What is a Client Reference?

A client reference is the action of an existing customer recommending an organization’s products or services to another person. Also known as customer referrals, a client reference can happen organically or through strategic marketing efforts. In either case, a client reference is one of the most effective ways for any enterprise or business to build trust with their clients and expand reach to obtain new clients.

Client Reference Diagram

Customer referrals hold significant importance for sales and marketing teams, serving as pivotal tools in sealing deals and generating leads. Hence, organizations often adopt specific referral strategies focused on pinpointing clients capable of offering references, establishing connections with them, and soliciting their endorsements. Some companies also provide incentives to existing clients who recommend their products or services. Others have well-mapped referral programs. 

There are more than 2.4 million brand-related conversations happening every single day in the U.S. alone. Harnessing client references presents substantial potential for organizations, capable of revolutionizing business reach and bolstering sales volumes. Client references hold immense value and can determine the outcome of securing or missing out on a sale.

The Advantages of Client References 

With the number of sales pitches people are bombarded with on a daily basis, there’s less faith in salespeople and advertising than ever before. Prospects find it challenging to believe promises because every organization is about making money, and that doesn’t inspire trust or confidence. However, providing those potential customers testimonials from thoroughly satisfied clients significantly heightens the likelihood of their decision to purchase the product or service. Social proof is extremely compelling. 

  • People trust experts who recommend a product or service because it’s assumed they know more than them
  • Celebrity social proof is effective because people want to be rich and famous like them
  • User proof is proof that the services or goods work as intended and have benefited the user
  • Crowd wisdom is when a huge number of people recommend or endorse something, they all can’t be wrong (can they?)

The following advantages may result from client references: 

Quicker Sales Process 

Many potential clients who get in touch with a company after hearing about it through a recommendation often navigate the sales process more swiftly due to their prior familiarity with the business and the quality of its offerings. 

Enhanced Lead Conversions 

Client recommendations can aid in lead conversion since potential customers frequently rely on the advice of individuals they know, making them more inclined to buy a company’s goods or services. 

Cost-Effective Marketing 

A client reference costs next to nothing in time, effort, or money. Basic references can be obtained by simply asking or publishing a social media post. 

Better Customer Relationships 

A client reference essentially means there is trust in a brand or business. This helps build better relationships with existing clients and with the new clients they have referred.

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Upland RO Innovation is customer reference management software that helps sales, marketing, and customer success teams find and engage with their most influential advocates.
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How to Ask for a Client Reference 

Engaging in the client reference process can lead to unintended adverse effects. Therefore, an organization must be strategic in selecting whom they approach, how they ask, and the timing of the reference request. 

Pick a Genuinely Happy Client 

Choose a client who has been genuinely pleased with the product or service. Understanding the extent of their usage and the benefits derived in their personal or business life is the prime way to identify the ideal reference. ‘’A positive response suggests their readiness to provide an exceptional reference.  Ensuring their happiness is the straightforward path to securing a positive client recommendation. 

Provide an Incentive 

Receiving a client reference based on genuine product appreciation is wonderful, but it’s equally important to follow up with gratitude. While a simple thank you may suffice, some organizations offer a month or two of free subscriptions or a discount coupon that clients could use on their next purchase.. The actual value of these incentives isn’t the crucial factor. Rather, offering a thoughtful incentive reflects positively on the brand, showcasing the level of respect and appreciation for the client. 

Set Clear Expectations 

Ensure clients fully understand how their reference will be used, if their names or quotes will appear somewhere, or will prospective clients directly contact the reference? Those giving references must understand and accept all of the above. 

Build a fruitful, long-lasting relationship with clients by getting their approval and adhering to established expectations. Putting clients in a scenario where their expectations aren’t met, or their boundaries are overstepped can seriously impact their trust in a brand. 

Get the Timing Right 

Timing is of the essence when requesting a recommendation. The timing of the request significantly influences whether the client will agree to provide a reference or not.  

The optimal timing for contact is typically within two to three days following the completion of the sale. Waiting longer poses a risk that the client might forget specific details about the service or product that they were happy with. Waiting longer could also risk them becoming less likely to provide a reference. 

Conversely, asking too soon could also be detrimental. If the organization hasn’t finalized the transaction, allowed them time to use the product, or completed their service, customers might not feel at ease providing a review. The suggested timeframe of up to three days ensures that their recent experience with the product or service remains vivid in their mind, increasing the likelihood of receiving an honest and candid account of their experience. 

Use an Invoice to Invite a Reference 

You might consider incorporating a standardized footer on invoices, kindly requesting client recommendations. Ensure that the invoice includes website and contact information to minimize any obstacles for customers in fulfilling this request.

How to Optimize a Client Reference Strategy 

Identify Existing Happy Clients 

When seeking new clients who can serve as references, begin by identifying current customers who might be enthusiastic about endorsing the company to others. Focus on pinpointing clients capable of offering dependable references—ideally aligned with the company’s target market and showcasing satisfaction with the company’s goods or services. Because they’ve demonstrated their trust in the organization, are repeat customers, or are individuals who have made several purchases from the business, they are more likely to offer trustworthy recommendations. Make a list of the clients whose recommendations will be solicited and note their contact details. 

