Many companies perceive referrals to be out of their control—as something that just happens whenever they get lucky, like finding money on the ground.

"A lot of times people go, 'I don't know, people just come to us occasionally,'" says John Jantsch on today's Marketing Smarts Live Show. "But what are the goals for this? Just like any channel, what does success look like, are we measuring it?"

"If we take referral generation, what we're really saying is what is the intentional act of viewing that as a significant channel, just like you might paid ads or your email marketing," says John. "Really looking at that as just what it is, a channel that you need to pay attention to, nurture, and create demand for."

That's quite a different outlook from the common tell-your-friends-for-cool-swag approach. It means going to current customers and asking them directly, right?

Not necessarily: "In some very valid cases, going out to a customer and saying, 'Tell people about us,' or, 'Could you introduce me to some friends,' is just not good; there's not a flow to it, it doesn't make sense, it's not relevant."

Check out the video for much more on how you can generate referrals:

Make sure you don't miss any future episodes: Subscribe to the Marketing Smarts Live Show on YouTube. And to catch up on all previous episodes, check out the full playlist on YouTube.


Episode Details, Guest Information, and Referenced Links

Episode No. 42

Guest's social media profiles:

MarketingProfs resources referenced in the show:

"In B2B News" article referenced in the show:

"#mpb2b Community" links referenced in the show:


Full Transcript | Marketing Smarts Live Show Episode 42 | The Power and Importance of a B2B Referral Generation Program

This rough transcript is machine-generated. It's been only minimally edited by humans.

George B. Thomas: (01:35): Welcome to the Marketing Smarts live show by MarketingProfs and The Marketing Smarts podcast, where we dive into B2B news, resources, valuable guest content, and much, much more each and every week. Hey, if you're a B2B marketer looking for a place to learn, keep up to date, and have some fun along the way, we'll grab a beverage and notepad, or at least some style of writing utensil, and welcome to the show. Listen, many companies perceive referrals to be out of their control as something that just happens whenever they get lucky, like finding money on the ground or something. However, John Jantsch shares in the original podcast that referrals happen, quite frankly, in the trust building stage. They happen when somebody fills out a form or calls your business. They happen when the actual transaction happens.

They happen in the communication that follows that transaction. Now, that sounds like something that you can be intentional about. Who the heck needs luck pertaining when it comes to referrals? Not after this episode of The Marketing Smarts Live Show. Ladies and gentlemen, that's for sure. Hello to All My Marketing Smarts Live years Today, I'm super excited to bring you 42 of the Marketing Starts Live Show. This week's topic is all about the power and importance of a B2B referral generation program. So if you're ready to get your learn on buckle up and let's get ready to rock and roll. Hey, I'm George B. Thomas, speaker trainer, catalyst, and host of this year's show, the Marketing Smarts Live Show, as well as hopefully you've been listening, marketing Smarts podcast that's found on your favorite podcast app. Our guest clips today are actually from The Man, the Myth, the legend, Mr. John Jan. Hopefully you all know him from Duct Tape Marketing. John Jantsch is the creator of Duct Tape Marketing, a system that has been used by countless entrepreneurs to grow their business smoothly and sustainably. Dubbed the Peter Drucker of Small Business Marketing Tactics, John is the author of four popular books, including The Referral Engine, Teaching Your Business to Market Itself, and Duct Tape Selling: Think Like a Marketer, Sell Like a Superstar, featuring over 4,000 blog posts and articles on every aspect of marketing. The Duct Tape Marketing website has been recognized by Forbes as one of the 100 best websites for entrepreneurs. Now, remember, the clips of John Jantsch today are pulled from the full Marketing Smarts podcast episode, and if you wanna listen to the full interview with John Jantsch and myself, make sure to tune in to the Marketing Smarts podcast. Links to the full show will be in the description after the live show ends.

