Referology: Four Referral Strategies To Grow Your Business With Edwin Dearborn

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TBT Edwin | Referral Strategies

The easiest way to grow your business is through referrals. A lot of people don’t want to do that, maybe because they’re too shy or they don’t want to bother people. They are missing out on a lot of potential leads. Join Penny Zenker as she talks to Edwin Dearborn about some referral strategies. Edwin is the Founder of 10X Media Group of Las Vegas. He is also the author of Referology. Learn how to build your business and attract new customers. Listen to this episode if you want to learn four amazing referral strategies!

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Referology: Four Referral Strategies To Grow Your Business With Edwin Dearborn

I am excited to talk about referrals because I’m a big believer in doing more with what you have. A referral takes those relationships you already have and makes the most of them. I’m excited to have Edwin Dearborn with us because he talks about referology and I talk about focusology. We’re in the ology group together.

He’s been a featured entrepreneur in Social Media Today, The Orange County Register and other national media outlets. He was formerly educated in marketing and public relations in Hollywood, California. That would be a good place to get that training in the 1990s. He coached thousands of CEOs and business leaders all around the world. He’s the author of Power Branding Secrets, Three Degrees of Separation and Referology. Edwin, welcome to the show.

Penny, thanks for having me. It’s a pleasure.

What was it like being in Hollywood in those years in the marketing and promotional space?

In the promotional space in Hollywood, there is so much content being created. It was different in the ‘90s, but you had writers and film producers. At so many different levels, the movies that you see and the corporate level of content creation is also occurring in Hollywood. Forbes Magazine called Hollywood the content marketing capital of the world.

That’s why I was like, “What was that like?” I could totally see that.

It’s extremely competitive, but there’s a lot of old-school stuff that works. You think the tools change and the technology changes, but still, the psychology of marketing in PR is the same, which is how do we win people over to an idea? How do we get people excited about consuming a piece of content, whether it’s your blog post or a movie?

Hollywood has been going through a revision over the years due to a number of factors. One of them is they’ve got big competitors. They’ve got Netflix, YouTube and TikTok. Influencers are the new movie stars. The principles are timeless and that’s what I was able to see is that no matter what you’re promoting at what scale, whether you’re a local business with your iPhone making little videos on TikTok or whether you’re making feature films, it’s all about how to engage an audience. How do I get people to consume and talk about my product?

TBT Edwin | Referral Strategies

Referral Strategies: People do not believe that referring is a proactive strategy. They think that if they’re just good, the referrals should come. It’s true that you have to be referable, but people won’t just talk to you.


I want to gear that towards what we’re going to talk about, which is referrals. It’s the easiest way to grow your business, but people are not doing it. It blows my mind like, “I don’t want to bother people. Are they going to think that I’m selling or pushy, begging or desperate?” All of those things that come around or they don’t have a proper system. They ask once or they don’t ask right. Before we talk about that, what makes you passionate about this? You wrote a book about it.

During the lockdown, I live in Las Vegas and we live at conventions. People think it’s about gambling that brings people to Vegas, but the convention’s business brings the most people to Vegas. For half a year or so, we weren’t doing that. We weren’t meeting in person. I took a look at it and went, “I can’t use that anymore to market.”

I came full circle to, “What’s left?” What was left is, “What do I tap into my database? How do I leverage my connections on social media? How do I get other people talking about me at scale?” I did a deep dive. I started reading books on the subject. I went to Amazon and I typed in “best books on referrals.” I ordered them. I started reading them. I learned a lot of things and reaffirmed a lot of things I already knew. I discuss what I call the biggest blind spot in marketing in the book.

What is that?

Let me explain what a blind spot is. People do not believe that referring is a proactive strategy. They think, “If I’m good, the referral should come.” There is some truth in that. You’ve got to be a referral bull. If you have a restaurant, you got to serve great food. It’s got to be at the temperature it should and it should be delivered in a friendly manner. Does that guarantee that people are going to talk about you? The answer is no. When I ask people, “Do you love referrals?” Everybody gets excited. If I called you up and said, “Penny, I have a referral for you,” you wouldn’t be going, “Oh man.”

“I hate that.”

The tonality of referrals is very high. Everybody loves referrals. You ask, “How do you generate them in a proactive manner?” That’s where the blind spot is. In my research and reading, I realize that there are four different types of referrals. Each one has a sub-strategy to get more of those types of referrals. First of all, not all referrals are the same. There are different types of them.

In each type, there are different ways to instigate them. It doesn’t mean that when you instigate these actions, the referral will happen that day, but if you keep doing the principles, you eventually get it. The apple will eventually grow on the tree if you keep planting seeds and nurturing the tree.

