Consent Preferences

February 21, 2024

How to get more referrals and word of mouth marketing

I'm Vicky Shilling

A wellness business mentor, podcast host, author and I help you start and grow a successful wellness business.

My magic is in being able to break down the practical and strategic parts of business building, coupled with helping you cultivate a mindset that supports those actions to get the outcomes you desire.

Strategy + Beliefs =
Business Prosperity


What do you need help with?






A lot of the work I do helping health and wellness professionals falls into the ‘connection’ pillar of my 5 key pillars for a sustainable business (read more about them here). It’s the final piece in the puzzle once you have all the other foundations in place; it’s all about how you go out and find customers and clients for your amazing work.

And you’ll notice I say “go out and find.” Which is the bit that many people struggle with – that whilst you can hide behind perfecting a package, building a website or creating content, there will always be some element of needing to be proactive and get in front of the people, if you want paying customers. And that can bring up all the feels and protective, self-doubt mechanisms our brains love to employ to keep us safe and small (and unseen!) so we avoid it. Hello potential rejection!

Which is why the idea of customers and clients finding you, rather than you having to find them, is such a dream for many solopreneurs.

It may well even be why you’re here reading this blog about improving word of mouth referrals. Because you don’t want to broadcast your life, attend endless networking events or cold pitch potential customers in order to get people to buy from you. The ideal would be that they just land in your inbox or calendar, knowing and trusting who you are and ready to invest.    

If you want to know more about how to build a referral network listen to this episode of the Just Start Now podcast I recorded with Kate Matheson on How To Build A Professional Referral Network 

I’m here to help you. But before we dive in to how we can make that a reality, I want to ensure we’ve covered the basics you need to have in place before any referrals are going to come rolling in.

The basic foundations you need in place before you’ll get referrals

It is impossible for you to have a steady flow of recommendations and referrals to your business if you haven’t first ensured these two things are in place:

1. Clarity on who you help and how

To make it easy for people to say “I know who you need to call!” it’s really important you know and can articulate who you help and what you help with. You might know of this as niching or having an ‘ideal client avatar’ – there’s lots of ways to look at it. But ultimately people will only be thinking of you if you’ve spelled out the type of person you help, the problems you help them overcome and the outcomes and change/solutions you help people achieve.

If you don’t know the answer to these, then it’s unlikely that others can recommend you on a frequent enough basis for it to have an impact on your business.

If you want to know how to niche your wellness business you can work through my Niche Navigator 5 day challenge.

2. Packages and offers that get people results

People recommend things that work. It goes without saying that the number one way to get lots of word of mouth marketing and referrals is to be amazing at what you do.

So if you don’t have services and offers that solve people’s problems, no-one can work with you and therefore no-one can know that you’re incredible! If I hopped on your website or social media right now, can I see a really clear way to work with you?

Read this blog or listen to the podcast episode to learn about the impact of having a signature offer for your wellness business

Even if it’s not a paid way to help people (and if you want to have a sustainable business you do need paid for offers!) do you even have blogs, posts or resources that help your ideal customer that people can recommend? “Oh I read this wonderful blog article that answers your exact question – I’ll forward you the link!” That’s what we want!

If there’s nothing on your profiles but a few musings and a list of your qualifications I’m going to be unable to see how brilliant you are and how you can help me.

You need clear packages and offers that help people achieve the outcome they want, or no-one can recommend you.

Got both of these in place and ready for the referrals and word of mouth to flow in? Here’s how to make it happen:

9 steps to getting more referrals and word of mouth business

How to get professional referrals

  1. Write a list of all the complementary professionals or experts that could be a great referrer to your business (even if you don’t know them yet!)
  2. Focus on 1-3 you would like to get to know and make part of your network in the next 90 days. If you don’t know who exactly they are e.g. you know you’d love a yoga teacher in your referral network but don’t have a specific person in mind right now, make it a goal to identify who that ideal person would be in the next 3 months.
  3. Find and hang out with (digitally or physically) these like-minded practitioners or service providers helping a similar audience. Attend their events, comment on their content, ask to meet up for a real or virtual coffee to discuss how you can help each other, offer to collaborate or skill swap. See what emerges naturally from your conversations. A ‘referral network’ doesn’t have to be something super formal.

