According to traditional marketing wisdom, one unhappy customer will tell seven other people about their bad experience with a product or business. A happy customer will only tell one other person about their great experience.

A few years ago, marketing expert Pete Blackshaw wrote a book called Satisfied Customers Tell Three Friends, Angry Customers Tell 3,000, showing that this challenge increases as more and more people regularly participate in social media.

How can you beat these odds to get more of your satisfied clients to spread the word about your products and services?

Underpromise and Overdeliver

Always give yourself a little leeway when quoting prices or timelines. In other words, don’t create expectations you can’t meet!

Then, if you do better than you estimated, you’ll really impress your clients, and they’ll be happy to recommend you to others.

Show Your Appreciation

Reward your regular clients with occasional freebies or discounts. Send a greeting card instead of an email from time to time.

Be sure to thank them when they send other business your way, possibly with a gift card or a credit for a free service. You might even consider creating a referral program for your loyal customers so they can earn income or credits towards future purchases by referring your products and services.

Ask for Recommendations

When you finish working with a client, ask for a written testimonial. Similarly, when a client praises your work, ask if you can quote them on your website.

Even better, ask them to post a recommendation on LinkedIn or a review on your Facebook or Google+ business page. These have more credibility and a potentially greater reach than testimonials on your website – plus you can copy and paste them to your site if you wish.

Be Share-worthy

Another way to encourage clients to pass around your name is to produce excellent content in a range of formats. Depending on your preferences and the nature of your business, this may include any or all of the following:

  • Articles
  • Special reports on hot topics in your niche
  • Videos on YouTube
  • Images/infographics
  • Webinars
  • PowerPoint presentations on Slideshare
  • Ecourses
  • And more.

Include share buttons for this content whenever possible. Many blogs have plugins that allow visitors to share the content at your site on popular social networks, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.

Emails can be forwarded easily to friends and family. Similarly, special reports and ecourses designed to get more email sign ups have a high potential of going viral (to go viral means to spread rapidly from person to person).

Publish unique content to your social media accounts and within groups you have joined or created. Your connections can share it with all their followers with just a click. Content posted directly on these networks can also be shared easily.

Finally, just ask! You would be amazed at how many marketers, even top ones, forget to include a call to action that suggests if the reader liked the content or found it useful, they should feel free to share it with others.

What do you do to encourage referrals from past and current clients? Tell us in the comments.

This article is a sample of the exclusive content available to members of Maximize Marketing Club, the online community facilitated by Janet Barclay. To learn more about marketing trends and tools for solopreneurs, sign up for Janet’s free Maximize Your Content Marketing eCourse.


  1. Sara Skillen

    This is a super timely post for me because generating more referrals is one of my big goals for 2017. I do offer a free service for a referral, but half the time I forget to let the client know about it! I definitely need to up my game in this area. Thanks for the great ideas.

  2. Seana Turner

    I need to remember to ask more! I have so many wonderful comments that I fail to capture. Thanks for the reminder.

    • Janet Barclay

      When I receive an email praising my work, or if a client says something particularly glowing during a conversation, I often ask if I may use it as a testimonial, but I hardly ever think to follow my own advice and just ask!

  3. Sabrina Quairoli

    This is great advice. I’ve done several of these tips over the many years of business. I find that the testimonials on social media and my website are helpful for new prospects. For potential clients who have reached out, mentioning to them about the before and after videos on my YouTube channel helps them get motivated to take action. And, if they are looking for small business services, I find they prefer a list of 3-5 client phone numbers so they can speak to the current clients directly.

    • Janet Barclay

      I’ve had potential clients ask to speak directly to current clients too, but not for a long time now. I think it depends on the nature of the work. The quality of admin services isn’t something they can assess by looking at your website.

  4. Linda Samuels

    You always have such spot on wisdom. It makes so much sense…especially the “just ask.” We often forget to include calls to action, which can be so powerful.

    • Janet Barclay

      Thanks, Linda! For many of us, sharing good content is almost second nature, but we need to remember that not everyone spends as much time online as we do!

  5. Autumn Leopold

    Great post Janet! Yes, just asking sometimes is all you need to do. We all get busy with our lives and businesses and it’s really those small and personal things we do for each other as entrepreneurs that are really helpful! Best of luck in 2017!

    • Janet Barclay

      Thanks, Autumn – both for your comment, and for being one of MY top referral sources. 🙂


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