Here at Amplifinity, we’ve been helping great brands run and grow referral programs for over seven years. I’ve been here since the beginning, and I’ve learned many things. As Manager of Client Services, I can tell you there are five factors that really make a big difference in running a successful referral program.

 

1. Maximize Awareness

In order for any referral program to be successful, it must have lots of referrals! Getting a large number of referral prospects into the pipeline and engaged with your sales team is critical to your program’s success. The most effective way to ensure that your referral pipeline is full is to have a referral marketing plan that utilizes all available communication channels with your customers and partners – your referral advocates. Referral marketing plans are always-on, integrated strategies that should be central to your company’s sales and marketing efforts.

2. Make it a seamless experience

A key factor that determines the success of your program – and whether or not your advocates make multiple and repeat referrals – is your advocates’ perception of how easy it is to refer to you.

The easiest referral for an advocate to make is one where they see opportunity in knowing or finding out that someone whom they know is in the market for your products or services. When this opportunity presents itself, the advocate needs to be able to quickly and easily communicate the referral and give a clear path to purchase, either online or off-line.

The referral program website must be both comprehensive and easy to use and understand. In addition to giving your advocates many options to refer, it must also define the referral process for them, give a status for each of their referrals, and help answer common questions they may have with an FAQ section. The website should also have both a desktop and a mobile version; the mobile version will be easy for the advocate to access when they are out and presented with the opportunity to refer.

3. Keep your advocates and prospects in the loop!

Keeping your advocates informed by communicating the status of each referral is key to keeping them happy. If an advocate does not receive regular updates about their referrals, they’ll wonder “What happened?” and “Where’s my reward?”

Proactive communication regarding each referral is not only helpful in keeping your advocates informed and happy, it also provides you with an opportunity to nurture your advocates, remind them about the program’s benefits, and ask them for additional referrals. If an advocate knows where their referral is in the sales process, they may even be happy to follow up with them and nurture them towards a successful purchase.

Each time a referral moves through a step in the sales process, an email notification should be sent to them to let them know. When a referral becomes a lead, when they purchase, and when the referral reward is paid out all represent key opportunities to nurture each advocate and improve their performance. Receiving an email notification that says that a referral has purchased and a reward is on the way has a huge positive impact on the advocate’s brand equity, especially in regards to a closed-looped, referral program. Why not capitalize on it by asking for another referral? This will help your advocates with one referral to achieve two, two to achieve three, and so on.

4. Help people to refer off-line as well as online 

Earlier in this post, we talked about advocates needing to be able to to quickly and easily communicate a referral, especially when the opportunity presents itself. Each referral program should give advocates the opportunity to refer both online and offline in a variety of ways. Referrals will most often choose the easiest path in front of them to make a purchase, so it is of paramount importance that the referral program supports their choice to aid in a seamless, closed-loop experience. Some common and important referral methods to leverage include:

  •  Printed referral cards, which can be mailed to an advocate or printed at home.
  •  Verbal referrals, where an advocate gives their referral program number or account number to their referral, who will then give it to a salesperson when making a purchase.
  •  Email referrals, which leverage branded referral program content, and are available in the referral program website.
  • Social media referrals, which also leverage branded referral program content, and are shared by the advocate from the referral program website to their social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc).

5. Recognize the power of referrals

Referrals have the power to create an enormous amount of brand equity in prospects that are interested in your products and services. This leads to higher spend on the initial purchase, higher lifetime value for each customer, and greater engagement with your brand. This should be a central focus in sales and marketing strategy and planning, from the CMO’s office to each individual salesperson. The referral program should be a central part of a salesperson’s training, where they should be taught to recruit advocates who will naturally recruit people whom they feel are a good fit and help make warm introductions. Those prospects will naturally have a higher amount of brand equity in your business when they are introduced to one of your salespeople.

This is the case both for prospects who are unfamiliar with your business, as well as those that may have shown interest in the past. In addition to creating new leads, a referral will sometimes re-activate an old lead, or sway a purchase decision on an existing opportunity. A good referral program will recognize this, and credit advocates for these referrals when they happen. Referral program policies should be written with the flexibility to recognize such referrals, prioritize them as the source of the purchase, and credit them when they have a been a factor.

Photo Credit: Magdeleine

 

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