Is building brand awareness one of your number-one priorities in the new year? It should be. Brand awareness is the first step to claiming mind share for your brand…and ultimately, the brand success you strive for. Today, let’s talk about a major contributor to the building of brand awareness: Referrals.

Achieving Brand Awareness with Referrals

At How to Build a Brand, we are steadfast in the belief that word-of-mouth advertising is the holy grail of marketing (and yes, social media falls into this category). No matter if your brand’s name is brought up at the Sunday dinner table or on Facebook, referrals are precious and your brand should have a plan in place to acknowledge those who recommend it.

Your loyal clients are your salespeople. Keep this in the forefront of your mind, and you’ll be uber-motivated to engage and reward them. There’s no telling how valuable one referral can be. Your customer might tell one person; however, it might not stop there. That person could tell three people, and each of them might tell five people, and so on. The word-of-mouth possibilities are practically limitless.

Is a referral reward program right for your brand? In order to answer this question, we urge you to determine how much a single referral is worth to your brand. Of course, referrals balloon if they go viral, but let’s just assume, for the moment, that one referral will net only one new client. How much income will that referral generate for you? Now, how much would you be willing to pay for that income? This will help to determine the value of your reward.

It can also be helpful to determine each client’s CLV (customer lifetime value). This can be calculated by adding up all the money clients have spent with you, subtracting marketing costs, and then dividing by the number of clients. This will not determine specific future spending, of course, but can be used as an indicator of how much new referrals, if handled correctly, could mean to your brand.

Of course, a referral may not result in a loyal or lucrative new account, and this should be considered when making your decision. This leads to my next point: a referral program that makes rewards with monetary value isn’t right for every brand. Sometimes, genuine appreciation is all that’s necessary to keep the referrals coming.

If you do determine that a more tangible reward is appropriate for your brand’s referral program, use the following points as inspiration for rewarding your most loyal (and talkative) clients:

  • Make it simple for clients to recommend your brand. Make brochures available to share, pre-print referral cards, or offer to do the leg-work in exchange for referral details. Of course, the value of the reward should be proportionate to the effort invested by your clients.
  • Don’t be cheap. A cheap, token gift can be more insulting than no gift at all.
  • Use your imagination. In your industry, what would be the most obvious gift to offer for a referral? Find out and then commit to spicing it up or challenging the paradigm.
  • Choose something that you can keep in stock and offer promptly. “We’re out of stock on gifts right now” is a terrible way to build positive brand awareness. It’s also a good way to assure you won’t be getting any more referrals from that person.
  • Use what you know about your ideal clients to choose a gift they will see as valuable. The goal is to make them feel that their referral efforts were well-worth it. This will also demonstrate that you are in-tune with their wants and needs – a terrific way to build trust and brand loyalty.


Referrals are the most cost-effective and just-plain-old-effective ways to increase brand awareness. A recommendation from a trusted friend is far more valuable than any other type of advertising. Keep this in mind when designing your referral program. No matter if you choose a tangible reward, a monetary reward (in the form of a coupon or credit), or a heartfelt “thank you,” be sure that it suits your target audience and that it will encourage future referrals.


Now, how can you possibly incentivise people to give referrals, to spread that word of mouth, that little bit further than they would otherwise normally do? Because when we think about it, if you’ve been to a good restaurant or you’ve watched a good film, when it comes up in conversation, you really do avidly express just how fantastic that was and why they should go at the next opportunity, right? It’s like you’re selling the restaurant for the restaurant, you’re selling the film for the director and the producer. It’s amazing what affect that can have and you can have your customers doing that, too, if you incentivize them. That might mean that thinking about a reward scheme that you might have for referrals. Because if you think about that value that we talked about before, the value of one referral to your business, the cost normally to get that one customer, not using word of mouth or referrals, imagine what you could possibly do to get that business in through word of mouth, by giving great rewards. It doesn’t have to be a massive reward necessarily, but it just gives them something enough to make them think, “Well, if I give this referral and I manage to get somebody else involved in taking on this product or service, that I might get something extra. That’s what they’re thinking and that’s what your customers could be thinking, too.

So think about what you do as a business, whether you’re product driven or service driven, and think about what it is you could add as extra value to your current customers if they give a referral. It could be just something they’re not getting now, something that doesn’t cost anything to deliver but is of great value to them, or it could be a bonus product or a bonus service that when you think about the cost of delivering that service, is far outweighed by the value of a new customer coming on board to buy a service from you as well.

Think about what it is that you have that’s of great value to your customers right now so that they could refer you with far more passion and be far more incentivised to do so. It’ll make a massive difference to your bottom line.

That’s the advice for today about how you can incentivise people to give more referrals, spread that word of mouth, get it going more viral, so that you can start building your business, spending much less money, much less time, and it’s just based on the experience that you give your customers.

That’s today’s tip and you can come and get some more tips on our Branding Advice Centre, both on this website at, in our blog, and you can also find daily tips that we provide on We also have a whole host of videos with all sorts of advice on how you can build your business with small business marketing advice, branding strategy advice, and things that you can do to build your brand to become the market leader of your industry. Those are on

I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s advice, do go use it, it’s so easy to do, you could even go ask your customers what they would value more and what would make them refer you to more people. 

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