Achieving Business Excellence with John Spence

A Fantastic Book: The Referral Engine by John Jantsch

I can be a very demanding critic of a business book. As someone who has read, on average, at least one (usually two) business books a week for last 21 years, I approach most business books with more than a bit of skepticism and a seriously jaded eye. That is why I was surprised when John Jantsch sent me an advance copy of his new book, “The Referral Engine — Teaching Your Business to Market Itself” with a note that simply said “please just give this an honest review.” I was impressed with his sincere desire for some focused feedback and a fair appraisal, so I told him I would be more than happy to closely study his new book and give it an honest review, but that I would pull no punches.

To make matters worse, I consider myself pretty knowledgeable about marketing and especially about how to generate referrals. I have owned a handful of small companies and every one of them has been driven more than 90% by repeat business and referrals. As an example, I have been running my speaking and training business for 17 years and I can tell you with great precision that more than 97% of all of my clients have come directly from referrals from happy clients who told their colleagues and friends about my work. So when I opened up John’s book, “The Referral Engine” I wasn’t expecting to learn a tremendous amount of new ideas or tools on how to generate referrals. Boy was I wrong!

On the opening page of the introduction, John Jantsch promises that, “This book will show you how to craft a strategy that compels customers and partners to voluntarily participate in your marketing, to create positive buzz about your products and services to friends, neighbors, and colleagues.” And he absolutely keeps that promise! This book does a magnificent job of walking you, step-by-step, through a logical and methodical process for truly turning your business into a referral engine. I could go into a lot of detail here but I think that the chapter titles will give you an excellent feel for what John covers in this book:

Chapter 1: The Realities of Referral

Chapter 2: The Qualities of Referral

Chapter 3: The Path to Referral

Chapter 4: The Referral System View

Chapter 5: Your Authentic Strategy

Chapter 6: Content as Marketing Driver

Chapter 7: Convergence Strategies

Chapter 8: Your Customer Network

Chapter 9: Your Strategic Partner Network

Chapter 10: Ready to Receive

Chapter 11: Referral-specific Campaigns

Chapter 12: Snack-sized Suggestions

Chapter 13: Workshop

I think that one of the major accomplishments of this book is the superb way that John shows you how to integrate both personal networking and social networking as two powerful and synergistic ways to drive focused referrals. By the way, another great point that this book delivers is captured in the last two words of the previous sentence, “focused referrals” — in other words being extremely strategic in how you invest your time and energy so that your business referral engine is producing high quality target customers. John also does a great job in this book of helping the reader to understand the monumental importance of creating a large network of strategic partners who are both eager, and can benefit from, sending you a steady stream of targeted referrals.

Lastly, the book is absolutely jam-packed with examples, tools, links, and workshops to do what I believe is the most important thing a book should do… help you turn the ideas you are learning into positive action in your business right away. If you own a business that in any way depends on referrals, I can’t possibly give a stronger recommendation for “The Referral Engine” by John Jantsch, it should be your referral system bible.

One more thing… if you know someone that owns a small business I’d like to take a second to give you a few more book recommendations. If I looked at the hundreds of business books on the shelves in my office, and tried to pull down just a handful that I would consider the absolute best “easy-to-read AND full of great ideas” business books that a small business owner (who isn’t a fanatic reader) should read, that selection would be:

Becoming a Category of One” by Joe Calloway. A really great book on how to uniquely position yourself in the marketplace and deliver a level of customer service and customer focus that truly differentiates you in a way that adds significant value to your customer. Joe is a great writer, very enjoyable to read, I love and all of his books.

Duct Tape Marketing” by John Jantsch. For a small business owner/manager, this is simply the most focused, usable and “enjoyable-to-read” marketing book I have come across. I have owned a marketing company for the last six years and found myself saying over and over again as I read this book… “This guy really knows his stuff… this is excellent marketing advice.” I used up two yellow highlighters on Duct Tape Marketing, it is full of useful info.

The Referral Engine” by John Jantsch. You just read my glowing review. If you own a business (small or otherwise) that depends on referrals this is the top book I recommend to help you create a systematic approach for generating a steady stream of quality referrals.

Awesomely Simple” by John Spence. I feel very awkward recommending my own book, but honestly, I think that the information and ideas I share in Awesomely Simple are essential for building and sustaining a successful business and that it is a quick, easy and enjoyable book to read. Also, since it was named one of the Top 10 Small Business Books of 2009… I guess a few other people agree it’s a valuable book for small business owners to read.

The Little Big Things” by Tom Peters. Okay, this is NOT an easy book to read at 500+ pages. However, it is definitely a fun book to read (Tom has an absolutely insane writing style) and it delivers page after page of wonderful advice and ideas from one of the world’s leading business Gurus for the past 30 years. It would be hard to read just 10 pages of this book and not come away with several ideas for how to improve your business… so reading all 500+ might take a while, but it will be well worth the effort.

I think that between these five books you would have a VERY solid foundation in business strategy, marketing, customer service, generating referrals and business excellence. Sure, I can think of a few more I might add to the list, but these would be my top five “Must Read” books for the folks that don’t really love reading business books!

So there you have it, a review of a really fantastic book, “The Referral Engine” and some strong recommendations for a “Whack-Pack” of superb books that every small business owner should have on their shelf (that is, after they have read it carefully and gone to work applying the ideas in the book!).

I hope you found this blog post helpful and please remember to send a link on to anyone you feel would find value in reading the ideas I share in this blog (see, I paid attention to the book, I’m asking for referral… that’s right, please refer a whole bunch of your friends and colleagues to this blog!!!!)

I look forward to your feedback, comments and any books you’d like to recommend that you feel belong on my list of “best books for small business owners.”

Take good care — John Spence


  1. Hey John – Thanks for the honest review of The Referral Engine – it really does mean a lot coming from someone that reads many of the new business books released each year.

  2. Every book you’ve recommended has been spot on – I trust your review. I actually have this book on order already after listening to Mr. Jantsch speak last week.

  3. John,

    I already own your amazing book and will now be sure and get Jantsch’s new book because of YOUR recommendation alone:-) Thanks for another great review. Keep Blogging and I look forward to seeing you tonight at the GAIN event in Gainesville.

    Thanks JS!

  4. Brandon Tudor says:

    John – just purchased this book today based on your review. Looking forward to reading it! Haven’t seen you in a while, but I’m still working for a hospital network in DC, where our Business Development/Marketing Department is primarily focused on referral development. Always looking for new thoughts! Thanks!


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