9 Ways to Educate Your Best Allies for Referrals


There is something deliciously special about referrals, regardless of who the referral comes from.

You automatically KNOW that you are recommended highly by someone who already believes in you.

Last month my roommates mom told me she recommended to her pastor that he hire me to build a website for their church.

She recognized the need for them to have a web presence to build and support their congregation. This wonderful woman is in her 70’s and rarely touches her brand new computer.

I honestly don’t remember having much of a conversation with her about my business. We have known each other for more than 20 years, and she has always spoken highly of me.

She originally knew me when I was a part of the corporate world, but we have not been in touch over the last 9 years that I have been working full-time in my business.

Yes, we have had brief conversations, but nothing in detail, so how did she really know what I do?

Ahhhh – my roommate tells her mom everything.

Not only has she shared her “light” knowledge about my business with her mom, she has recommended me to others as well.

The concern is, as I listen to her share about my business, I recognize that she knows just enough to mention it, but not enough to really sell it.  She too is coming from the personal vs. business side.  Her intentions are great, but it may hurt more than help, or create incorrect expectations.

As a result of this conversation, I realized that some of the referrals from my closest friends aren’t successful in securing new clients.

They wholeheartedly try, but too often they just don’t know enough, I totally own that!  :roll:

This is not about any type of affiliate marketing – let’s get them involved and build your pyramid…. I actually hate that stuff.

It’s not even about trying to force your friends to refer to you but more about arming your friends that already love you, your biggest fans, with tools to help THEM strut YOUR stuff.

It is about:

  • Making sure they KNOW you have a business and thoroughly understand what it is that you do.
  • Ensuring that if they hear verbal clues they can mention you.
  • You” understanding what type of business “they” have too! Let’s reciprocate or possibly create joint venture opportunities, more importantly “pay it forward” by recommending them.

You never know who people are acquainted with!

Referrals Work

Don’t you love it when you receive that inquiry on your website, phone call, or email from a potential client; the exhilaration that occurs is magical.

The wheels start spinning and the excitement begins. Ahhhh…

One of my first thoughts is – How did they find me? (if they don’t mention it during the initial contact) and you find out it was via a referral.

You now have an increased opportunity to acquire this new client vs. someone who is searching and just trying to get a feel for you and your services. Fortunately, 80% of my clients have come as a result of referrals.  It such an honor and rewarding energy!

I still wonder, what DID they say?

Educate Your Friends

In today’s environment of social media, mobile devices and more, there are several ways to educate our friends. They just may be your best resource for new clients.

Have you ever had a conversation with a friend about your business and you saw headlights appear in their eyes…OR they get it – but later when they mention a possible referral, it absolutely does not fit you?

As time moves along, we get busy and often do not make the time to spend with them and/or the business changes/expands due to growth and needs.

Consider this:

  • How do you connect with them on a regular basis to keep them up to date?
  • How many already talk about your business and what do they say? (Clue – I was just telling someone about you the other day, and you never hear another word)
  • What’s the best way to communicate upgrades or changes?
  • What happens when you make new friends and they start recommending you too?
  • What about those friends that have businesses as well, how DO you refer to them?

Share Details

First and foremost, they are busy too.

Why should they spend their time learning more about your business? Help them see the value in your business and most importantly, help them learn who is a perfect fit for you – your ideal client.

Those that are really curious will spend time on your website, reading your blog, following you on various social media platforms, some are truly stalkers.

My BFF is a proud stalker…I know you are reading this..lives in Northern Ca. and we usually speak about once a week.

Often she mentions things that I or my daughter have shared on Facebook in a “by the way” tone or as an extended comment of the post.

Even though she knows what I do really well, it would not hurt to touch basis and provide something that she can refer back to if needed.

I mentioned this to a friend/client recently.  Even though I recently completed projects for her, and still working on some, she thought these ideas would work well for her too!

Here are a few suggestions that may take a little time to create, but can be utilized as references for your friends and you can use them over and over, or re-purpose for your marketing.

I bet you already have many of these created that you have shared through your marketing efforts.  Is it time to update them?

Create a video – Create a personal video that speaks directly to them.  Give them the details you feel they need and any information you want them to know as far as the best way to contact you.

Create a presentation – Make a quick short and sweet Powerpoint that highlights your best skills that support your services.  You can even turn that into a video as well or make it just about your ideal client so that it is very clear..

Create a one sheet – I love one sheets.  This is probably the best place to start…In my case it not only provides information about what I do, it demonstrates the creative side of my skills as it is something that I create for my clients. Sadly, I looked at one I created for myself in 2010. It demonstrates how much a NEW one is needed and how much “I” have grown since then.  I am in the process of re-vamping that puppy!

Host A Virtual Party – I got this idea from one of my favorite online buddies, Tea Silvestre (The Word Chef) who had a virtual house-warming . I was thinking of a small intimate gathering…possibly one that introduces your friends business as well.  Offer something that may be valuable to them and inspire them to attend.

Email – Email still works.  Some of your friends probably still ONLY read email.  I know I have friends that hate Facebook and all the other social media networks, but they will respond in email.  Use it, it may be the most efficient way to periodically connect with them and share up-to-date information about your business.

Post an Inspiring Image to your Social Networks  – Create a few images that highlight what you specialize in.  Schedule ahead of time, and tag them if you can, or create a hashtag that’s just for them!

Create a Page on your website JUST for them – Utilize the information that is on the one-sheet and make a web page out of it. Of course, do not add that in your navigation – or give them a special code.

