Welcome back to AirSend’s Book Corner!! As mentioned previously in our other book corner post, also titled, “The Referral Engine,” we will be breaking this book into two parts. There is so much useful information from the book alone, we felt it necessary to break it into two parts. If you would like to read the first part of the review, click here. If you have already read the first part, and are anxiously awaiting our second analysis, welcome back! Before diving into our chosen chapter, allow us to give a quick refresher to what the book is about. 


John Jantsch, author, blogger, and podcast host published what we like to think as the holy textbook to marketing, “The Referral Engine.” Marketing expert John Jantsch offers practical techniques for harnessing the power of referrals to ensure a steady flow of new customers. Some of Jantsch’s strategies include:

  • Talking with your customers, not at them
  • The sales team is the focal point 
  • Educate your customers. 

One of the secrets to generating referrals lies in understanding the “Customer Referral Cycle”-the way customers refer others to your company who, in turn, generate even more referrals. Businesses can ensure a healthy referral cycle by moving customers and prospects along the path of Know, Like, Trust, Try, Buy, Repeat, and Refer. If everyone in an organization keeps this sequence in mind, Jantsch argues, your business will generate referrals like a well-oiled machine. Whew, now that we have gone through the refresher portion, let’s talk chapters! The chapter we will be focusing on as part of our finale series is “Chapter Four: The Referral System View.” 

Chapter Four: The Referral System View

We believe this chapter holds some very delicate and intricate points on the idea of referrals, and how to be a success at it. Throughout the chapter, the author offers his words of wisdom, along with a step-by-step outline of referral systems. Rather than telling you the step-by-step process (because that will take all day), we will briefly go over each of the steps addressing key points. We of course highly suggest reading the chapter in full for a better understanding of context. Let’s dive in. 

Your Authentic Strategy

This is the first step in creating your referral system. Your authentic strategy should explain a core talkable difference. What makes your business stand out from your competitor? What does your brand say about you? After understanding and figuring out why you are the best in the business, you must then narrowly define your ideal customer. This strategy intertwines with the first strategy. After deducing your uniqueness, what customers can you market to that will also find your brand interesting? Who do you want to be of service to? How/what can your business do to help others? Once you have these two strategies down you are ready to graduate to the next step. 

Core Talkable Difference

As reiterated before, your core talkable difference is the first strategy to implement in your referral system. During this process, you will also inevitably unearth your competitive advantage. 

“This must be something so special that people can’t help talking about your business.”

Jantsch, John. The Referral Engine (p. 56). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

With AirSend, for example, we believe we stand alone in the conquest of efficiency. We strive to reach perfection with a purpose. To do that, we needed to create something that no one else could beat. Another example could be your favorite taco joint. Everybody loves this taco joint because they have a product that other taco restaurants don’t have. Are you more likely to go to a taco restaurant that has something no other eatery has, or are you more likely to go to a taco joint that has everything you can get from your local grocery store? 

“One of the best ways to create an innovation or differentiation for your business is to take something people already realize they may want and need and make it even easier to want.”

Jantsch, John. The Referral Engine (p. 57). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

How to Create a Surefire Innovation

One thing to take note of is that we are entering an age of simplicity and efficiency. Simplicity and efficiency go hand-in-hand. Look at the technology that is being released. What we are really trying to say is that your innovation should simplify something. The market already understands the offering, and they already spend money here (in your desired field). So, what can you offer to the market that is more efficient and simple than your competitors? A market that already has funding in this desired field? Do not be daunted by this idea! Do not be afraid! If anything these questions should ignite an inner spark! Take these questions and conquer your field. Be the next innovator, not the observer. 

“Much of this advice has focused on entering proven markets. While that’s absolutely the advice I’m giving here, know that you must do so with a significant point of differentiation that the market easily understands and appreciates. In most cases this can be done by looking at the way most folks in the chosen market operate and find a way to simplify your offerings around breaking the mold.”

Jantsch, John. The Referral Engine (pp. 59-60). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

Another key element to realize is that nothing is precious. Though we like to stick by our original ideas like they were our children, sometimes we have to adapt accordingly. Keep an open mind and study what the market really wants. 

“The owner is the customer. Understanding the characteristics, desires, and behaviors of a narrowly defined target market is very hard work but essential to your success.”

Jantsch, John. The Referral Engine (p. 58). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

The Inbound Referral Process

From the traditional business models of hunting customers, we now enter a time era where the referral marketing system is moved from finding to being found, creating valuable content, engagement, and interaction where the ideal prospects are already looking. 

