading this article and thinking about automating is conscientious about their products and services.

      What I’ve found is the small business owners, consultants, and professionals who spend time around here are sharp, knowledgeable about their customers, and ready to kick it up a notch! :)

  26. A great guide on how to get referrals like a boss is John Jantsch’s book, “The Referral Engine”.

    John personally believes that your goal should be to have 100% of your leads come by referral and that
    whatever percentage you want yours to be, you need to start measuring against it and know where you are.

    And what helps you increase your referrals is optimizing your touch points – the logical progression of like, trust, try, buy, repeat and refer. Your customers need to be moved through this cycle gently, logically, strategically, and intentionally. If you skip or rush steps you’re hurting your chances of getting referral based business.

    You want your lead generation to be all about creating a great customer experience.

    This means at the beginning of your relationship, you educate so they can begin to know, like and trust that while you want to have their business, you aren’t going to be moving too fast, asking them to buy, unless they welcome it.

    Then when someone becomes a customer and experiences bliss at the hands of your processes, this is the point where all of your business can be coming from referrals.

    I can’t recommend John’s book highly enough to anyone looking to optimize their referral process.

  27. I believe that Customer referral systems is an amazing idea. It would definitely boost our sales by increasing traffic to our site.

  28. Vernessa, thanks for your article, awesome reading!

    I would like to add nice customer service tip – there is certain predictable user experience in every business, find bad parts from them, exploit and change YOUR services so it will fit UN-expectable user experience. Your customers will remember it!

  29. Okay, maybe I missed it but… what is the Customer Referral System? How do I “automate it” And what tools are there to automate it?

    There are shopping cart referral programs available like but how could I automate referrals to my massage therapy service business?


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