Referral Marketing 101: How and When to Ask for Referrals

By: Kaplan Financial Education
February 5, 2019
Graphic depicting how a business is grown through referrals and personal connections

If you work in the financial services industry, odds are you are dependent on referrals to build your business. Do you have a referral strategy in place? Many people don’t because they aren’t comfortable asking for them. In this article, the Kaplan Financial team shares some easy and unobtrusive referral marketing strategies that work.

When to Ask for a Referral

Everyone knows they should ask for referrals, but many people get tripped up on the timing of when to ask. Should you ask for referrals right away or wait until you have built up a long relationship with someone? Kaplan National Account Director Eric Wilson shared his take on this question.

Eric says…

The best time to ask for referrals is always now. I used to wait until the client was done with their experience or services as I felt I had to earn the right to ask for referrals. A happy customer who joked about not wanting to give referrals after he forgot his password and was locked out of his account told me great advice, ‘Why wait to ask for referrals when something can go wrong in a customer’s experience?’ Regardless of whether something negative happens or not, the entire customer experience isn't in your hands. So, ask for referrals as soon as you can in the process.

Remember that it is human nature to want to help others succeed. If you don't ask for referrals you'll likely get zero, and if you ask and get zero you are still at the same spot if you hadn't asked.

Don't wait, you'll be surprised with the results.

Ways to Ask for Referrals

Now that you know when to ask for referrals (now!), what is the best way to go about asking for referrals? There is no one way that works best – it is all about what is most comfortable for you.

One direct approach is to touch base with current and past customers regularly. Even if you are not doing business with them at the moment, send them a letter or email appreciating their ongoing support and ask for referrals. Remind customers that your business is supported by their referrals. If they like you and want to keep you in business, they will be more motivated to help you.

Give and get promotions (ie. get 20% off for you and your friends if you refer them) are also an effective referral marketing strategy to grow your business. Your clients will be motivated to share referrals because there is an additional incentive for them.

Steve Gordon’s book, Unstoppable Referrals, recommends a less direct approach. Rather than asking straight out for referrals, supply your clients with something valuable they can give their friends and associates. This takes the focus away from you asking for referrals and instead does both your clients and their contacts a favor. If you sell life insurance, for example, a pocket tax guide with your agency’s logo branded on it would work well.

Don’t forget about referrals through websites and social media too. Your happy customers can influence others they don’t even know to seek you out through popular review sites like Yelp. Add links to your website pages (in the footer, for example) for all the review websites you have a profile on (Yelp, Facebook, etc.). Add those same links to your email communications in your signature. Be sure to thank your reviewers when they leave a review!


Looking for more career tips? Visit Kaplan Financial Education’s Career Corner for the latest tips and tricks to help you throughout your career in financial services. If you are interested in advancing your career in financial services, check out our insurance, securities, CFP® certification, and professional development programs on the Kaplan Financial Education website.