How to Get Referrals When Starting up Your Business

Referrals are one of the very best ways to grow your business. Asking for a referral is the tricky part. How do you ask? Whom do you ask? Especially when you’re just starting up your business.

It’s not easy getting referrals when you’re just starting out. That’s because most people asking for referrals fail to keep these two things in mind:

First, think about this from the perspective of the people thinking about referring clients to you. They are all asking the same question: “Why on earth should I give you a referral?” Sure, they can see that it’s important to you and your business if they refer someone to you. “But why,” they ask themselves,” “is it important to me?” If you can answer that question from their viewpoint, you will give them a reason to be happy about referring someone to you.

Second, people who refer a friend or client to you have a lot to lose. If you do an excellent job, that’s great. If not, it colors how the referrer is viewed. As a result, they could even lose their client’s business.

So you need to think carefully before asking for a referral. Here are some ideas you may find helpful.

Seven New Business Referral Ideas
  1. Become a low risk referral by adding high value assurance. For example: Give a money back guarantee or free consultation to each person referred to you.

  2. Make sure you have something to offer that either other service providers don’t want to do or that you are specialized in doing.

  3. Don’t hide the fact that you’re brand new. Instead, capitalize on it. Offer a start-up discount during your first six months in business.

  4. Make a list of people and businesses in your area that offer complimentary services and whose clients may need the services you offer. Then contact them in person.

  5. Approach local churches and charities and offer to teach classes in your area of specialty. Teach the class for free. Then give a discount on your services to everyone who signs up at the end of the class.

  6. Talk with your hairstylist about your services. Give him or her a stack of referral cards. Offer your stylist $5 for every customer who purchases a service from you as a result of one of the cards he or she passed out.

  7. Find another new business owner and cross-promote each other. They key here is to find a strategic partner who is in a complementary business and will benefit from promoting your business as well as theirs.

When just starting up your business and asking someone for a referral, keep in mind that you are asking for someone to trust you. Trust you with their precious clients. Trust you to not make a fool out of them for recommending someone to you. Therefore, think carefully before asking for a referral, and make sure you have something to offer that will be of benefit to the referrer.

About the Author: Dr. Susan L. Reid is a business coach and consultant for entrepreneurial women starting up businesses. She is the author of “Discovering Your Inner Samurai: The Entrepreneurial Woman’s Journey to Business Success.” Her website is

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