don’t ask, don’t sell


One of the dilemmas that startups face early on is how to create awareness for their service on a shoestring budget. It’s a little like the cart and the horse. How can a new business afford effective marketing and advertising unless they get more customers, and thus more revenue? And conversely, how can they get more customers if they don’t have money for marketing and advertising?

This is a legitimate question that most startups struggle with.

The answer, however, does not lay in the horse. Nor does it lay in the cart. The solution is actually neither one of these.

It’s easy to get so caught up in worrying about new businesses that we fail to recognize the golden opportunity sitting right in front of us: our existing customers!

Even if you only have one existing customer, that one customer presents a high-quality opportunity to spread the word about your services to their network. Whether it’s word of mouth, through their social media networks, or in other ways, every single customer you already have should be carefully groomed to grow into a dedicated brand evangelizer for your business.



No matter what you sell or who you sell it to, customer referrals represents one of the most effective advertising tools that exist. Which makes complete sense when you think about it. If you’re looking for a cleaning service company to come 3x a week and clean your office, what would be a more convincing tactic to convince you to use a company? An ad you see on TV, or a referral from a colleague? The referral will be significantly more impactful and persuasive every time because it is coming from a credible source. Also, it’s providing social proof to the other person.



Of course, you can’t expect your customers to do this automatically. Sure, if you have a great offering that goes above and beyond, you will (hopefully) get a good amount of organic referrals from your existing customers. But unless you make your customer base aware of your requests, you cannot expect them to do anything about it.

Remember, the key here is to be transparent and ethical. We are not espousing bribing or other unethical tactics. It can be as simple as telling every customer as they complete their purchase that referrals are how you get most of your business, and you would really appreciate if they could keep you in mind for any of their friends or colleagues.

Automated email campaigns are tremendously effective for this.

The point is you have to ask. Similar to when you are in Sales; you have to ask for the sale at some point. Recognize the tremendous value your current customers can provide you by significantly growing your customer base at no actual expense to you.



Having said all this, you must understand that if you are asking this of your customers, you owe it to them to deliver an outstanding offering that they will feel excited sharing with their network. If not, this strategy will never get off the ground, and the only person you will have to blame is yourself.

Again, the reason this is so valuable is because it allows startups with little to no marketing budget to increase revenue in new ways at no expense.

So take a moment to think about what tactics you are using to create brand evangelizers out of every customer.


Need help creating and implementing a Referral program in your startup? Contact us today at for a free consultation.