Learning how to ask for referrals is an invaluable skill for small business owners. According to a Neilsen study, referrals contribute to 65% of new business.
Referral marketing leads have a 30% higher conversion rate than any other channel. Someone referred to you is four times more likely to become a customer. Not only are they more likely to purchase, but they also stick around longer.
Referrals are a powerful and cost-effective marketing tool. Getting more referrals from current and past customers can increase revenue for any business—including online courses and coaching.
Are you convinced you need referrals but still don’t know quite how to ask for them?
We’ve provided step-by-step guidance on how to ask for referrals below. We’ll also reveal how you can use Teachable’s built-in features, like our student referrals program, to make asking for and getting referrals a breeze.
When should you ask for referrals?
The guidance on this may vary. Most businesses will say that the best time to ask for a referral is immediately after purchase. The product is usually top of mind, so customers are more likely to pay attention and share.
However, since courses and coaching can happen over a span of months, you should identify key milestones along your customer’s journey. There are times throughout the course of their journey when it makes sense to ask for a referral.
It can be when someone completes the first section of your course. If you’re a coach, it could be right after a client has achieved a goal. For example, a career coach might ask a client for a referral when a client gets a promotion or lands a new job.
How to ask for referrals
You might offer rewards for referrals, but money alone will not motivate customers to share your product or service. The best referrals come from customers who are genuinely satisfied with what you offer. They may even have a powerful story about how your course or coaching transformed their lives.
But how do you ask for referrals and convey the value in an authentic way? We’ll show you.
1. Identify who to ask for referrals
Before you send any referral requests, identify your best customers. A happy customer is highly satisfied and engaged, therefore, more likely to tell others about you. Maybe they’ve had a positive experience with your course or coaching program. Or perhaps they are always the first person to reply to your weekly emails.
Find your power customers and target them first. Look at your data and find out the following:
- Who opens and clicks on your emails consistently?
- Which students have made the most course progress?
- Who frequently likes or comments on your social posts?
- Who has enrolled in most (or all) of your courses?
Not sure where to find this information? You can access course-related data like sales, lecture completion, and leaderboards inside Teachable. To find social media analytics, use the platform’s built-in insights or third-party tools like Google Analytics. You can find email insights like open rates and click rates directly inside your email marketing platform.
Do you have some stellar student testimonials or social media mentions? Don’t forget to include these people in your list. They’ve already vouched for you publicly.
2. Build value
Before you can ask for a referral, you need to provide value. It takes consistent, deliberate effort to nurture loyal customers. It’s not enough to simply drop a course into someone’s inbox or host one coaching session. Once you have someone in the door, continue to show up for them in meaningful ways.
- Listen to student feedback
- Create a course roadmap
- Send email check-ins
- Respond to questions, DMs, and comments
- Share quick tips or guidance on social media
- Send weekly newsletters
- Produce fresh course content
Build value into everything you create—paid or free. Let your customer base know that you’ll continue to release new products or content to serve their needs better. Customers who feel connected and heard are more likely to be loyal to your brand and tell their network about you.
3. Time it right and build it into your process
Timing is everything for referral requests. If you ask too early, your customer might get the wrong impression. If you ask too late, your request might get ignored.
Identify key milestones in your process where it’s appropriate to ask. Does your product deliver value right away, or do customers need to complete part of the course to see the value? Pinpoint a time when the perceived value of your product or service is the highest.
You don’t have to wait until the end of the course to ask for referrals. You can place (and automate) some asks by:
- Adding your referral program link to the bottom of course emails
- Sharing your referral link on the course community page
- Sending an automated email after students reach a milestone or complete a course
- Adding your referral link to your business card
Just be careful to moderate your outreach. You don’t want to send an automated email to someone who’s recently left a poor review. Always ask for referrals when customers are happiest and most engaged.
4. Personalize it
Although automating part of the process of asking for referrals can save you time, it isn’t always the most effective. You are more likely to get a referral when the request feels personal.
Avoid sending cold or broad requests. Personalize your referral requests with specifics and be direct in your request.
- Always use their name
- Explain why you are asking them, specifically
- Provide offer incentive details
- Use the referral requests name (if applicable)
- “During our last coaching session, you mentioned that your friend Rachel might be interested in joining the mastermind program.”
- Tell them exactly how to share
Approach every request with a friendly, appreciative tone. Leverage your existing relationship with the customer. Explain how you’ve provided value to them and emphasize how you’d like to help more people in their network.
5. Make it easy
To increase your chances of getting referrals, you need to remove friction. You’re asking your customers to do you a favor. The easier it is for your customers to promote your product or service, the more likely they are to do it.
Take some time to prep your referral program materials. Create a referral email template and starter copy for customers. Make it so that all they’ll need to do is customize the text with a personal anecdote. Create branded graphics and sample captions with hashtags for social media sharing.
Always include custom referral links. You can easily create unique student referral links with Teachable. Unique referral links allow you to track things like the number of times a student successfully referred a friend to purchase, gross referral revenue, and more.
6. Set up a referral program with Teachable
Another way to create an easy-to-use referral program is by using your built-in Teachable account features. Our new student referral program feature helps creators like you effectively increase sales and expand their student reach.
Our new program is simple. You incentivize existing students with a discount to share your school with their friends. You decide what percentage discount you want to offer your students and those they refer. When your students share, both the student and the referred friend receive a reward discount. Best of all—you receive a new student.
