6 ways to increase customer referrals

customer referrals

When considering the marketing mix for your pharmacy, don’t overlook the value of customer referrals

In brief:

  • Customer referrals are one of the least expensive and most valuable marketing programs.
  • Potential customers trust referrals from friends, family and even online reviews.
  • Increase referrals by encouraging customers to refer your store and making the process easy.

Not only can referrals bring in new customers, but research has found that referral customers can be more valuable over time than customers brought in through other means, adding more profit and staying as customers longer.1

They key is to encourage your customers to make those referrals. Consider these insights compiled by InsightSquared, a sales performance analytics company, from various studies:2

  • Customers share negative experiences more often than positive ones. While 95% of customers share bad experiences with others, only 87% share good experiences. More than half will share a bad experience with more than five people, but only a third will share positive experiences with that many people.
  • Positive online reviews influence buyers. Nearly 70% of consumers read positive reviews on social media, and 88% say positive customer service reviews influence their buying decisions.

In fact, customer referrals can be the most effective advertising you do. “The most credible advertising comes straight from the people we know and trust,” according to global performance management company Nielsen, in its Global Trust in Advertising Report.3

More than 80% of people trust recommendations from friends and family, and two-thirds trust online reviews, Nielsen says.

Take these six actions to boost your referrals:

  1. Deliver such amazing service that customers will say “wow.” People don’t refer friends, family or coworkers to purchase a product or service that is merely typical. People provide positive word of mouth and refer others to a restaurant, a movie, an experience — even a pharmacy — that is so unique, distinctive and special that it causes them to say, “Wow, that was different!” The starting point to generating referrals and word of mouth is providing such amazingly distinct service that people are delighted and will tell others about it.
  2. Encourage sharing. When people make a positive comment about your business or an employee, tell them you appreciate the feedback and encourage them to tell others or post an online review. Check out these articles for ideas on how to manage your online reputation: “Strengthen the Pharmacy/Patient Relationship with Social Media,” and “Would You Turn Down a Free Billboard?
  3. Ask for a referral. Most businesses don’t actively ask customers to refer them to others, but when satisfied customers have had a great experience, they are happy to tell others about it. Prompt customers to “tell two friends” about their positive experiences, even when they haven’t said anything to you. Post your social media sites in your store and on marketing materials, and include a call to action, such as “Like Us on Facebook.”
  4. Make it easy. Add a “Tell a Friend” link on your website and in emails to customers. Give customers printed materials or online links and promotional codes they can share.
  5. Be specific. Make your call to action clear and target specific groups of customers. For example, during an educational session on diabetes, give participants a card or flyer that they can share with friends that explains what your pharmacy offers in that area or invites them to a future session. Ask customers to refer two people they know who have diabetes and who could benefit from the excellent service your pharmacy offers. Making a specific request of “two people you know who have diabetes” causes customers to picture exactly whom they will refer.
  6. Reward referrals. Consider a small token of appreciation, such as a monthly drawing for a gift or discount for customers who have referred others or posted online comments. Remember to stay within the legal guidelines for marketing your pharmacy, though.

Again, getting customers to refer your store starts with delivering great services that wow customers. Once you do that, don’t hesitate to actively ask for referrals, be specific about the type of referrals you are seeking, make it easy for customers to refer your pharmacy, and reward those customers who do make referrals. By focusing on referrals, you can build your base of strong, loyal, profitable customers.

(Learn more about how to include loyal customers in marketing in “Marketing Your Pharmacy to Younger Generations.”)



1 “Why Customer Referrals Can Drive Stunning Profits,” Philipp Schmitt, Bernd Skiera, and Christophe Van den Bulte, Harvard Business Review, June 2011. LINK
2 “100 Customer Service Statistics You Need to Know,” Collin Burke, Ramp, The InsightSquared Blog, April 22, 2015. LINK
3 “Global Trust in Advertising,” Nielsen, Sept. 28, 2015. LINK


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