Influencers are the new movie stars. Click To Tweet

What are the four types? Help us get an overview.

Soft Referrals

The first one is what I call a soft referral. This is where somebody gives you a review on Yelp or Google My Business or tags you on a post on social media and talks about you. They’re not referring people directly to you like, “Here’s my brother. Help him.” What they are is they’re speaking kindly of you. You and I know that any business that accumulates lots of reviews and people tagging you on social media over and over has an accumulative effect. It ends up referring people.

When I moved to Vegas a few years ago, how did I find my favorite restaurants? I went to Yelp. I went, “They’ve got 1,000 positive views. I’ll check it out.” Those people have referred me in a soft way. One of the ways that we can get more referrals is when you have a great experience, ask people, “Did you like our service here? How did we do?” If they say something positive, we ask them, “Would you be willing to say that online?”

Imagine if every time we served good food, gave great dental service or provided great bookkeeping service, they would go, “You guys are incredible.” “Would you mind saying that online?” Get their email address, email them the link to that and go, “Remember you said those kind words? Can you do that?” I did that with a dental practice. We grew from 50 online reviews to 175 in less than a year by implementing that policy. When they started getting more reviews on Google and Yelp, the phone calls started to come in more often, “I found you on Google.”

People have to ask. The first thing that we have to get over is it’s okay to ask.

It’s okay to ask for that win or success story and document where other people are looking for that user-generated content. You already got their email. Send out good content every week that makes you referable. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had people call me going, “I get your emails. I don’t read them all, but you’re in my email every week. I was thinking about doing some marketing. I was thinking about what you do and I want to engage.” I’ve gotten some great referrals from my email database going, “I love your stuff. I forwarded it to a good friend. He’s going to reach out to you.” Stay in front of your past leads and clientele.

I want to add something here that I’ve found is important. Timing is also everything. If somebody says to you, “This was a great meal,” and you’re at a restaurant. To be able to ask right then, they’re in what I call a referral state of mind. Get them while they’re hot and say, “Would you be able to do that?” Whether you capture their email or give them a QR code so they can go right to it. There are so many different ways to make it easy for them, but you have to ask at the right time and you have to make it easy for them, right?

TBT Edwin | Referral Strategies

Referral Strategies: A soft referral is where somebody gives you a review online. This has a cumulative effect, and it ends up referring to people. Ask people who gave positive feedback if they would be willing to say that online.


Yeah. You have to make it a policy of your business. We go to the dental offices, bookkeeping offices, or whoever we work with. It’s like, “This is part of your duty, front-office girl.” When they come out, you’re going to ask. It’s not something you do when you remember it. This is now part of your job task. You are part of the marketing team. We’re going to ask you and we’re going to require of you. If you can generate two positive reviews every week, the cumulative effect in a year is going to be massive.

I have one client in Santa Ana, California and we kept getting more and more reviews. After two years, we took all the business we got from Yelp. Each review was worth $5,000 in annual business. We took the amount of money she made from Yelp and divided it by the number of positive reviews. Every review had a cumulative effect of $5,000 in new revenue. That’s a soft referral.

Direct Referrals

Number two, I call it the direct referral. This is why the email list and them going to be able to follow you is so important. The direct referral is, “Penny, I know a great restaurant here in Las Vegas. Let’s go to that restaurant. I’m going to take you there.” How does that restaurant or any business get me to talk about you directly? The key is to stay in front of your leads. This is why a CRM is so important. This is why posting content on social media is important. You got to stay top of mind.”

When somebody goes, “I wish it was a good restaurant.” You’re like, “I know one.” You’ve got to stay top of mind. I did this with a coffee shop. They were busy in the morning. There was a line out the door and at lunchtime, there was hardly anybody there. I told the owner, “They think of you as the coffee place, but most people don’t go to lunch alone. They usually bring a friend with them. What we’re going to do is over the coming months, we ask them for their email, giving them a 10% discount on their $3 to $4 per coffee.”

Around 11:30, we emailed them the lunch special of the day, which is not a $4 coffee. It’s more of a $15 to $18 salad and sandwich. It’s more money. People started coming in and going, “It’s also a lunch place. You want to go to lunch with me?” Not only did we get the customer that already loves the coffee shop to come back, but they’re also bringing their friends out to lunch.

Text is a great way to do that, too.

You can do texting, email and follows on Instagram. If you keep communicating good, funny or whatever content makes sense to you, you’ve got to stay in front of your database. A study was done on why people leave one brand to go to another brand. They go from brand A to brand B. Why did they make the move? The study found that brand A was indifferent to their past clientele and they were out of sight. They decided to choose B, not because they were upset with brand A. They forgot about brand A and they moved to another brand.