Customer referrals

  1. Make it easy for people to give you testimonials. Don’t just ask “can you leave me a testimonial?” Give them a simple survey to complete where you direct the questions and help them give you feedback and sing your praises. You can even use these answers to craft a testimonial yourself from their words and send back to them for their approval.
  2. When you have had happy customers invite them with a quick link to review you on Google, or create an easy to share graphic of their words they could send on via social media or a WhatsApp group.
  3. Incentivise people to recommend you by using affiliate schemes or discounts/offers e.g. If you recommend me to a friend I’ll give you a free consultation or access to an e-book or enter you into a draw to win a gift-voucher.  

Word of mouth referrals

  1. Create content that answers your ideal clients’ problems or helps them achieve their goals and is easy to share e.g. podcasts, blogs, social media posts, info graphics or videos.
  2. Ask people to share your content. It might feel cringy but honestly behind the scenes that’s what the big influencers and successful business owners do, trust me!
  3. Remind people to recommend you. Ask them to tag a friend, forward your email, pass on your details or business card, summarise how they can help you spread the word in an email with easy links and copy/paste text or images prepared for them. You have to tell people what you want them to do, don’t assume they know or have the skill.
Want to go deeper on these techniques with practical examples and template? I teach a lot of these methods to building a referral network and tapping into a network in my How To Market Your Wellness Business Without Social Media course.

Why you need to stop obsessing about whether people are referring you on or not

Now you’ve got these steps I am all for tracking and checking that the work you put in to a particular marketing method is actually paying off. There’s no point keep doing something over and over and not getting any return on your time and effort.

BUT. I do think there comes a point (and I’ve met many practitioners where this happens) where the referrals – or lack of referrals – becomes something they are angry and resentful about.

Particularly if they themselves are recommending in the other direction, but finding they’re getting nothing back. Or if they’ve had seemingly happy clients that say they’re satisfied with the service they received, and yet don’t get any recommendations from.

The ‘problem’ for me with referrals and word of mouth is that I am not really in control of it. And neither are you.

Whilst yes we can have the foundations in place that I’ve mentioned above, and we can take all the steps that I’ve mentioned to try and maximise the possibility of people recommending us, we can’t force them.

The problem when we think ‘no-one’ is talking about or recommending us, is that our inner protective voice will make this mean a lot of things it absolutely doesn’t. It may say things like:

– No-one likes you

– You’re no good at this

– You aren’t getting anyone any results

– Your clients are saying you’re useless behind your back

Or variations on this sort of theme. Do they sound familiar from your inner dialogue?!

Do you know what’s the most likely way that people will recommend you? If you stop obsessing about it. And change up what the voice inside your head is saying to you and making it mean that right now, no-one has given you such a glow up review to their bestie that they get on the phone to you immediately and throw all their cash at you (which I hope when I phrase it like that, reminds you that it’s fairly unlikely on its own anyway!).

If no-one is sending you recommendations right now or talking about you, what else could be true?

For reference and if it’s of any reassurance at all, I do all the things above and I couldn’t make my business work from word of mouth and referrals alone. I hear a lot of people say they’ve recommended my podcast, book or group to their colleagues and peers, but they rarely convert into paying customers. Not immediately anyway.

I still need to (and enjoy) marketing myself in other ways. I actually believe that’s essential to attracting the right kinds of people that will benefit most from my content and work: if they see more of me than just a single recommendation they’re more likely to be a good fit and get results. Which means committing to weeks, months and years of being there for them until the point when they’re ready to invest.

I appreciate that might not sound attractive in a world promising you quick fixes and instant results, but I’m here for the solopreneur who wants a sustainable business and that requires finding ways to build a loyal customer base over time.

The key to embracing this process this is trusting that the little words of recommendation will build gradually into trust with you over the time if you’re consistent in your presence. Not just because one friend said you were great over brunch.

And ultimately let’s remember – if you sell something related to health and particularly if you are looking for clients ready for a significant investment of money and commitment, I don’t think that happens from just one recommendation, even if they are your best friend.  

The other thing that helps me to stop feeling negative about why I’m not getting more recommendations?

Working on my self-belief.

Working on my inherent belief that I am worthy, my work has impact, that I am doing a good job and that no matter whether I get 100 referrals this month or none, that I am still enough.

Because if you take your referral numbers as a sign of your worth, then it’s a slippery slope to self-doubt where you have outsourced whether you’re worthy to other people’s actions. And you are 100% worthy and brilliant. You don’t need recommendations to prove that.

This is why I trained as a self-belief coach and bring mindset and self-doubt work into all the content and courses I create, because no matter all the practical steps you put in place, if you aren’t backing yourself, they won’t work. Find out more about working with me.

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