Why Don’t My Customers Refer Me Automatically?

By: Dan Kennedy on: November 6th, 2015 5 Comments

You’re considered a nice guy or gal. You got kids, a mortgage, a car note ‒ pretty much like everyone else. You do a good job, at least in your mind. Your customers all seem satisfied. So you’re probably wondering how come your customers don’t just automatically refer you to family and friends.

There are two very broad reasons for this.

First of all, almost nothing happens automatically except for bad things. Think about that new car warranty you got. You know once it expires things will start to go wrong with your vehicle. It’s like clockwork. And, of course, these things all worked fine when the warranty was in place. But once the warranty expired, you had that car in the shop on a regular basis. You probably got to know your mechanic real well. And he got to know you pretty well, too, considering you were helping to pay his mortgage and feed his kids.

The second reason is it’s not their job. Your customer is not your sales person. Their job is to give you money and they are fulfilling their end of the bargain. They’ve got other things to do.

Most business owners just don’t understand why their customers don’t automatically refer them. But giving a referral is a much higher threshold of risk and pain than it is to continue to patronize your business.

In fact, people will continue to patronize businesses even if they don’t do a very good job. It’s a matter of habit, and they figure the devil they know is better than the devil they don’t. It’s just plain inconvenient to seek out someone else, so they stay where they are even when they’re less than satisfied or pleased.

You probably have a favorite restaurant in your neighborhood. It’s not part of a chain ‒ more likely it’s owned by a family or someone who takes real pride in the place. You go there regularly. You and your wife both love it. You end up recommending it to some friends.

Time goes by and you haven’t seen your friends. But sure enough, the next time you do see them the first thing they bring up is that crummy, hole-in-the-wall dive of a restaurant you referred them to.

This is a loud-and-clear reminder to never make that mistake again.

Sometimes referrals happen only by request. “Hey, I’m new in the area. Where do you take your cleaning?”

That’s a question most of us will answer, but we’re not about to go around telling people about our dry cleaner. That’s a very high threshold.

Another reason why customers don’t refer is because there is no motivation in it for them. No reason for them to do this. Their feelings about your business are pretty neutral, ambivalent. They consider what you do for them to be “okay” or “fair”. Not exactly a ringing endorsement, but you’ll do.

You mistakenly think their continued patronage is a sign of ecstatic approval for which you are entitled some kind of extra reward ‒ like referrals.

You are kidding yourself. You are projecting something that really isn’t there at all.

Plus, there is no system or mechanism or process in place to refer someone. So even if I appreciate the services of my accountant, barber, landscaper there is nothing in place that I can act upon.

The last reason why you don’t automatically get referrals is expressed gratitude. Let’s say one of your customers actually overcomes all of the obstacles previously mentioned and actually sends you somebody.

What happens? They are not recognized and rewarded for this behavior.

Or maybe they are recognized with a half-hearted thank you, or an email or some cheap, off-the-shelf “thank you” card.

So the person who provided the referral thinks “That business owner really doesn’t value this. Why should I bother?”

When you actually recognize and reward, you get more of the behavior you recognize and reward.

Have you ever provided some referrals, not been recognized, and actually stopped patronizing the place or person you recommended?

This can and does happen. Things can go bad quickly. When someone provides one or more referrals there is an expectation of some sort of expressed gratitude. When this doesn’t happen there is disappointment, sometimes even bitterness.

A prompt thank you is expected. Not something that happens weeks or even months later. If the thank you is delayed it either has no impact at all or it could spark bad feelings.

Every business person understands the need to spend money to get new customers off the street. But for some reason they think referrals should be free.

Sorry, but it doesn’t work that way.

What you need is a Referral Machine. It’s something that’s intentional. This means there is a process in place that happens the same way every time. It is an investment. Most businesses have no problem spending on external marketing but don’t believe in internal marketing. A Referral Machine costs money to build, and there’s an investment to be made in running it continuously. It’s also integrated meaning it is a regular part of a business. It’s integrated for both customers and staff. It’s a part of your culture.

This weekend’s web deal is The Ultimate No B.S. Referral Machine. It features tested and proven systems designed to attract and maintain a steady flow of referrals to your business. Order it by midnight Monday at Midnight, and you’ll also get a great bonus extra: Magical Culture: How to Wow Your Customers and Excite Your Employees. This presentation by Travis Miller and Jimmy Vee was a big hit at our previous SuperConference. This bonus is yours FREE this weekend only when you sign up for The Ultimate No B.S. Referral Machine.


Dan Kennedy is internationally recognized as the 'Millionaire Maker,' helping people in just about every category of business turn their ideas into fortunes. Dan's "No B.S." approach is refreshing amidst a world of small business marketing hype and enriches those who act on his advice. For more money-making marketing tips, tactics and strategies, go to www.GKIC.com

5 Responses

  1. David Hunter says:

    One of the best things I heard Dan say about referrals is to ASK!!!!

    When someone says, “Oh, my friend John would love this!” That’s when you say, “Hey, could I get John’s address so I could send him a card.” Or, better yet, “Hey, could you call up John right now while you’re hear.”

    Try it…

  2. Travis send me a link to this article. I agree with a lot of points you have mentioned. There has to be specific motivation for customer to recommend you. It gives me an idea to offer something to my customers for free for every referral I get. I am also part of BNI, so I know referrals work. Thanks for the article.

  3. Sarah B says:

    Our business has thrived through new customers being referred by our existing customers. We have a new irrigation business (2 1/2 y.o.). We have attained some of the best, most loyal customers by offering a referral discount. Our regular customers get discounted service; up to free service for referrals they send us.
    It may cause some loss of revenue initially, but the Rewards far outweigh the initial cost; providing us with amazing customers who continue to give more referrals and use our service over and over again!

  4. Kevin Carter says:

    Excellent points! Immediately reward those who offer referrals… In our case even if the one referred to us doesn’t end up becoming a contractual client, we still reward the person who did the referring. A thank you card, hand written note inside and a gift card to a local restaurant are usually what I include.

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