Actually, if you peak right now, it might be there because we might be ahead of schedule, but pay attention to the show and check out the links when we're done. Now in this episode, again, talking to John about the power and importance of referral generation program for your B2B organization. Are you only paying attention to the generic sales and marketing funnel, or does your funnel look more like an hourglass? I'm asking because to get started with referral generation, you may need to look at your funnel in a completely new way moving forward. You'll see what I mean by the answer we got from John when I asked him, how can B2B marketers start using a B2B referral generation program at their company? Here's what John had to share with us. Seriously, think hourglass.

John Jantsch: Yeah. So the first thing is mindset. A referral is the logical destination of a great customer experience. So, what if you think about the customer journey? A lot of people just stop at the funnel. We have for years used something we call the marketing hourglass. So if you think about the shape the funnel, there's nothing wrong with getting people, somebody who needs what you do, to know about you, and then a percentage of them to become customers. But that's where a lot of people stop. And to me, successful B2B marketing in general needs to say, okay, what happens when somebody tries us, what happens during the buying experience? How do we retain or get repeat business? And then lastly what are we gonna do to generate referrals from every single one of our customers?

So if you take those stages of the hourglass, which for us are no, like, trust, try, buy, repeat, and refer, then you actually build that into your overall marketing plan. It doesn't just happen accidentally or you don't one day in a quarterly planning go, What are we gonna do to generate referrals? I mean, referrals happen, quite frankly, in the trus-building stage. They happen when somebody fills out a form or calls your business, they happen, like when the actual transaction happens, they happen—the communication that follows the transaction, I mean—-that's where referrals are actually generated from customers. And so if you look at this end-to-end customer journey first, then you start planning or maybe even planning backwards, likwhat if you sat around in a room and your first question was, How could we get 100% of our customers to refer us? Would you change anything along the way? maybe?

George B. Thomas: Maybe is it time to change your mindset? Are you creating a great customer experience? Did you map out the layers of the funnel or hourglass that John mentioned? Are you asking yourself, how can we get a referral from every single one of our customers? Hey, put the answer to any of those questions in the chat pane or let me know on Twitter using the hashtag #mpb2b and of course, tag me using at George B. Thomas.

Now we'll get back to John Jantsch and his thoughts on the power and importance of a B2B referral generation program. But first I have to ask, are you part of The MarketingProfs community? If not, become part of the MarketingProfs community by heading over to That's Now it's time for one of my favorite sections, In the B2B news, where we talk about breaking B2B news or really important tips we find on the Google News tab related to you and your B2B business this week.

The title is How well Do You Really Know Your Customer? There are three big problems with using personas in B2B marketing. Did your ears perk up? So, the gist of this article is threefold. multiple persona complexity: B2B involves multiple personas causing complexity. Data quality: personas often lack resemblance to real life customers and buyer independence buyers are using self-serve information, reducing sales contact. That's just a glimmer, a gist, if you will. How well do you know your customer? I mean, really, really know your customers. If you've invested some of your marketing budget in personas, you might have been told that they're 45-year-old male middle managers who like football or their 30 something females with senior content strategy roles who enjoy music festivals. But is it true? Is it right? Is it enough? You need to read this article. Check out the link below when the live show is over.

So let's get back to John Jantsch with my next question. I wanted to know the hurdles, the potholes, the things that will get in the way. John, again, shared some head trash that you may be dealing with, but also gives some great words to think about. When I asked him, What are some hurdles you've seen B2B marketers face while trying to start using a referral generation program? Listen up, this stuff might be in your head too.

John Jantsch: Well, the biggest one is, I think they're too limited in their vision of how they would actually generate referrals because everybody just simply defaults to the way to get referrals is to go ask my customer to give me a referral; and for a lot of people, that's very uncomfortable. That feels like I'm begging, that feels like I'm desperate. I mean, all the things I hear.

Now, quite frankly, if you know you provided a tremendous value to somebody, not giving them the opportunity to bring that same value to their friends, neighbors, and colleagues, you're really doing a disservice. So let's get over that sort of head trash. But in some very valid cases going out to a customer and saying, Hey, tell people about us, or could you introduce me to some friends? it's just not good, there's not a flow to it. It doesn't make sense. It's not relevant.

