The Referral Engine: Teaching Your Business to Market Itself

The Referral Engine by John JantschIf we all know that referrals are the best, most cost-effective marketing strategy, then WHY OH WHY do we continue to leave referrals up to fate or some happy coincidence?  I honestly don’t know.  In fact, it’s frustrating to see so many new, ideal, wonderful and profitable clients simply going un-harvested, just because you treated referrals as something that just happen and not like a powerful strategy.

Well, it seems that I am not the only one.  John Jantsch, author of “Duct Tape Marketing” and award winning social media publisher has been thinking about this same thing for years and has come out with his latest book The Referral Engine: Teaching Your Business to Market Itself.

In the interest of full disclosure, shameless bragging and self-promotion, I have to tell you that he interviewed me for his book and I’m happy to say that my story is listed early in the book in the section titled “Reality #5 Marketing is a System” (that’s page 9 in your copy 🙂 ).   Don’t worry; I’m not the only one.  John has interviewed hundreds of entrepreneurs and used their stories and information to serve as inspiration as well as a best-practices collection so that you can literally see what others are doing and create a system that works for you.

And talk about building goodwill and reciprocity — you can see a full list of all the people he interviewed on the book’s website! I wonder how many referrals all of those participants will get from that?!

Read It in One Sitting – Use It for a Lifetime

This is what I call a power-book.  It’s just over 200 pages long.  You can read it in one sitting, but you’ll use it for a lifetime.  Here is what I mean by that.  It’s written is such a simple and engaging style with so many interesting stories, case studies and examples, that you’ll find yourself zipping through it very quickly.  I also recommend that you keep a highlighter and some sticky notes by your side because you’ll want to pull out the many good strategies and ideas that you’ll read about and adapt them for your own use.

If you don’t like to write all over your books, John has devoted Chapter 12 “Snack Sized Suggestions” to listing a bunch of strategies that he’s found in his research.

You’ll find examples from retail:

  • A gift store setting up a referral club that rewarded customers by giving them a certificate good for $20 off a hundred dollar purchase.
  • A clothing store partnered with surrounding retailers to promote each other
  • A golf driving range gives members who purchase a 10-session package “Free Range Time” coupons to give to others they want to bring to the club

There are service business examples too:

  • A computer consultant joined an industry association and marketed his service as an add-on to hardware upgrades.
  • A sales trainer offered a free all-expense paid trip to Cancun for the person who referred the most clients in a year.
  • A maid service sent out fake $100 bills as a Valentines Day gift to their clients – and then told them to “gift” them to their friends as $100 off the maid service.

Independent professionals get tips too:

  • A dental office installed a small kitchen with an oven and bakes cookies to give to their patients (I wonder if they are low-sugar?).  The practice is so unique that people tell their friends.
  • A financial planner surprised his clients by having their car detailed in the parking lot while they were in the meeting.  Clients were so pleased they told everyone.
  • A management consultant got a testimonial from EVERY client he had ever worked with.  He had over 500 pages of letters!  When potential clients asked for references, he would send a spiral bound 500 page book with a snappy letter.

3 People Who Should Get This Book – Yesterday

  1. Business Owner – If you’re a multi-hat wearing small business owner without a salesforce or marketing expert, the best time and money you’ll spend this year will be for this book.  John Jantsch has done all the hard work for you and pulled together everything you need to make the most of your networking meetings.
  2. Sales Person – How much do you love cold calling?  Yeah, I hear you.  Trust me.  I got my start cold calling and selling long distance service and BELIEVE me, a good referral system will have you spending all your time doing what you do best.
  3. Free Agent or Consultant – There is absolutely no better way to build a profitable book of clients than the referral techniques that John Jantsch outlines in Referral Engine.

There is no doubt that John Jantsch has put his heart, his soul and all his wisdom into this book.  Hard to imagine that he could beat Duct Tape Marketing – you’ll have to pick this one up and judge for yourself.

Editor’s note about free books: Small Business Trends has 2 extra copies of the book that John Jantsch’s publisher sent us.  We’ll give those away in a random drawing.  Everyone who leaves a comment below by May 12, will be entered in the drawing for a chance to win a book. We’re happy to mail the books anywhere in the world at our expense, via first class mail.


Ivana Taylor Ivana Taylor is the Book Editor for Small Business Trends. She is responsible for directing the site’s book review program and manages the team of professional book reviewers. She also spearheads the annual Small Business Book Awards. Ivana publishes DIYMarketers, where she shares daily do-it-yourself marketing tips, and is co-author of "Excel for Marketing Managers."

38 Reactions
  1. Hey Ivana,

    It was a pleasure working with you on this book and telling your story. Thanks for the great review.

    I particularly appreciate your thought that this is book for sales folks and freelance types in addition to business owners. Every great salesperson knows they better get good and generating their own leads.

