November 2, 2017

Referral Psychology: How to get more referrals using social psychology

By Ella Wilson

social psychology of referrals
Asking for a referral is asking a client to align themselves with your business – and that’s a very big deal.

A referral is a surprisingly complex thing. It feels like asking your clients to tell their friends about you should be pretty easy, right? But the social psychology that drives referrals is so much deeper than you might think – it’s tied to your customers’ identity, social standing, and sense of self.

Psychological roadblocks to giving a referral 

Giving a company a referral is like giving it your stamp of approval — and that is a very big deal. Because what we choose to align ourselves with — like music, style, religion, and the businesses we support — says a lot about who we are. And your customers will be hesitant to align themselves with you even if they love your company.

  • Some reasons people might hesitate to refer you
  • I don’t want to spam my friends – they’ll feel intruded upon and think I’m impolite.
  • If this company doesn’t live up to my friends’ expectations, my friends will think I am untrustworthy or have bad taste.
  • I don’t want to look like someone who would sell my friend’s personal information for a quick buck.
  • I’m not sure recommending this company will project the image of myself that I want.

Wow. That’s reading a little too much into it, don’t you think? But it’s just human nature. We, as humans, are surprisingly cautious about who we align ourselves with because we are social creatures. Since the dawn of time, our survival has depended on the right social connections. But you’re not at a loss here. There are plenty of ways you can break through your customers’ hesitations and get more referrals.

Clients want referring you to enhance their social standing

It’s your job to make your clients believe referring your business will reflect positively on them if you want to get more referrals.

  • Here are some things to consider when asking your clients to refer you:
  • They need to believe that aligning themselves with your company will enhance their social standing. Make sure they know you’ll make them look good!
  • They need to believe that their friends will love your product/service and will appreciate the referral — and consider the referrer to be a source of expert advice.
  • They need to know that their friends will focus on the fact that your client thought of them personally, not that they were motivated by a selfish reward.

Here’s how GetUWired deals with referral anxiety

We deal with these same issues here at GetUWired. Asking for referrals is delicate business. But we stay ahead of the problem with certain tricks of the trade you can steal from us. (It’s ok. We won’t tell.)

  • In our referral emails, we:
  • Include verbiage that lets customers know we won’t spam their friends. We send them one email and that’s it.
  • When we write referral emails for clients who offer the person being referred a discount or free gift, we word the email something like, “Your friend (name) has gifted you with a 10% discount on our services.” This pumps up the image that being referred is a gift, not a bother.
  • We include our awards as social proof on our referral emails as a way to say “You can trust us.”
  • We send referral emails soon after our clients come on with us. There’s a sweet spot shortly after a client has started working with a company where they’re still excited, and that’s when we hit them with a referral request.

Show off your tribe with social proof

Social proof is a powerful signal to your customers that legions of people already trust you, which makes them more likely to trust you, too. As social animals, being part of a group is an important signifier that you are worthy.

GetUWired puts our awards and social media handles on every communication we send out. We want people to know without a shadow of a doubt that we are a world-renowned marketing company with the heavy-hitting awards and followers to prove we know what we’re talking about.

The Principle of Reciprocity

As humans, we are hard-wired  to want to pay back favors. That’s one reason giving away freemiums on your homepage works so well to get customers through your door. The same principle of reciprocity can be used when trying to gather referrals.

This is different from offering an incentive, because they get the incentive only AFTER they’ve done something for you.

What you CAN do is give a free gift to your clients and ask nothing in return … but in the email where you deliver the free gift, ask for a referral. They’ve already got the “freebie warm and fuzzies,” so now’s the time to ask for that referral while they’re in a giving mood.

Another great way to inspire reciprocity is to refer your clients first. If you’re a small business, it should be easy to connect a client with some of your other clients, friends, or family who might need their services. This really is the ultimate step in trust building. One personal referral from you can lead to countless referrals in return.

To incentivize or not, that is the question

In general, we think that incentivizing referrals by giving away, say, a $100 gift card to anyone who refers a friend is good business.

But there is also the school of thought that loyalty can’t be bought, and offering to do so cheapens the relationship you have with your clients.

Look at your clientele and decide which route would be better. And then test, test, test.

If you work with mostly low-income clients, that $100 gift card would probably work like gangbusters, because they are in a place where $100 would be a huge benefit for the small cost of referring a friend.

If you work with high-end customers, they might also jump on that $100 gift card (rich people aren’t rich because they turn down opportunities, after all).

If you work in the fields of self-help, therapy, rehabilitation, or some other industry where you have an intimate connection to your clients, a $100 gift card might seem cheesy. It may even be offensive, because if you already have a good relationship, your clients may feel offended that you’re trying to buy their referrals rather than asking for them as a friend.

Get more referrals today!

We’d love to craft the perfect referral campaign for your business! Get started today by giving us a call at 877-236-9094 or visiting us online at www.GetUWired.com.

*This article was originally published on July 27, 2016. It has been updated and reposted to help you get more referrals in 2017!



About Ella Wilson

Ella WilsonElla Wilson is GetUWired’s “Queen of Words.” This world-class marketing copywriter is a former journalist and travel writer who’s spent the last decade weaving gripping tales for publications coast to coast. She’s got her finger on the pulse of today’s marketing trends. Notable clients who have been graced with her powerful prose include FUBU founder and Shark Tank star Daymond John, self-help star and Emmy-award winner Rhonda Britten, and New York Times bestselling author Dr. Daniel Amen.