Referred customers bring in up to 25% higher profits, according to a study in the AMA Journal of Marketing. Referred customers are also much cheaper to get and more likely to be loyal. In all, referral business is the most affordable and the most profitable way to build your customer base, and this is true for digital marketing agencies as well. However, many start-ups and experienced digital agencies alike don’t know how to increase referrals effectively. Is there a way to increase referral business without annoying existing customers? We’ve outlined 8 ways digital agencies can increase referral business and all the details you’ll need to execute each method.

8 Ways to Increase Referral Business for Digital Agencies

According to Nielsen, 92% of consumers trust recommendations, making referrals one of the most trusted types of marketing. However, there are many forms of business referrals, and therefore many ways to to increase referrals. The Nielsen Trust Study shows that two referral methods—personal recommendations and online consumer opinions—occupy two of the top five most trusted advertising strategies. This makes them more trusted than newspaper editorials or TV ads. When wondering how to increase referrals, either direct recommendations or online opinions can both be effective, with the right referral strategy in place.

No matter which strategy you use to increase referral business, remember that organization and execution are key. For each strategy, keep the following in mind before launching your strategy.

  • Tracking: When customers are referred, make sure you know who is referring them. This may mean keeping a separate spreadsheet for low-volume referrals, or adding a field in your CRM system.
  • Communication: Let your customers know how their referrals are going. Thank them for participating even if the referred leads didn’t become customers, and let them know when someone they referred did become a customer.
  • Incentives: Reward your referring customers and give new leads incentive to come on board as referrals.
  • Be tactful: Whenever you ask a customer to refer you, focus on the rewards they can receive and the value you can bring to that customer’s friends or colleagues. Make it about them, not about you.

1. Email Referral Offer

A study by Texas Tech University showed that 83% of satisfied customers would be willing to make a referral, but only 29% actually do. This may mean they don’t know who to refer, the service isn’t relevant, or they aren’t sure how. If you make it as easy as possible to send a referral, you can increase referral business much higher than 29%.

One way to do this is through email. You and your client no doubt exchange emails regularly. By sending a personal email that is polished and ready to forward to your client’s colleagues, you make referrals effortless for your client.

The key is to phase and design your email for your current client as well as anyone they might forward the email to. Remember, the language you use with your client will show referral leads what they can expect from you.

  • Introduction: highlight the results of a recent, high-performing campaign. Mention that you currently have limited availability for other clients, and ask your client politely to forward the email to anyone in their industry who could benefit from your services.
  • Body: make your referral offer and incentive obvious and attractive, using headings and, if appropriate, colors. This will be the first thing your client and your client’s connections see.
  • Closing: mention forwarding the email again and thank your client.

2. Email Testimonial Thank You

Once you have asked your client for a testimonial or case study and they’ve created a great video or text review, thank them for participating. If you are delivering a reward you promised, or informing them that they did not win the contest around the referral, offer another chance to get rewards through referrals.

  • Introduction: Thank your client for giving a testimonial, and inform them about the results of gift or giveaway.
  • Body: Highlight a referral bonus for your client and any of their colleagues. Include the video or a link underneath this paragraph, and pull any particularly powerful praise in a quote underneath.
  • Closing: Ask your client to forward this message to colleagues, so they can get these results as well.

Use our tried-and-true email templates to ask your client for a testimonial

3. Facebook Business Referral

Facebook offers a fast and casual way to increase referrals. With Facebook you can promote clients’ success, showcase big events or campaigns you’ve helped them complete, and ask them to share with their colleagues. As with all social media referral strategies, make sure your client knows what and where you will post beforehand, and make sure referral bonuses are prominent in every post.

How to do it: Post a video testimonial, case study, or outstanding results to your own wall and your clients’, so all of your connections and theirs will see. You might also post to any industry groups they’re involved in, and invite others in the group to contact you. Make an additional post about your referral opportunity and rewards and pin it to the top of your timeline, so any referral leads can see all the details.

4. LinkedIn Business Referral

LinkedIn is an exceptional platform for business networking, and an optimal way to increase referrals. Depending on your phrasing, you can make this as casual or as professional as you need. LinkedIn cuts down on spam by limiting the types of messages users and businesses can send, so you may need to designate an employee to use their personal account as your LinkedIn ambassador, or you may need to establish a connection with a referral lead before you can send them a message.

How to do it: Tag your client in your post and invite them to share it. Also, change the wording a bit and post to an industry group with an invitation to others in the industry. You might also send a direct message to your client’s colleagues. Make sure the details of the referral are clear on your LinkedIn profile.

5. Instagram Business Referral

Whether it’s an exceptional lunch spot or an above-and-beyond marketing campaign, millions of businesses and individuals love to share great finds and victories on Instagram. If your agency is especially passionate about creatives and graphics, Instagram will be a powerful platform.

How to do it: Share results and testimonials on your own account and research relevant hashtags beforehand. Tag your client and their colleagues, industry associations, magazines, or other influencers. In an email or printed document, deliver a compelling image, quote, or statistic about their results or testimonial, and encourage them to share it on Instagram using relevant hashtags. Post periodically about your referral rewards, so new leads can easily find it.

6. Twitter Business Referral

Twitter is quick, easy, and especially casual, which can be a great way to introduce yourself to your client’s industry and break the ice. Twitter posts generally don’t have a long shelf-life, so don’t be afraid to repeat this strategy three or four times as long as you use different wording

How to do it: Post about your referral opportunity, a client’s success, or their testimonial and tag your client. Follow up the post with an referral request and invitation to colleagues, tag your client again, and request that they retweet. Examine your client’s twitter account for hashtags you might use, or regular Twitter posting events you might be involved in. Pin a post about your referral rewards to the top of your profile.

7. Referral program

You might try to increase referral business for a set period, or use a method to gather more referrals at any time. If referrals are a promising lead generate for you, an ongoing referral program can increase referral business year-round and increase engagement with clients. You might offer different referral tiers and rewards at different levels to encourage participation. Some example rewards and referral challenges might be;

  • Tag us in a post: Give clients a small reward for posting about you on social media. This may or may not result in referrals, but it will increase your reach in the industry.
  • Submit a testimonial: Testimonials are valuable to many types of marketing. Give clients a slightly bigger reward for a testimonial, and encourage them to share it too.
  • Refer a colleague: Offer the biggest reward when a referral becomes a customer. Add a “referred by” field to your CRM system to manage this.

This will likely require integration with your CRM system and email automation software to be successful long-term. Before starting a referral program, talk to your current clients and see if they would use and enjoy it.

8. Partner Post

Put your heads together and address marketing topics in your client’s industry with an informative blog post or article. This will not only show your expertise in the industry, but it will also show your client’s strengths as well. You’ll both benefit from double marketing benefits using this way to increase referrals; you can each post to your social accounts, groups, newsletters, and even get featured in industry publications. In the post, link to a referral landing page so readers can get more details.


No matter what strategy you use, there are two keys to increasing referral business: go above and beyond for each of your clients so they want to refer you and make it easy for your clients to refer you. Start with the clients that you enjoy working with the most and, as you refine your strategy, expand your referral efforts.

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Posted in: Conversion Optimization, Reputation Management, Social Proof, Testimonials