So, what you have to start thinking about is ways that you can actually tap two audiences providing value for other people that also influence your customers, one; and number two, the entire strategic partnership opportunity out there: Who are the other businesses, noncompeting businesses that also supply or support or have as customers your ideal customer?

In many cases that's where the real gold can be getting a business that has thousands of your ideal customers to bring you in and, say, do a webinar or speak at an event, or even just provide an e-book or facilitate a round table. There are many, many ways you can do it is a way for you to be introduced, and it's an implied referral. You're not asking for referrals necessarily. You're providing value, and for that you're going to get exposure. I know we don't have the time to do this, but I could unpack three or four tactics, so to speak, just like that, that are very potent for b2b environment because they get past that idea of, I'm just going and asking my customers.

George B. Thomas: I have to ask, what good did you get out of John's answer to my question? It may be a ton of value that you can use moving forward now that you can get past a few major hurdles that may have historically been in your way around referral generation. Have you been too limited in your vision? Have you historically been uncomfortable for the ask? Are you starting to think about how you can create a flow for your referral generation needs?

Now, we'll return to John Jantsch in a few minutes, but first it's time for some dope B2B learnings from the Vault of MarketingProfs articles. That's right. It's time to dig into the treasure trove of valuable information and pull out two pieces of gold to help you be a better B2B marketer.

Article number one this week is Five Outstanding Client Referral Tactics by Darryl Lao, and Darryl, I hope I said that right. Generating more referred businesses on everyone's wishlist. Why then are people haphazard about adding action steps to their business that encourage more active client referrals? And what are the best ways to create more consistent referral flow based on their nearly 20 years of experience? They'd like to offer five powerful referral strategies and precise action steps that when used either individually or collectively can cause a flood of new introductions. And what would that mean to your business? One wants to know what the tips. Check the link after the show.

Article two this week is Turning Customers Into Your Sales and Marketing Departments by Jim Lenskold. One of the most exciting and promising developments in marketing is the emergence of something called Net Promoter Score as an increasingly critical metric that drives corporate performance. And hopefully you know about it. Hopefully you've heard about it. Hopefully you're using NPS first described by Fred Richen inhaled in the Harvard Business Review, followed by his published book, the Ultimate Question. Net Promoters is now being adopted by a growing number of highly respected firms, including General Electric, Intuit, and SAP. What does it do? I hope you know this, but in a nutshell, it provides simple but very powerful analytical rigor to what is arguably the most important source of spreading positive buzz about a company by its own customers.

Want to keep learning more? If so, check out the links in the description below after the live show to get access to both fantastic MarketingProfs articles. OK, back to John. Jantsch, let's dive back into this conversation about the power and importance of a B2B referral generation program.

You know me, I always wanna know where the bullseye is. Where should we be aiming? That's why I love to ask the question, What does B2B referral generation success look like? How do we know that we're on the top podium wearing the gold medallion, number one blue ribbon, whatever it is. What does referral generation nirvana maybe, depending on what analogy you want, what does success look like? That's the question, and well listen to John's response.

John Jantsch: Well, obviously that's one of those consulting answers of, well, it depends, but I would say for me, when I feel like somebody is being very successful, is that they haven't just given this an event mentality. They've kind of baked this in and, and not just one way, there are at least—I talked about your customers, I talked about strategic partners as, as an avenue—I mean, there are at least three or four tactics or programs, I guess, that you should have going at all times. I mean, just even staying top of mind with your customers that you appreciate referrals, is one. So it's not just a, Hey, here's one thing we can do. It is really a mindset. It is, how can we look at this as a significant channel experiment like you do in any channel?

Figure out what works; measure, obviously, that's another. A lot of times people will go, I don't know, people just come to us occasionally but like, what are our goals for this just like any channel, what what's success look like? Are we measuring it? I, I would say that frankly, if you were gonna take like the gold standard one KPI, it's how many of our customers are referring us could probably be it so obviously you've gotta be paying attention in order to measure it.