Ask for a Reference 

Reach out to the list of current satisfied clients and request their support in providing references. If possible, contact clients directly by phone or in-person to make this request. During the conversation, thoroughly explain the request for a reference. Highlight the significance of recommendations for the business and emphasize the exceptional service they have previously enjoyed. Make sure the request is clear so that the client knows what is expected of them. Reiterate the reasons for seeking their reference and respond to any queries with honest and simple answers. 

Directly soliciting references from clients provides several advantages, including the ability to customize the request according to each client’s preferences or situation. 

Use Digital Marketing 

Digital marketing can also be a great way to ask for references. This can be done via targeted emails to clients, or by including generic requests for references in an e-newsletter to existing customers. Incorporating a dedicated section on the organization’s website that outlines the reference process and details how clients can refer others can significantly streamline and simplify the reference procedure.  

Posting a message to followers on social media can also result in reviews, but these can be a mixed outcome if unhappy customers take that opportunity to seek redress. 

Offer Incentives Through Thoughtful Referral Programs 

Rewarding references may compel more clients to promote or review an organization. Existing customers can be enticed with a variety of incentives, such as coupons, discounts, or gift cards. Referral programs are often implemented by businesses to encourage customer recommendations. Clients participating in these programs generally receive rewards, discounts, or free merchandise for each referral. A well-established referral program can showcase a business’s confidence in its products and services, thereby instilling greater confidence in clients to recommend the company to others.  

Provide a Template Clients Can Use 

Regardless of the method used to request references from clients, providing them with a prepared template can be beneficial. Offer clients sample language or wording to ensure they feel at ease when sharing their thoughts as a reference. To ensure that clients can follow the template, keep it simple. Encourage customers to be sincere when filling out the template, detailing how the company’s services benefited them and the quality of their treatment. This template can also be used on a organization’s website and social media sites. 

Bear in mind that generic, uniform reviews might appear artificial and misleading.   Encouraging unique thoughts and personalized writing adds authenticity and credibility to the testimonials.  

Work on Turning Referrals into Customers 

Once referrals begin coming in from existing customers, it’s crucial for organizations to follow up on these leads and convert them into actual customers. Don’t forget to mention the referral source when communicating with the potential client, to establish credibility and emphasize the value of relationships. Demonstrate to potential clients how much their patronage will be valued. 

Take a Moment to Appreciate the Reference 

When a current client refers a new client to a business, take the time to express gratitude for the referral. This can be done by calling or writing them a message. Consider giving a repeat customer a small token of appreciation for their support, such as a free service or gift card. Be sincere in expressing genuine gratitude and respect for their trust and confidence in the business. 

Measure the Reference Strategy and Tweak Where Necessary 

Measuring the results of any tactic is essential in determining how effective it is. In this scenario, set specific key performance indicators (KPIs) like aiming for five new referrals per month or potentially increasing referrals by 10% each quarter. Measuring the approach can help in identifying areas of improvement.

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Informatica trusts RO Innovation to provide its sales team with references on demand. The company grew its customer success library 60% with RO Innovation.
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Tips to Increase Client References 

Experts recommend certain strategies to boost client references, expanding an organization’s reach and sales organically. 

Utilize the Sales Process 

Incorporate requesting references as a routine aspect of the sales process to consistently acquire potential clients. Involving the sales team in designing effective referral strategies also helps identify better opportunities in asking for referrals. 

Provide Excellent Service 

This might seem obvious, but providing excellent service every time a client buys or interacts with an organization dramatically increases the chances of them recommending a business to others. If an issue arises, promptly resolve it—nothing satisfies a client more than when a problem is effortlessly addressed, resulting in an exceptional outcome. 

Try Video Testimonials 

A video is worth a thousand words, so leverage them as much as possible to record customers sharing their love for a product or service. 

Optimize an Event Participation Strategy 

If the organization participates in trade events or business fairs, ensure they send out invitations to both current and potential clients. This is a great way to not only network, but for happy clients to provide a reference in person to potential clients. Take this a step further and host a virtual or in-person event where clients can publicly state how a product or service has benefitted them. 

Use Automation 

Relying on spreadsheets and other manual tools to track customer interactions for references can swiftly become tedious and prone to errors.  Clients do not appreciate being hounded for references or reviews, and this may result in unintended negative outcomes. 

There are many automation options available that can keep a program effective, systematic, and organized. When dealing with numerous references, implementing automation software can streamline operations, resolve issues, reduce reliance on manual notes, and significantly enhance overall performance in a shorter span. 

Client Referrals, Reviews, and References Add Huge Value 

Client referral strategies require hard work and proper execution. When done correctly, they can make the sales process faster, increase trust and credibility of a brand, and, of course, bring in more prospects that have higher chances of converting. These prospects are already significantly advanced in the sales funnel and require considerably less effort compared to approaching a cold lead. Client references are, in essence, an army of brand advocates- wielding immense influence for an organization.  Cultivate, nurture, and harness their potential to fuel growth.

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