Low-Pressure Ways to

Respectfully Ask Your Network for Referrals – Part 3


Before you actually deploy a referral campaign, you need to setup some basic structure for what you expect to happen and how to respond.


Before the Ask:

Identify Members of Network to Contact

Your business is a serious matter, so approaching client acquisition with an organized, systematic process is critical. First, it helps to consider your network as a pool of potential supporters for your business (ie. your support network). Keeping records of them and how they choose to support you is just as critical as tracking your clients.


Consider the list of connection types below then make a list of people you can contact (text, phone, email, social media, in-person, etc.). Include anyone you might be able to reach. Record the list by actually writing it down or typing it up.

Hands writing on notepaper with pen
  • Family (immediate and extended)
  • Friends (close and distant)
  • Neighbors (past and present)
  • Past classmates or instructors
  • Past coworkers or supervisors
  • Past collaborators or partners
  • Past clients or employers
  • Mentors or mentees
  • Social media connections or followers (personal and professional)
  • Club or association members
  • Religious or cultural group members

Keep in mind that you are asking these people for referrals, introductions, or shared opportunities. Not sales. You don’t know what or who they know, so put everyone on the list unless they made it clear in the past that they won’t help you.

Your uncles that work in the public sector (government agencies or municipalities) definitely know a few people who work in the private sector. Your friend who teaches in Kenya knows you, so they likely know other professionals that work in the U.S. Your previous supervisor in that nonprofit absolutely knows people who work in corporations. Your teenaged mentee going through college has probably met a physician or two. The point is to be expansive with your list – you would be surprised at who your connections have access to.

As my family’s genealogist, I found out that Bo Diddley (a famous blues musician) was once married to one of my mother’s cousins. She only mentioned it when I pressed her for family member names. Even then, she referred to him as “Some guy named Ellas McDaniel… I think he was a musician who went by ‘John Diddley’ or something”. Sure enough, several records confirm this. If I was interested in the music industry, he could have been a great contact! Before the family tree project, I never guessed she might have a connection in that area.

Your list should contain dozens of names, maybe even a couple hundred. Guess what? No need to wait until the list is complete! You can start contacting people even before you finish. The key is to work through as much of your network as possible.

Almost all of those people will be aware of at least one person or opportunity they can connect you to. “Connect” can mean they mention a name to you, they mention you or your website to someone else, they directly introduce you to someone, they reshare your business content with their network, or they tell you about a contract opportunity they noticed within their company or in their social media feed. Every little bit helps.


Now that you’ve done some preparation, let’s take a look at how to optimize referral campaign deployment…

Boosting the Ask: Target the ask based on your relationship type and proximity

Back to Before the Ask: Prepare for engagement with referrals

Back to the overview 5 Low Pressure Ways to Respectfully Ask Your Network for Referrals

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