“The dramatic rise in the use of search engines in our daily lives has made being found a vital element in the marketing of every type of business.”

Jantsch, John. The Referral Engine (p. 61). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

The Customer Network

Fully developed referral system targets two groups: the customer base (direct network) and a group made of other businesses that also serve your ideal customer, who could be motivated to partner with you in some way to exchange referrals and support your customers

The Strategic Partner Network

According to Jantsch, the real unspoken referral opportunity resides with strategic partners. In other words, using businesses to refer to you and vice versa. An example that I believe takes the cake is game stores. When you go to tabletop game stores, (from personal experience especially), plenty of staff members refer you to other similar game stores that sell generally the same product. Why? Well, I would like to think it is loyalty, but in reality, it is to keep the businesses alive. To encourage more customers/ traffic.

“By using technologies such as online Web conferencing and podcasting you can easily tap the knowledge and resources of a large group of experts and partners and make the knowledge available to your customers on demand.”

Jantsch, John. The Referral Engine (p. 63). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

Fulfilling The Promise

When it comes to keeping promises, rewards are almost always the best answer. Plenty of retailers follow this strategy: “refer five people and receive a $25 gift card.” By far one of the most effective ways of gaining referrals. Much like a give and take system. Of course, remember the best referrals are earned when customers do it because they genuinely want to support the business.

“After working out your motivation strategy, you’ll create a referral follow-up process to ensure that referred leads are treated with special care, and that your referral sources are shown real appreciation to keep them motivated.”

Jantsch, John. The Referral Engine (p. 63). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

Referral Entry Points

We have finally entered the last section of the chapter. This last section essentially is a refresher course. For starters, get this through your mind: You deserve referrals!

“The expectation mindset must pervade your entire organization—it’s everyone’s job to find leads and convert them into customers.”

Jantsch, John. The Referral Engine (p. 64). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

Once you finally believe that your business or profession is worth, then create two different referral approaches (check out chapter nine). One for your customers and the other for your strategic partners. Afterward, create turnkey tools. 

Turnkey Tools

“Put tangible referral tools in the hands of your referral sources.”

Jantsch, John. The Referral Engine (p. 65). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

In other words, make it easy and accessible for your clients to refer to you. Additionally have multiple creative ways for clients to refer to you.  Have a social online presence everywhere- great for versatility. Then, plan for logical collections. 

“The best time to collect referrals from customers is at the point when they realize and acknowledge a good job was done.”

Jantsch, John. The Referral Engine (p. 65). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

Finally, after following all these steps, and having a basic outline of how your referral system should be, measure and adjust. Hardly ever do we get our referral system right the first time. Your dashboard (outline) should be used as a place that you can go back to. Much like a drawing board. Mistakes are inevitable, and you may not have the referral system you dreamed of first time around, but with time and confidence in your product and/or service, you will surely reach your goal. 

“This is a place you might consider going back to your referral sources to discuss your referral campaigns, the type of ideal customer you are focused on, the best way to make an introduction to your firm, and your total product or service offerings.”

Jantsch, John. The Referral Engine (p. 66). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

AirSend helps startups create a versatile digital workspace to share files, send messages, and complete tasks. See how AirSend can help you.

Alrighty, folks. It is time to break out our library collection and review this week’s book topic: referrals. As indicated by the title, we are going to be tackling “The Referral Engine,” by John Jantsch. John Jantsch? Is he not the guy who is the brilliant author, speaker, and marketing consultant that hosts his very own marketing podcast called The Duct Tape Marketing? Yes! That’s the guy! To find out more about his and other like-minded marketing podcasts, check out our other blog on the top three marketing podcasts. In this mini-series, we will crank out our analysis of two chapters that are incredibly useful. This blog post will cover the one out of two chapter analysis. The second upcoming blog post will cover our second analysis. The chapter we will be covering is “Chapter One: Realities of Referral” Let’s dive in. 

Chapter One: Realities of Referral

Throughout the reading of this novel, Jantsch repeatedly presents a theme. A “how-to” theme. That theme is how to get your customers to refer your business, or in this case market for your business. Jantsch also grounds his argument of marketing campaigns behind the idea of word of mouth (WOM). He’s not wrong. Word of Mouth is considered to be the most effective form of promotion. Why? Simply because a person is more likely to believe something that comes from a person that he/she knows or respects, instead of sources like commercials or print ads.