George B. Thomas: Attention and paying attention. Listen, do you have a program in place? If not, how can you make that happen in the next quarter or two? Do you have referral goals? Are you measuring it? Heck, like John said, are you even paying attention to it?

We'll get some words of wisdom from John Jantsch here in a few minutes, but right now it's time to turn the spotlight on you, the MarketingProfs community. Yep. Time for from the #MPB2B community. We searched for and wide in the hashtag universe to find amazing information and conversations to bring to you the masses. So first, make sure you're using the hashtag, and second, make sure you have fun and add value to the community along the way. Then we'll spotlight you or your crew on the show.

This week, it's Cory from Tarzana, Cory Tarne on Twitter. The tweet caught my attention. Go figure. ChatGPT doesn't create, it collates, warns Jordan Coppens CMO at Santa Commerce. Let me just say that again for you: ChatGPT doesn't create, it collates. There are smart ways to use chat GP and some not so smart ways. Here are four of Jordan's do's and don'ts for successfully using ChatGPT in your marketing. #MPB2B #ai. But you need to check out the description and click that link to check out the tweet and the post to read additional information and learn more. Trust me, I know all of you out there are probably messing around thinking about, or have been messing around with ChatGPT. Do it right, do a plan. Anyway, I'll get off my soapbox.

Marketing Smarts viewers, I have to ask, Are you going to be next to get the spotlight in the community spotlight area? Remember, community, use the hashtag #mpb2b on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter, and get the light shined on your awesomeness in the next episode or a future episode of the Marketing Smarts Live Show. Pro tip, it won't hurt if you tag me in your post as well. I'm @GeorgeBThomas on LinkedIn and Twitter, Mr. George B. Thomas on the Book of Faces.

All right, let's kick it back to John Jantsch and some words of wisdom around this topic of the power and importance of a B2B referral generation program. Here is what John Jantsch wanted to leave you, the Marketing Smarts live viewer and Marketing Smarts podcast listener, with pertaining to words of wisdom.

John Jantsch: Well, the one that I find myself sharing more often than not, and again, some of your audience may be on big teams and big organizations, or might not be as relevant for them, but: Do less, but just do it better. Instead of coming up with the 19 objectives for this quarter, 17 of which you will not get to, let's come up with three. If you listen to this show and you, and you're thinking, Oh, we need to do this and this and this and this... pick 1, 2, 3 tops—and go execute. Ideas are a dime a dozen

George B. Thomas: Ideas or a dime a dozen. Can I get an O M G: Do less and do it better? To be honest, that's where we're gonna drop the mic for today. With that, do less and do it better.

Have you enjoyed today's journey? Let us know. Use that hashtag #mpb2b on whatever platform you're joining us on. It's time, ladies and gentlemen. That's right. Time flies when you're having fun. But head to the description below. Click on the link to the Full Marketing Smarts Podcast with John Jantsch and keep on learning more about the power and importance of a B2B referral generation program. Remember, these were just a few clips of the original Marketing Smarts podcast interview. If you got value from today's show, hit that like, and better yet, share it with a friend to keep learning more. Hit the subscribe or watch additional MarketingProfs videos on your favorite social channel, or head over to our YouTube channel if you're not there yet. Or you can go tune into the Original Marketing Smarts podcast episode on your favorite podcast app. Don't forget to become part of the MarketingProfs community by heading over to And as always, remember to be a happy, helpful, humble B2B marketing human. And we'll see you on the next episode of The Marketing Smarts Live Show next week.

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image of George B. Thomas

George B. Thomas is a marketer, video Jedi, and HubSpot certified trainer with 25+ years of sales and marketing experience. George is owner and HubSpot Helper at He has a record-breaking 38 HubSpot sales, marketing, service, CRM, and CMS certifications. George harnesses his expertise in graphic design, Web development, video editing, social media marketing, and inbound marketing to partner with, teach, and develop solutions for companies looking to develop their businesses and increase their revenue.

LinkedIn: George B. Thomas

Twitter: @GeorgeBThomas