Just because they buy from you once doesn’t mean they’re going to buy from you again or refer to you. You’ve got to stay in front of your database, followers and past clients. This is why a CRM and automating your social media to your database is so critical. There are great tools to do that with. That’s number two.

Stay in front of your past leads. Click To Tweet

Give us a quick tool because people like tools here.

There are so many different CRMs like Salesforce and Zoho. You can automate your social media sharing with Sendible. You could reprogram your content, tweets and posts so that you don’t go, “I forgot to post something.”

It can be posted automatically.

You can even get a virtual assistant and say, “You manage my social media. Make sure my content’s getting shared over and over.

You can have somebody set that up for a couple of hours a month and make sure that it happens. Tell us 3 and 4. I have a couple of other little questions for you. Let’s get through those and then we can talk a little bit more about some other things, too.

Influencer Referrals

Number three is working with influencers. It’s 5% of your database, 5% of your followers are influencers. A study was done that 90% of the content is created by 5% of the people online. Find those five people and figure out how you can work with them. The best way I found is, “Are you active on social media?” If they’re active on social media, they’re going to tell you how active they are on social media. You come up with bright ideas of how to collaborate with influencers. They have a large impact on business. There are so many different studies on that.

Let’s spend a minute before you go to number four. I didn’t know you were going to mention influencers because that’s a unique look at referrals. People aren’t necessarily talking about that. Let’s say they’re on your list, but you don’t know that they’re influencers. You don’t know the details about your list. How do you identify and get them to be proactive? How do you get them to take that action for you?

There are a couple of ways. Number one is when you’re engaging with them in person or you’re engaging with them on social media, you’ll find that certain people will engage you more often. All of a sudden, you say, “This guy’s leaving a lot of comments.” You go check out their LinkedIn profile. “He’s got 28,000 followers. He’s active on social media. He’s engaged. I wonder how I could interview him on my podcast. Maybe we could co-write a blog post.”

TBT Edwin | Referral Strategies

Referral Strategies: A study said that 90% of the content online is created by 5% of the people online. You need to find that 5% and figure out how to work with them.


You have to get bright on what would make sense to work with that individual. This is where I find a lot of guests for my own podcast. Who’s engaging with me? Who’s got large followers? All of a sudden, I’ve got guests and I create a podcast with them. Now, they’re sharing it with their 28,000 followers. “Why are you getting more followers?” “Because I’m working with influencers.”

Co-branded Referrals

It can go to the next step, which is four, which is now I’m getting a formal co-branding relationship. You have a co-brand referral, meaning Coca-Cola, the official drink of the NFL. You’ve got two powerhouses working together and mentioning each other’s brands, but you don’t have to be a Fortune 500 company to have this partnership marketing opportunity. You could be a florist and have partnership marketing opportunities with hotels, churches and synagogues for weddings or funerals. There are ways to create these synergetic official partnerships. I work with a bookkeeping company where they’re the official bookkeeping resource for some consulting groups that consult doctors. If they see a doctor with financial problems, they’re like, “We’ve got a good bookkeeper. They’re our official bookkeeper.”

Partnerships are huge. It’s all about leverage. Referrals are about leverage and partnerships are leverage. It’s part of the referral, but you’re tapping into someone else’s workforce so that they become your workforce. That’s so powerful.

You can package your services together. This can get creative. This is at a higher strategic level than most small businesses think about.

That’s working smarter. They would benefit and go a lot further faster by stepping back and looking at strategic partnerships through little partnerships that aren’t really partnerships.

Imagine you take any business that’s doing fairly well. You take referral source number one, soft referrals, and get another 100 to 200 reviews per year. Number two, you work your CRM, texting, email, phone calling, staying in front of your database and seeing how you can serve them. You’re going to get more referrals that way.

Number three, you identify influencers. You work with them even if it’s just one different one a week. In some way, they tag you on Facebook. They talk about you on TikTok or whatever they’re into. Number four, you develop a handful of strategic partnerships, 2 or 3 a year over a number of 5 to 10 years. If you kept doing all that, what would happen to your brand? You’d have referrals come, “I’ve heard about you. I’ve seen people tag you on social media. I’ve seen your reviews. I saw you on a podcast with this other guest.” That’s the modern word of mouth.

I love it because I’m all about leverage and doing more with what you have. There’s so much that we are sitting on in the pandemic and even in general. There’s the bias to go for the new thing, go for the new client, and put all of our resources, energy, and money in looking for that new client that we’ve got no connection to. Why not look at the existing base that we have? The percentage of people who come from referrals who close is 50% more.