Here’s how to set it up:
- Navigate to the Site tab in your school’s admin
- Select Referrals in the dropdown menu
- Click “Set up student referrals”
- Set up your referrer reward (i.e., the percentage discount the existing student gets for making the referral)
- Set up your friend reward (i.e., the percentage discount the person referred gets as an incentive to make a purchase)
- Create a referral block to add to your course curriculum
- Include a headline, description, and referral link (this can be your school homepage URL, a specific product sales page, checkout page, or external landing page)
- To add the referral block to your course, navigate to any course, select a lecture, and choose “add referral block”
- Click Publish
Prefer a video walkthrough? Watch this video demo: https://ankurnagpal.wistia.com/medias/ec91odwt1r?wvideo=ec91odwt1r
Students can easily access your referral program within their Teachable profile. Inside the “refer a friend” tab, students can find the program details, their referral link, and their earned rewards. Our new feature makes it easy for you and your students to reap the rewards of referral marketing.
7. Offer incentives
Before you launch your referral program, you’ll need to determine the right referral reward or offer incentive. When you offer an incentive, students are more inclined to return the favor. Choose an appropriate incentive for the request you are making. Scale the percentage discount with the value of the product or service you are asking students to promote.
- If you are asking students to refer a friend to your $97 course, consider offering a smaller percentage discount (e.g., 5 – 15%)
- If you are asking a student to refer a friend to a higher-value product, like a 6-month coaching program, consider offering a more considerable percentage discount (e.g., 20%)
Remember: The referral program feature in Teachable is a two-sided referral program. You’ll need to create two incentives—one for the referrer and one for the person who gets referred. The percentage discount can range anywhere from 1 – 100%.
You can also offer other incentives like a gift card or free coaching sessions. These incentives are great for social media campaigns or new product launches.
Email templates to ask for referrals
You need to make sure your students know about your referral program. They can’t take advantage of something they don’t know exists. One of the first things to keep in mind when reaching out to students is which channels they’re most accustomed to hearing from you on. For some students, it’s email. For others, it’s Facebook or Instagram.
Whatever channel you choose, give them the details of how it works and the discount you’re offering for referrals.
Here are some sample email templates you can use when asking for referrals. You can adapt this content for social media, phone call, or in-person requests.
Announcing a referral program template to students
Help us spread the word and grow our [name of school] community!
This month, we are rolling out our brand-new student referral program! Now, whenever you refer your friends, followers, or clients to our course(s), you will both receive a discount of [discount amount].
The best part? It’s super easy to share. Share this link [insert referral link] and start earning discounts toward your next purchase in [insert name of school] right away!
You can also learn more about our referral program here [insert a link to a landing page where students can learn more]
A personalized referral request template
Dear [INSERT NAME],
It’s been a pleasure working with you over the past [insert length of engagement]. I’ve loved watching you grow and [insert specific transformation or benefit].
I appreciate your continued support and trust in me [or business name]. Customers like you help me grow and build better [courses/coaching programs/etc.].
I am reaching out today to ask you a favor. The biggest compliment that I can receive from a client is a referral. If you have friends or colleagues who could benefit from [insert specific benefit(s)], I’d be honored if you would send them my way.
To return the favor, I’d like to offer you and your friend a special discount on my [course/coaching program]. For every referral, you will both receive [insert discount].
If you are interested in learning more, please let me know, and I will send you all the details.
Help your students understand referrals thoroughly
Once your students know you have a referral program, the next step is ensuring they understand how to use it. It’s important to be clear about what you are offering and how your students (and their friends) will benefit from the offer.
You’ll want to include information about the following:
- How to find your school’s referral link
- The offer incentive (for both the referrer and their friends)
- How to view earned rewards
- How to redeem discounts
Be sure to include this explanation in your referral program description and your announcement email. You’ll also want to add these details to the “refer a friend” tab on your school’s homepage and the referral block in your course.
You can find more information about how to edit your student referral program information in our Knowledge Base.
Referral email template for customers
Make it easy for your customers to start sharing your referral link by providing some sample referral copy. Send students a prompt that they can customize to fit their experiences. The easier it is, the more likely they are to do it.
I took [creator’s name]’s course [course title] on [course content] to help improve my [whatever you wanted to learn]. The course took place during [month, year], and I enjoyed the [self-paced? cohort-based?] learning experience.
After completing the course, I felt like I had gained [whatever you learned/gained!]. This course would be great for anyone looking to learn [your recommendation].
Interested in discussing why I loved this course so much? Feel free to reach out via [best way to reach you]. If you’ve already made up your mind and want to sign up for the course at a discount, use this link to sign up: [referral link]
To help students personalize the prompt, use this list:
- A personal anecdote
- Course title
- When they took the course
- The reason they took the course
- What they gained from the course
- Who they recommend it for
- Their referral link
The list above might seem like a lot to include, but you can get the important information in a few sentences or less.
Remember: This is all about helping your students find the right words to explain what your course means to them and share that with others.
It’s not about telling them what to say or forcing a formulaic review. Instead, think of this as a way to help your students put the transformation your course helped them make into words. Their referral can also be about the impact your course had on them that they think others might find helpful. Keep it authentic to you, your course, and your students.
Give it a try
The above is just an example of what you might share with your students. Each creator and each of their students will have a different story they’re looking to tell when referring to others.
So, while you can certainly use the example above as a starting point, make it your own. And make it clear to your students that they should make it their own when sharing it with others. The personal stories of growth and enjoyment are the ones that hit home, so they’re ideal for referrals.
This post was updated on October 27, 2022.
Finding the right online communities for your business doesn’t have to be hard.