It might sound like a ploy from the latest flavor of MLM or pyramid marketing scheme out there – but you actually use the people closest to you to market your business.

Throwing a catalog or website in their face and begging them to buy isn't the answer. There's a better way to encourage your friends, family, and colleagues to help you out.

The key is in how you approach them.

Think of these people as your rock. They’ve been there for you during good and bad times. You’ve probably told them a bit about your business. You’re excited, and they’re excited for you.

But how do you leverage these warm feelings?

Show, Rather than Tell

The first step, no matter what you’re selling, is to show, rather than tell.  It doesn’t matter if you’re running a dog walking business or you’re selling homemade candles. Show your friends and family how much time they could save in a week by hiring someone to walk the dog.  Show them how nice and inviting their home will be when the aroma of fresh-baked cookies, or fresh-picked flowers wafts through the air.

Schwans, a grocery delivery company, makes great use of photography to sell their service.  But beyond the tantalizing images of food, they also make it clear that customers can save time and still enjoy a festive meal without slaving over a hot stove:

Schwans Food Deliver is an example of a beautiful home page that shows what it offers, in tempting, tantalizing photos

Schwans Food Delivery is an example of a beautiful home page that shows what it offers, in tempting, tantalizing photos

Let customers know they can trust you to treat them and their friends as if they were the only thing that mattered in your business – because they are.  Great reputations are built on trust and mutual understanding.

Encourage Recommendations

It’s one thing to have a handful of people that regularly rely on you. It’s another thing entirely to ask them for recommendations or testimonials. 

Many people feel nervous and uncomfortable asking for these things, simply because they don’t want it to sound forced, or don’t want to put the customer “on the spot”.

But the truth is, great testimonials will naturally follow great service – they just sometimes need a little coaxing.  If you’re targeting Millennials, much of the legwork is already done for you, since they’ll review just about anything and everything through social media. Otherwise, make liberal use of surveys, and make it easy for people to respond to them. 

eMusic has a great tell-a-friend service – by recommending them to others, both you and a friend get $50 in music credits to spend in their extensive music download catalog:


eMusic makes it irresistible to tell a friend

Another option is asking for testimonials via email.  Let your friends and family know how much you appreciate their business, and ask them if there’s anything you can improve upon.  If they give you reasonable suggestions – implement them as quickly as you can, so that your clientele can see that you’re serious about earning their business and are willing to do whatever it takes.

Unparalleled Service Every Step of the Way

One of the biggest ways to get others to market for you is through the service you provide. Remember, you’re not just walking dogs or making candles, you’re providing pets with much-needed exercise, sunshine and socialization, or you’re making homes feel more cozy and welcoming. When you over-deliver on service, people recognize it.

And the next time someone moves into the neighborhood, you can bet that your friends and family won’t hesitate to recommend the area’s best dog walker or bring them a homemade candle as a housewarming gift.  Great service speaks for itself.

Reward Loyalty

In this day and age, people have more choices than ever.  They don’t just choose to do business with you because they like you (unless it’s your mom or favorite aunt).  There are plenty of options out there, so making sure your business is at the front of their minds means going beyond the service.  One way to do this is by creating a loyalty program.

According to USA Today, Marriott’s loyalty program was ranked #1 by customers.  By being able to redeem points across a variety of hotels and destinations, customers can easily earn and spend their points wherever they travel, making it more of an incentive for them to stay at Marriott-branded hotels.


Now, your own program doesn’t have to be a fancy, gold-card, extravagant event.  Something as simple as a punch-card where every 5th dog walk is free, or an email promotion for a buy-one-get-one half off candle sale for returning customers can be great loyalty programs.  The result should be rather easy for customers who already love your business to obtain (otherwise they won’t bother), but still align itself with your core business goals.  You don’t want to give away the store in an attempt to bring more people through the door!

The bottom line is that you should endeavor to make it as easy and hassle-free as possible for people to want to recommend you.  By doing a phenomenal job, asking for testimonials/referrals, and rewarding loyalty, you’ll be taking steps to build up a throng of happy customers who won’t hesitate to mention your name when someone asks if they know a good _______ in the area. 

Your Turn: How have you gotten your friends and family involved in your business? Please share!