The money's in the list. If you have a database of followers, there are opportunities. Click To Tweet

They spend more.

It is logical to spend more time and energy with that as a core strategy. You guys who are reading out there, you’re entrepreneurs. You’re running your business. You’re in sales. This is a core strategy that you want to look at as to how you can grow your business by looking at your existing customer base and network. That is going to be a huge benefit for you when you take it deeper. We’re so surface level in so many different areas. If we take the one strategy and go deeper versus having 5, 6, 7 or 8 that people are doing and spreading themselves too thin, go deeper into this one.

The money’s in the list. If you have a database and a set of followers, there are opportunities.

What’s your definition of productivity and why?

Productivity is achieving the maximum amount of output with the least amount of stress and inefficiency. You can be productive but exhausted and stressed out. You feel productive, “I did a lot,” “Yeah, but you don’t look healthy.”

That’s why burnout is a huge issue. They might be super productive, but at what cost? It’s not consistent productivity. It’s productive and then crash and then, “I’ve got to get back to productive,” and then crash. That’s not productive at all. That’s insanity.

It is. That’s a mania. It’s, “Whoa.” Now you’re depressed and up again, down again. It’s neurosis. Productivity is you have sustainability with efficiency.

Our time goes so fast together. We’re coming to the end of our show. What didn’t I ask you that you feel important for the audience to know?

TBT Edwin | Referral Strategies

Referology: Attracting Those Pivotal Referrals Who Become Your Dream Clients

Focusing On Referrals

I think that this is a topic worth studying, not just my book, Referology, which you can get for free. Go to There’s a link there to download the book. It’s free. I also mentioned several other books in my eBook. I believe that if you spend time, we get what we focus on. Why not focus on referrals? What a great way to grow your business. If you study about it and focus on it, if you take the small actions daily over time, these will come to fruition as referrals.

To give people some key performance indicators that they could set for this year to make referrals one of their focuses, what would 2 or 3 of those key performance indicators around referrals be?

KPIs For Referrals

How many positive reviews are you getting? That’s very measurable. Did we get two this week? Did we get none this week?

Set a number.

Let’s get two and in over a year, we’ll get 104 positive reviews on Google and Yelp. How big is our email database? Are we growing it? Do we have an email database?

Either decide to set one or wherever your list is, double it.

Grow your list. Double your impact. Number three, one of the key KPIs that we keep in our bookkeeping business is how many introductions did we get from our existing clientele? We want four. We have over 100 clients and our goal is to be introduced. We don’t call it a referral. We call it introduction, “Here’s my brother. He’s got a business. Why don’t you talk to him?” If we can get four introductions per week, we will probably close two of them. Introduce me to somebody at a party, online, in-person, through a Zoom call or whatever.

You do that. You set a number and 50% of those close to an average, you’ve doubled your business.

All you do is say, “I know you know some people. Is there somebody you could introduce me to that is a business owner?” “Yes. I know this guy.” “If you could introduce me, I’d appreciate that.”

Productivity is achieving the maximum amount of output with the least amount of stress. Click To Tweet

We could dive deeper, but I like that you’re giving people that to think about. Most importantly, the biggest takeaway is knowing the difference between the different types of referral systems and setting a process for each one of those, a goal of what you’re going to go after and the steps it takes to execute it. Is there anything else that you wanted to share before we close out?

No. Just get my free book. The last thing is, thank you, Penny, for having me. You’re an awesome host. I enjoy doing this for the business community and helping them grow. I’ve been a small business owner for a long time. My parents are small business owners, so it’s in my blood and I love giving back to the community.

Thank you so much.

Thank you.

Thank you all for being here. It is so valuable some of these strategies can be put in place to leverage the network and the people you already do business with. Guaranteed, you’re not doing as much as you could do. Make that a focus for 2022 to simply double your business. It is possible to double your business with the existing network and client base. Make that a goal, set forth the key performance indicators to make that happen and week after week, track it, follow up and make sure that it’s part of your process. That’s a great start to set that goal and put that into place. See you in the next episode.

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About Edwin Dearborn

TBT Edwin | Referral StrategiesEdwin is on a mission to help practice owners and ambitious business professionals attract their ideal clientele through proven referral, social, and influencer strategies. To that end, Edwin has written three books on the topics of branding, social media strategies, and influencer marketing. His latest book, Referology, details proven methods to exponentially grow one’s best clientele source: referrals. Edwin’s mission began with a simple question, “How can practices and businesses grow with highly-effective and affordable referral and social strategies?”


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