From T-shirts to tech, make referrals easy for customers

Word of mouth is the best way to grow a business but people still seem to be doing it the hard way so we devised a new non-intrusive to make referrals easy for customers.

“When you see an itch in the marketplace, all you need to have is the scratch.” That has always been my business method and it seems to be working. And I carried this on when trying to streamline a service to make referrals easy for customers.

In 1995, I started a clothing brand called Attitude Inc. because someone in my father’s church told me I had an attitude problem. I had no money so I borrowed $50, got four slogan T-shirts made, sold three of them to three of my friends and made more. And sold to more of my friends.

A bold idea

Without any history in starting or growing a business, and due to not having any working capital, I had to rely on smart and novel methods to get traction in the market place.

The first shop I ever went into to show them my range told me that no one was asking for my brand and there was no demand for it. I mean seriously!

Of course, they weren’t asking for my brand. No one even knew my brand existed yet, why would they be asking for it? So I got four mates to ring the shop once a week asking for my Attitude brand. After four weeks, the owner put the Attitude brand on the shelves due to the “demand” for my brand.

There was no demand – it was just me and my mates asking for it every week. Right at that early stage, I realised that if a business is to grow, the customers need to be the best sales people.

Attitude Inc. went on to become a globally licensed brand. Since creating that brand and starting a few other businesses, I have been constantly being asked to speak at conferences and to provide mentoring to start-ups and small-business owners.

Streamlining referrals

After doing that for many years and assisting many business owners in finding better and easier ways to grow their businesses, I started to concentrate my attention onto the one area that I think has needed an overhaul for a long time. That area is the whole “Referral” process. Word of mouth is the best way to grow a business but people still seem to be doing it the hard way.

That’s why I and my business partner, Phil Bamford set out to create a better way for the process and to make referrals easy for customers. We created ReferUs, which is now being used by business here in Australia and around the world.

We looked at how businesses do the referral process and saw it as a very archaic process. Businesses would have a referral card, give it to their customers to give to friends and then, hope that that would happen. Even better than that, some businesses had the whole referral process on their website but you had to get to a website with that person who you were referring, put in their details and hope for the best.

We thought, hang on… Every customer has a phone. Why not put a business’s referral system, branded to that business, onto the phone home screens of their customers? And with the push of one button and seven seconds of effort, referral sent on the spot – instantly and directly to the business to provide them with a hot lead. Now the customer, the referrer, is not slowing down the referral process. They are now speeding it up.

The first challenge was an obvious one, I wasn’t a tech guy and that was what we needed. After much searching we found the right team. But as we were a start-up, there was no huge money for wages. So we offered percentages of the company, which was accepted. The idea now had structure and after about a year, it was launched.

The one thing I was clear on was this wasn’t an “or” way of doing things. By that I mean, you didn’t use the referral process you were already using in your business “or” ReferUs. This was an “and” product. You would do what you normally do “and” use what we had created.

Businesses really saw the benefit of what we created and their customers or clients loved the new non-intrusive way to refer for businesses they liked.

If you want to succeed in business in today’s climate, make sure you make referrals easy for your customers.

Justin Herald, Managing Director,

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