Think about it. Would you rather try a weighted blanket because a commercial told you it was amazing, or because your favorite aunty told you it is worth the try? See my point? Anyway, in addition to WOM, Jantsch argues that the social drive for marketing referral is the hypothalamus. We had to reread the sentence too- don’t worry you are not crazy. The argument is actually logical. According to Jantsch, the hypothalamus likes validation. Additionally, the hypothalamus registers pleasure in doing good and being recognized for it. 

“Human beings are physiologically wired to make referrals.”

Jantsch, John. The Referral Engine (p. 3). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Now that we have an idea of what WOM is and a fun fact on the hypothalamus, we now enter the five realities of referrals.

Reality #1: People make referrals because they need to

One of the key takeaways from reality #1 is that we rate and refer as a form of survival. Not survival in the sense of nomadic tribes, but survival within the community. In other words, building credit. We refer to build our own form of social currency. We refer to connect with other people.

“I think the growth of many popular social networks can be traced to the fact that people love to connect and form communities around shared ideas.”

Jantsch, John. The Referral Engine (p. 4). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

Reality #2: All Business involves risk

As much as the hypothalamus enjoys validation, it also controls and analyzes fear. However, fear is a necessary risk in creating or maintaining a business. Check out our other book review, “Uncertainty,” by Jonathan Fields to understand and conquer the concept of fear in your business.

“When we make a referral, we are putting the trust we have established with the recipient on loan to the person or company being referred.”

Jantsch, John. The Referral Engine (p. 5). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Making decisions is another element of risk. Through Jantsch’s perspective, decisions about business are the same thing as making decisions about a purchase. 

“People don’t get emotional and passionate about ordinary products, a satisfactory result, or a fair price. They talk about things that surprise them or make them feel great about themselves—and, in effect, remove the feeling of risk they might have about doing business with that firm.”

Jantsch, John. The Referral Engine (p. 6). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Reality #3: Nobody Talks about boring businesses

Jantsch makes an important argument here. To build a business, you have to first discover or create something that makes your product stand alone. A product that gets people talking. You should have a product that convinces and encourages people to refer to you. Take AirSend for example. We stand alone from our competitors because we have the ultimate efficient life hack. We give out customers the opportunity to do everything from ONE place. Send messages, organize files, assign tasks, create a guidebook with a built-in wiki, work with email, and more! What are some ideas or products that make you stand alone from your competitors? What does your product have that others do not? Why should customers use your product and not your competitors? These are the questions you must ask yourself when you design your product. 

Reality #4: Consistency builds trust

Put simply, having consistency, authenticity, and repetition in a business are the foundational tools of the referral trade. Customers come back because they like what you have. If you were to change this, chances are customers will slowly stop coming back. Of course, changing your product for the better is always a good thing, but keep it in moderation. Take your favorite restaurant for example. Let’s say you go to your favorite Thai restaurant. They serve your favorite duck curry. One day, you go in to have your usual, and all of a sudden, instead of seeing your usual on the menu, you see Mexican dishes. Would you feel inclined to go back? An extreme example, but you get the idea. To gain referrals, stick with your product and build consistency and authenticity. 

Reality #5: Marketing is a System

According to Jantsch, there’s an easy equation to remember. Business= systems and processes. Referral generation is a set of processes within the overall marketing system.

“You must embrace the true value your organization produces and develop a referral system that allows you to bring the best of your authentic self to every opportunity.”

Jantsch, John. The Referral Engine (p. 9). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

“Expecting referrals is not about you; it’s about getting the customer what’s possible. Find a way to detach yourself from any personal feelings of pride or self-doubt and get to work on creating a brilliant system that’s focused on getting results for your customers.”

Jantsch, John. The Referral Engine (p. 10). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition .


Referrals aren’t easy to gain; however, if you have a product that you know will sell then half of your work is completed. You must remember that with referrals comes trust, loyalty, credibility, and an amazing product. If you have these elements in your business, the rest is up to your consumers. Let your customers do the marketing for you. All you need to do is trust them, and have passion and belief in your business. How hard can that be? Jantsch offers amazing insight into the essence of referrals, how to create your referral system, building your authentic strategy, creating your customer and strategic partner network, and more! Look forward to our second chapter analysis! This is Miss AirSend writer signing off. 

AirSend helps businesses and entrepreneurs create a versatile digital workspace to share files, send messages, and complete tasks. See how AirSend can help you.