  2. @John Jantsch – All the thanks go to YOU for this short and powerfully useful book. In my experience (and I’m sure yours too) it seems that the best salespeople are the best because they’ve learned to put their efforts into building referral relationships. These people are breaking sales records AND spending time with their families and having FUN helping their referrers and their customers achieve their goals. I think you made the point in Referral Engine that it’s all about putting your focus on helping OTHERS and not just increasing your sales. I love that.

  3. Hello Ivana,

    I enjoyed reading your post and agree – refferals are the “auto-pilot” of sales. I find them, for various reasons, a simple yet tough part of my sales strategy.

    It looks like “The Referral Engine” will address issues that hold many sales reps back from creating their own success binder.

    The tips are great and can be applied to anyone in the business world regardless of what role your in.

    See you out there.

    Randy M Novak

  4. Great article, Ivana. Definitely makes me want to read the book!
    I loved the idea of the financial planner who had his clients car cleaned while meeting with them. I think you can really be creative in your referral programs and customer service! When my clients refer somebody to me I give them the choice between a discount on their next invoice, a gift card from Amazon, a gift card from Starbucks or they can donate to

    If I don’t win the book I will definitely buy it 🙂


  5. Great Review. Look forward to reading more articles.


  6. I received a free copy of this book to review for my blog. It went above and beyond all of my expectations. It is a must-have for all business owners. As you stated above, the real life examples take this book over the top.

    It is so good, I plan on purchasing on a few extra copies to pass along.

  7. I all ready ordered the book but if I win I will give it away for a contest.

  8. I can’t wait to get my copy! I appreciate your review, it has made me even more excited about reading and apply its truths to my business!

  9. I’m glad you wrote this post. I had forgotten how soon it was coming out, so now I’ve got a reminder on my calendar to buy this immediately.

    I wonder if an audiobook version is in the works?

  10. Martin Lindeskog


    Great interview. John’s book is on my list and I will order it tomorrow together with Ivan Misner’s book, Networking Like A Pro. I have mentioned John’s book to my fellow members of BNI Quality Hotel Panorama in Gothenburg. As an experienced purchaser, I think that John’s book could be important to buyers in order get an insight and view from the other side (i.e. sales people) of the negotiation table.

  11. Everything I’ve read about this book tells me I need to get it soon. I’m still a few books behind in my reading, so I’m going to enter here…and hope I win, or I’ll probably buy it next month.

  12. I hope I win, but if not, I’ll be buying a copy. Referrals are marketing gold, but just not commonly used in little ol’ NZ!

  13. You really can be creative in your referral programs and customer service! When clients refer somebody then you should give them the choice between a discount on their next invoice or a gift card. The book seems good & interesting to read soon i will buy a copy & tell friends & fellow mates to read it.

  14. Sounds like a great book on a powerful marketing topic. I think we all lose site sometimes of our most powerful marketing machine…our raving customers.

  15. Good examples offered up here and I will definitely read this book.

    As a marketer myself, I love the concept of loyalty cards. A free sandwich for every 10 visits makes so much sense.

    We just moved to a new area, and once we zeroed in on someone that we trusted, she was a wealth of knowledge. She has come through every time, with a good dentist, the best dry cleaner in town, and even who to call to for yard work…

  16. Ooh! Just pre-ordered my copy! Can’t wait!!! WOO!

  17. Ivana, your reviews always pack so much energy and enthusiasm that I REFER them to my biz friends and blog readers. I’ve commented about your reviews at other blogs, too. Now I just need to try and keep up with your reading list…

  18. Looking forward to reading it!

  19. A large portion of my business is from mom-to-mom referrals. There is nothing like a happy customer! I would love to read this book so I can take better utilize the referrals I get and also increase their frequency. Thanks for the great review!

  20. Are there copies of this book here in the Philippines? The known bookstores here don’t seem to have it. I really want to read this one. Do you know where i can purchase a copy? or even an e-book i can buy? they require me to have a credit card number and i dont have one. 😛

  21. I work in a bookshop here in New Zealand (actually it’s Unity Books Ltd, the best and has been voted best independant bookshop in N.Z. for several years).
    A customer ordered this book and when it arrived I sold it to the customer.
    In the course of the conversation I mentioned that my afternoon vocation was selling music (CDs and DVDs) on line. Recently in an effort to cut costs I cancelled my WEB site and web name (Hey, anybody want the domain name slipped disc ltd?- Yes I had a back problem for years!)and I am now concentrating on servicing my 500+ clients with a newsletter only.
    The thing is, I still only get 10% of my customers buying. So we spoke about how to increase sales (my customer is a communication consultant) and your book seems like the perfect answer. I will however reserve judgement until a new copy arrives in stock for our bookshop. Certainly the reviews that I have checked out seem to confirm that it is an essential book to stock in our business section.
    Good luck with the sales.

  22. It is amazing that when given the choice most salespeople will keep on cold calling strangers rather than use referrals that come from existing customers aka people that already know you and believe in the services you offer. What do they need to change their views? Perhaps a book with hundreds of examples!!

  23. From this post, I learned new things. I will try to apply on my new online business. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  24. From this post, I learned new things. I will try to apply to my new online business. Thanks for sharing it with us.

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