These days, with the explosion of social media and email, it is important to remember that a lot of word-of-mouth referrals happen the old fashioned way—as words literally coming out of someone’s mouth. There are sometimes good reasons why… The following example is absolutely true. ..

A few years ago, I lived in Oklahoma, and I knew these two guys.  I’ll call them Mick and Jimmy.  Mick was young clean-cut dad who had played basketball in college. Jimmy was a good ‘ol boy from rural Kansas, an older, hardened fellow.  So, one time we’re on a road trip, driving through nowhere, across the plains on a highway, late at night, and I’m in the backseat.  Mick and Jimmy are in the front seat, and they think I’m asleep.

Mick starts telling Jimmy a story.  Mick’s house had just been robbed, and he knows who did it, a contractor who had just come through to do some work in his home. All of Mick’s wife’s jewelry is missing. Vanished. Police don’t care. No evidence.  Mick went to the contractor’s shop. Confronted him.  The contractor had just laughed.

Jimmy listens to this story, and the car is quiet for a few minutes.  Then, Jimmy swivels the toothpick in his mouth and says, “You need… a referral… I know a guy.”

“A guy?” asks Mike.

“Big son-a-gun.”

“Yeah?”

“A thousand dollars, he’ll throw anyone in a van, drive ‘em down to Florida, and throw ‘em in a ditch.”

“What… whoa… Does he kill them?” asks Mick.

“No. Just the van and ditch. He ties ‘em up. They don’t know they’re in Florida when their tossed out of van, you understand. Runnin’ cross a swamp with your hands tied behind your back? That’s scary. And that’s his deal.” Jimmy nods his head in the darkness as he says these words… “It sets ‘em straight.”

Mike was quiet.

“I’ll… get you in touch with him,” says Jimmy.

“I don’t know, Jimmy… Email me his number and maybe…” says Mick.

“Email? Hell no. But I’ll tell you a number if you want to write it down.”

 

Why Offline Referrals Are So Important

At Amplifinity, some of our most successful clients, giant household name brands, have built powerful referral programs around our platform’s remarkable capability to handle and reward offline referrals. Amplifinity’s platform gives advocates a referral code that they can pass on to prospects. Advocates can give these codes out verbally or they can print them out on referral cards on their computer. Marketers can even mass-laser print referral code cards in advance to give to their advocates to hand out to their friends. The prospect can use the referral code wherever they buy the goods in question—whether it is calling into a call center or walking the code into a retail store.

 

  • Leave no trace, but still earn a reward: In our story above, Jimmy is going to recommend a hitman to Mick. Jimmy is not going to put the hitman’s number in an email or post it on Facebook because he doesn’t want it public. This example is extreme, but it proves a point. The truth is that many successful referrals are made to friends and colleagues that are best unknown to employers, spouses, etc. (Don’t tell my old boss, but at my previous job, I once referred a good vendor to a competitor, just because the vendor was so awesome.) And yet, even if a company or personal email account is not used to transmit the referral from the advocate to the prospect, a referral automation solution is still needed, behind the scenes, to listen for these referrals, to close the loop on successful referrals, and to reward advocates for making them.

 

  • Believe it or not, not everyone is digital: Jimmy is not going to put the hitman’s number in an email or post it on Facebook or text it because Jimmy doesn’t use email or Facebook, and he owns a flip phone. It’s hard to believe, but many people, even if they are on the net or own cell phones, don’t rely on these things for digitally communicating with the people they care about. Marketers must make referrals easy to share.

 

  • Printed referral codes may actually have higher response rates: At Amplifinity, one of our most successful client referral programs ever, winner of a WOMMY award, ran primarily on pre-printed referral cards. Their referrals made offline eclipsed the performance of modern digital methods. The client was a chain of laser beauty clinics, the type of sale that requires a high level of emotional trust and discussion between advocate and prospect. Much like referring the hitman in our story, it’s the kind of referral that requires a conversation. Accordingly, a printed card physically handed between friends goes well with a face-to-face conversation.

 

I don’t know if Mick ever got his wife’s jewelry back, but digital marketers can still learn a few old tricks from Jimmy.

 

Want to further the discussion? Tweet me @EJJake.

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