Don’t forget, no matter what you decide to do, make sure that what you share is for “friends” not business acquaintances and have fun! What would be valuable for your friend to share with you about their business?

This post is part of this months Word Carnival about “The Ins and Outs, Ups and Downs of Biz Referrals“.  Our wonderful tribe of carnies are sharing their wisdom that will help you learn more about gaining referrals to your business..make sure to check the other posts here!

  • Melanie Kissell

    Wonderful list of suggestions, Michelle!

    It’s not enough for friends to say, “Give Michelle a call. I know she can help you.” They need a soft script with some specifics. Especially since you don’t want them to recommend you to the wrong people — those who are not really your ideal target market.

    Although I like all your ideas, my favorite one is to create a PowerPoint that you can turn into a video. :)

    • http://virtuallydistinguished.com Michelle Church

      I love Powerpoint too…truly my forte’ that I don’t utilize often enough but used to my benefit in the corporate world. I have started on for this purpose which led me to writing this post – actually a couple of these I am using, I just need to perfect when I have time…or shall I say when I make time. Thanks Melanie!

  • http://www.thewordchef.com/ Tea Silvestre, aka Word Chef

    I’m always secretly amazed that people don’t know all the details of what I do — it feels like I’m constantly sharing. But it’s a good reminder that just because we talk or share, it doesn’t mean people really HEAR what we’re saying. It’s an on-going process and we’ve got to continually refine and clarify. Thanks for the reminder!

    • http://virtuallydistinguished.com Michelle Church

      Yep…we hear what we want at the time…I have all kinds of ideas about that swarming…I need to land and make a few more things concrete. THANKS Tea!

  • Carol Lynn Rivera

    This is a great angle, now I want to go rewrite my whole post, lol… You know, just this week I had someone ask me what I do – it was sort of painful because the fact that they read my blog and can’t figure it out (or I haven’t told them) is one of those facepalm moments I could do without. I’ve also realized at various points in time that some of my own clients don’t even know what we do! They know the one thing we did for them… but not the other stuff. So we design a logo for someone but then they ask us if we know someone who can build their website… um, yes, me! So you’re absolutely right about how we need to educate people, keep them in touch with what we do and if they’re going to send us referrals, make sure they count!

    • http://virtuallydistinguished.com Michelle Church

      Yep it does extend to clients too often…you gotta love em’..It’s really making me realize I need to upgrade my site too (well I want to totally re-vamp it) but I am hoping if I am clearer on it, I can translate it better to them. You know that 30 sec spiel I have worked on time and time again for years…still leaves people wondering…Thanks Carol…I just love your energy!

  • http://www.WTFMarketing.com/ Nick Armstrong

    As the “family tech support guy” I totally get that. A lot.

    Something’s wrong with the printer? I fix it. Something’s wrong with your pinterest? I fix it. Something’s wrong with your email? Sure. Something’s wrong with your Facebook post? Sure, but you have to make me those cookies. The ones with the cranberries.

    Anyway; when someone asks ’em, “What does Nick do?”

    “I dunno, something in computers.”

    I laugh and hand ’em a card: “Nick Armstrong: Colorado’s Small Business Marketing Expert.” It’s not hard. It’s just not in their wheelhouse.

    It’s not just about friends, family, cohorts – it’s about making sure YOU know what you do so you can quickly, succinctly, and correctly summarize EXACTLY what you do in a way that makes them ask, “Holy hell, how do you do that?”

    Strong points Michelle! 😀

    • http://virtuallydistinguished.com Michelle Church

      I am too the family & friend tech person, I have since inducted my daughter and working on my granddaughter we are the geeks I guess! You are so right on with that and I have worked hard at “saying” my lil spiel that I “thought” would stick, but it still does not…so resorting to these other methods, just takes a minute! Appreciate you as always!

  • http://getpaidtowriteonline.com/ Sharon Hurley Hall

    I second what Nick said – I seem to be unofficial tech support for a range of people. But I love your advice about arming your network with the tools they need to refer the right people to you, Michelle. Something else to add to my to-do list! :)

    • http://virtuallydistinguished.com Michelle Church

      We are truly the techies….I love it too…maybe that’s another business venture we need to explore…think about the $$ we are saving folk! Thanks Sharon…

  • http://www.contentstrategyhub.com Eugene Farber

    Educating the people closest to me is something I’m not good at at all. I should probably do a better job with that – great point!

    I think Nick drew out a pretty common scenario :)

    • http://virtuallydistinguished.com Michelle Church

      I think too those closest should have been listening when I bounced things off of them but….I think there’s a techy geeky theme going on here…we are missing some mula! Thanks Eugene!

  • http://www.thenumberswhisperer.com/ Nicole Fende

    Wow Michelle I never considered the whole friend angle. You’re right – they know a little, but I need to own the thoughtful sharing.

    In regards to the tools – wow. Yes some of them might take a little time, but none of them are particularly hard or overwhelming. They’re all doable. More work for me, but in the best possible way :)

  • SandyMcD

    Wow Michelle, I LOVE your ways to educate your referees (if that is such a term). So simple and yet so effective. All of them are gold in terms of being authentic, ways to help people who really want to help you. Thank you for articulating them so clearly. Have made a note of them all and have to say barring one (the video) have five others to work on. Great article.

    • http://virtuallydistinguished.com Michelle Church

      Thanks Sandy appreciate that. I am still working on some myself, revamping some old stuff that I had not thought about. Appreciate the comment!