Low-Pressure Ways to

Respectfully Ask Your Network for Referrals – Part 4


Deploying your referral campaign requires some proactive content development and strategizing. In the previous Briefs, you prepared to engage. The next few Briefs focus on how to optimize The Asks you plan to deploy. Get ready to punch up the content of your outreach.


Boosting the Ask:

Target the Ask Based on Relationship Type and Proximity

Sending individualized messages is time consuming, especially if you have a large network. While personalization yields higher quality outcomes, you always want to balance the amount of time and resources spent on personalization based on the expected outcomes. Some people in your support network will voluntarily spend a lot of time to help you grow your business. Others might only be able to contribute in one small way. It is difficult to know who falls in which group, but categorizing helps.


Breaking your network down into simple categories will make it easy to 1) organize the groups by who is in the best position to help the most, 2) tailor messaging appropriate to each group, and 3) prioritize timing of contact and deeply personalized messaging to those in the best position to help the most.


1. Categorize the relationships

These categories will help you generate relevant content for your messages, identify areas for greater personalization, and prioritize which people to contact first. No need to use all of the categories, but using at least two will help organize your referral campaign efforts and customize your outreach.

If you created the support network list, discussed in the previous Brief – Before the Ask: Identify members of network to contact, then you have a long list of people to contact. Generic messaging is quick and easy to deploy, but that won’t work as well as personalized messaging. Categorizing people into groups will help you get to that sweet spot where speedy deployment still makes even mass messages feel personal and targeted.

  • Proximity – geographical
    • How physically close is this person to your location? Do you live or work in the same neighborhood? The same town/city? The same state/province? The same country? The distance aspect of your connection is related to the likelihood of relevant opportunities. If you offer consulting services locally versus interstate or internationally, the people in your immediate area may be most important to your lead generation process.
  • Proximity – industry
    • How similar is this person’s industry or position to your industry or position? People in industries adjacent to yours can, surprisingly, be the most helpful for boosting exposure. There are many reasons for this, but the key is that people in different industries should be given different asks. A colleague in your industry may encounter people that don’t need their services, but are a perfect fit for your offerings. A connection from an adjacent industry can introduce you to a department head seeking consultants for an upcoming project. These opportunities reflect very different asks, so your support network list should be segmented.
  • Proximity – behavioral
    • What habitual actions do you and this person have in common? Are there moments during that activity that are ideal for a referral ask? For example, if you both enjoy gardening, then attending a seed-swap event could be a great time for them to mention to others that you teach classes on canning vegetables. Your mutual behaviors could also be inspiration for content in your referral campaign communications. Add this info to personalize your messages, bring up relevant stories, or make illustrative comparisons.
  • Proximity – relational
    • How strong or recent is your relationship with this person? Whether your last contact was one day ago or one year ago, the point of this categorization is to customize your messaging. For a recent contact, you could jump right to the ask or mention something from your last conversation. For an older contact, you may want to ease into the conversation by refreshing the relationship before posing The Ask. For some people, it might be better to first contact the person to catchup while focusing on a completely different topic to reconnect, then wait a few days or weeks before following up with The Ask. This is decided based on what you feel comfortable with because the goal is to remain authentic. Match the approach to the type of person you’re contacting.


2. Draft copy appropriate to each category

Develop standard messages relevant to each category that are meant for mass distribution, but deploy them individually for greater impact. Generally, the core message will be the same, with certain sections tweaked based on your group categories.

The portion that differs depends on your groups. Sometimes you will change The Ask – other times, you will change the reasoning you give. Another option is to change the greeting. The important part is making the message seem more like something you spent time on and customized to your audience. No need to make it highly specific, but your audience should feel like the content is targeted to them for a reason, not just because you have their email address.

On LinkedIn, when someone sends me a connection request, especially without a personalized note, I respond with a semi-stock message. Part of the message asks what kind of relationship they want to develop with me, which I customize after skimming their profile.

For young people in my industry who are still in school or early in their career, I ask if they’re looking for an advisor or mentor. For people in my industry with similar experience, I ask if they’re looking for a collaborator or brainstorming partner. For people in adjacent industries, I ask if they’re looking for an advisor or consultant. The remainder of the message is exactly the same for everyone.

Recipients have consistently praised this message and the effort it took to compose it. Almost no one realizes that I copy & paste it while only changing their name and the type of relationship I offer. I’ve been using the same core message for 4 or 5 years. Just a little bit of thoughtfulness goes a long way toward setting the tone of the conversation and relationship.


3. Deploy the messages individually or in small groups

Often, more people will react to a direct message than to an anonymized message. If it is obvious the message has been sent to any kind of list or group (ie. multiple addresses in an email’s “To” field, a generic social media post, or a direct mailer sent to “Resident”), people are less likely to pay attention. The more personal a message, the more important the content is assumed to be. Keep in mind that many people are savvy to personalization tricks, so the goal is to be as genuine as possible. Draw the reader in. Align the contact method to their interests.

Wherever possible, use direct contact and customized messaging in your outreach. For prioritized groups or individuals, have private conversations or send direct messages to maximize impact. For deprioritized groups, use mass emails, mass texts, group presentations, or social media posts. Remember that even mass messages can be tweaked to feel at least a little personalized.

Sending a mass email to your colleagues? Craft a message specifically for those in your field. Or focus on those from your most recent employer. Or target those living in your current town/city. Mention the organizing principle of the group to show that you’ve put thought into how that group is uniquely important to The Ask.


Beyond targeted outreach, let’s proactively consider how to boost your chances of ongoing assistance, starting with how you say, “Thank you“…

Boosting the Ask: Express gratitude

Back to Before the Ask: Identify members of network to contact

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

Comments are closed, but trackbacks and pingbacks are open.