Pop quiz: You’re making a major purchase and are deciding between two businesses that have an identical offer. Are you more likely to…

  • Go with the company that has been in business the longest or…
  • Go with the company your friend says “changed my life for the better!”

I’m guessing you’ll go with your friend’s recommendation. An enthusiastic referral is more powerful than history, location, and even price.

Referrals can become great sources of income too. Prospects who contact you because of a referral are already “warmed up” to your business. They’ve heard good things and they’re primed to like what you do.

How can you use email marketing to encourage referrals?

Emails are perfect vehicles for encouraging referrals. But, it takes some strategic planning to make them work.

Here’s an easy 5-step method that will get you started.

Ready to do more business with email marketing?

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1. Develop editorial goals.

Emails that are strong enough to attract referrals to your business don’t happen by chance.

Your goal is to establish your authority, be seen as the “go-to” resource, and use a friendly, knowledgeable, approachable tone. Ask yourself these questions and you’ll be headed in the right direction.

What information could you share that would be incredibly valuable?

What does a prospect need to know about your business in order to see it as the go-to resource in your field?

What tone should you use to come across as approachable and friendly?

Thinking ahead and developing an editorial plan might seem boring but, it helps you structure your process and reach desired end results.

2. Make your content useful.

We are all swimming in information.

To make yours stand out, think of it as a gift you’ll give your prospects. Make it valuable and make it beautiful (more on that later.)

Your content needs to do at least one of the items below:

  • Solve a nagging, annoying, ongoing problem your prospect suffers from
  • Present a step-by-step solution to a task your prospect performs regularly
  • Link to helpful resources that will enrich your prospect’s day-to-day activities
  • Entertain, enlighten, or inspire

If your content does more than just one of the above, that’s even better!

3. Use design to communicate value.

How do you know a gift is important? Your first clue is how it’s wrapped.

Is it neat, is it colorful, and most important is it beautiful? What’s on the outside bodes well for what’s inside! Wrap your valuable email marketing messages in a well-designed package for best results.

Use the principles of good design. If you’re not sure what they are, sign up for my free Design 101 e-course here.

If your business materials — email marketing, website, and print materials — look like they were designed by an amateur, people won’t feel as comfortable passing along a referral.

Good design inspires trust and confidence. Use it to your advantage.

4. Make your emails “save worthy.”

In a perfect world, you’ll get ongoing referrals to your business over time. One way to make this happen is to offer information via email autoresponder that’s so worthwhile, people will save your information.

The longer they hold on to your materials, the greater the chance they’ll refer others to your business.

Greater exposure = more referrals.

5. Ask for a referral in every email.

Finally, remember to ask for the referral. Your customers are all busy and probably won’t realize you want them to do something unless you come right out and ask.

Re-write the generic forwarding text at the bottom of your email to read “We appreciate referrals. Please share this email with your friends.”

Use the Social Share bar in your emails too and don’t be afraid to ask directly. Add “Share this valuable information with your friends” or something similar to encourage them to take the extra step.

Get started. Get referrals.

Referrals are one of the most powerful sources of income for your small business.

About the Author: Pamela Wilson of Big Brand System helps small businesses owners learn to use strategic marketing and great design to grow their businesses. Get her free Design 101 course and pick up tips for making all your marketing materials work better.

To learn even more about attracting referrals, view our helpful guide, “The Art of the Ask.”