B2B Referral Marketing: 4 Steps for South African Businesses

In the landscape of B2B commerce in South Africa, referral marketing stands out as a powerful tool. With 84% of B2B buyers starting their process with a referral, understanding how to leverage this strategy can be transformative for your business. Here’s how you can optimize your B2B referral marketing efforts, based on insights from a key video source. First, let’s look at what referral marketing is, then we’ll look at how to make it work in South Africa.

Referral marketing is a powerful strategy where businesses leverage their existing customer base to gain new clients through word-of-mouth recommendations. Essentially, it’s about encouraging satisfied customers to proactively refer their network to your business.

This approach is particularly effective because people tend to trust recommendations from people they know and respect, such as colleagues, friends, or industry peers. In referral marketing, the emphasis is on creating such a positive experience for your current customers that they feel compelled to share your products or services with others.

In the context of B2B (Business-to-Business) environments, referral marketing takes on even greater importance. B2B transactions often involve higher stakes, longer sales cycles, and a greater need for trust and credibility.

A referral in such a context isn’t just a suggestion; it’s a vote of confidence in your business’s ability to deliver value. This is why B2B referral marketing isn’t just about increasing numbers; it’s about forging strong, trust-based relationships that have the potential to grow and create ongoing value for both the referrer and the referee.

Now, let’s look at our 4 step process to B2B referral marketing success.

1. Create a Short List of Potential Referrers

Identify customers who:

  • Trust and are satisfied with your services.
  • Are well-connected within their industry.
  • View you as a market leader. This does not have to be just size, it can be quality service or it can be your knowledge or value.
  • Have received referrals from you to others.
  • This list should include both external and internal network contacts.

2. Ask for Referrals in Person

An in-person meeting works best for B2B referral marketing.

In-person asks lead to referrals 30% of the time, compared to 17% for email requests.

  • Method: Use phone calls, in-person meetings, or Zoom calls.
  • Approach: Be direct, clear, and ask open-ended questions focusing on problems your business can solve.
  • Incentivization: Explain how referring your business will benefit them.
  • Follow-Up: Provide an easy-to-forward email with resources and information.

This email follow-up is very important. Make it as easy as possible for your clients to refer you to others. Craft an email message that is short, that can just be forwarded to the referral they want to give to you.

3. Avoid Common Referral Request Mistakes

  • Selectivity: Only ask clients who have derived significant value from your services and trust your business.
  • Timing: Don’t wait too long after providing a service to ask for a referral.
  • Frequency: Regularly check in for potential referrals; don’t just ask once.
  • Clarity of Value: Ensure your clients can articulate the value you provide.
  • Diversity: Don’t limit your requests to top-tier clients. Other clients also might be able to refer you.
  • Handling Objections: Don’t let initial objections deter you.

4. Preparation for Objections

  • Expectation: Anticipate ‘no’ as a possible response to avoid surprise.
  • Clarification: Understand the specific reasons behind any objections.
  • Expansion: Ask if there’s someone else in their network who might need your services.
  • Storytelling: Share success stories from other clients to showcase your value.
  • Mindset: Develop a referral mindset where you consistently think about referral opportunities.


Referral marketing in the B2B sector, particularly in South Africa, is a valuable strategy. With referral leads converting 30% better than other leads and 61% of customers making at least one referral, it’s clear that a well-structured referral program can significantly impact your business growth.

Moreover, referred customers often have a 16% higher customer lifetime value, making this strategy not just about gaining new clients, but also about building long-term, valuable relationships. Implement these steps thoughtfully to harness the full power of referral marketing in your B2B business.

Now read: How to create great quality content on your website.

FAQ: B2B Referral Marketing

1. What are the 4 types of referral marketing?

The four types of referral marketing include:

  • Customer Referral Programs: Encouraging existing customers to refer new clients, often with incentives.
  • Affiliate Referrals: Partnerships where affiliates earn rewards for referring leads or customers.
  • Partner Referrals: Business-to-business referrals where companies refer clients to each other, usually within a similar industry.
  • Employee Referral Programs: Employees are incentivized to refer new clients or customers to the business.

2. What is an example of referral marketing?

An example of referral marketing in a B2B context could be a software company offering incentives to existing clients for referring other businesses that could benefit from their software. The incentive could be a discount on their next purchase or enhanced service features.

3. Does B2B referral work?

Yes, B2B referral marketing is highly effective. Referrals in a B2B setting can lead to high-value partnerships and are often more successful due to the trust and credibility associated with personal recommendations in professional networks.

4. What is the purpose of referral marketing?

The primary purpose of referral marketing is to leverage the networks of your existing customers to gain new clients. It’s about creating such a positive experience that your customers advocate for your business, thus amplifying your reach and credibility through word-of-mouth.

5. How successful is referral marketing?

Referral marketing is often highly successful, with statistics showing that referral leads convert 30% better than leads generated through other marketing channels. Additionally, referred customers tend to have a higher lifetime value, making them more profitable in the long term.

6. What is the difference between affiliate marketing and referral marketing?

The main difference lies in the relationship and motivation:

  • Affiliate Marketing: Typically involves third-party influencers or promoters who earn a commission for each customer they refer. The relationship is transactional and usually not personal.
  • Referral Marketing: Involves current customers, partners, or employees referring within their personal or professional network. The motivation is often trust and satisfaction with the services or products, although incentives may be offered.


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