Why developing a referral program captures the highest quality leads (and dates)

Aren’t you tired of lead “relationships” that go nowhere? Try developing a referral program

How well do your friends and family know you? If I had to wager on it I’d say pretty well. They likely even have a direct line into what products, services (or even dates) might be good for you. But instead of tapping into the power of already established relationships by developing a referral program you only use technology like marketing automation (or dating sites) to track down a lead (match) who might be looking for what you have to offer.

Don’t get me wrong, technology is an amazing asset, but you have to be critical of the data it’s using to provide you with those leads. While you may capture a large quantity of leads, only part of the time do they end up resulting in highest quality leads.

Research shows that leads generated from referrals convert 4x better than leads coming from other sources.  When considering whether or not developing a referral program is right for your business think about the juxtaposition of a friend suggesting someone to date compared to a dating website matching you up. I know from experience, one works better than the other.

 

The referred date versus the non-referred date

Fall 2012, I was dating a perfectly nice guy I’d met on a dating site, let’s call him Stan. Like many leads you acquire, he looked wonderful on paper. However, I had no feelings for him. The reality of the situation was, I was looking for a dating demographic that didn’t equal what I wanted to get out of the relationship. After a few weeks of meeting and communicating here and there the relationship fizzled out.

Now during that same period of time one of my dear friends, let’s call her Rose, had started a relationship with someone new and insisted that I should let her set me up with his roommate. Unfortunately, I’m chronically stubborn and refused at first because I didn’t think I needed to be set up. Like many businesses I didn’t understand the value of a referral or developing a referral program.

A week or so passes and I’m on my university campus, sitting under a tree and playing with leaves when a man walks up to me, let’s call him Eric, and asks me, “How can you be so happy just playing with leaves?”

Honestly, I don’t remember how I answered but he ended up sitting down with me and talking. Before he walked away he gave me his number and I gave him mine.

Weeks pass and nothing happens. Stan and I stop seeing each other. Then, sometime in October I get a Facebook friend request from Eric. I accept and he immediately messages me.

“Did you know Rose tried to set us up?”

He was the same guy that I had refused to go out with. Now you should know I’m a very cautious dater. I won’t go out with anyone to a club, let them drive me, or tell them where I live until we’ve been dating a period of time. But when he asked me out for a date I ended up breaking every rule. While this guy seemed nice, it was the fact that my friend told me how good a guy he was which made me trust him. I trusted her so therefore I trusted him. On that first date he came to my house, picked me up, and took me to a club.

We’ve been in a wonderful relationship for almost three years now. I guess you could say he was a quality lead.

The benefits of a new referral program and an old fashion matchmaker

Imagine, what if you could automate that same referral process to get a high number of potential customer to bypass their usual buying habits based off the trust of an already established relationship? By developing a referral program you can.

But it’s not only my experience that supports the value of developing a referral program. Research shows that:

  • Customers are 400% more likely to buy a product when it’s referred by someone they know.
  • 83% of customers are happy to refer a business after a positive experience if asked but . . . only 29% do refer
  • Customers trust recommendations from friends and family more than any other type of advertising
  • Referred customers have a 16% higher lifetime value

Through developing a referral program your business will build a network of advocates that will optimize the referral process to drastically increase your quality leads with a lower cost per lead than other marketing tactics. Take a quick and easy referral quiz to see if developing a referral program is the right move to get you the high quality leads (or dates) you’ve been searching for.

 

Questions? Email me at Jedmondson@amplifinity.com

What is brand advocacy?

Is recruitment your pain? Try the power of referrals

Today, higher education institutions face new challenges with enrollment. According to the U.S. Department of Education’s Projection of Education Statistics, the increase in enrollment is projected to shrink by 31% by 2022. We live in a time where education prices are skyrocketing and young adults are starting to think of alternatives to the traditional 4-year university.

Sound familiar?

A current trend among the younger generation is “Why spend upwards of $150,000 on a degree when I can get a job right out of high school and get a head start on the career I want?” Although in theory this sounds like an admirable route, at the end of the day knowledge is power and few have forgotten about the power of a solid 4-year bachelor’s degree.

Higher education needs help with recruitment, enrollment, and retention.

The question now is how can universities get the upper hand and recruit students most effectively in the current status of national enrollment trends? With the plethora of traditional advertisements thrown around by universities it is hard to sift out which school is a good fit.

Be disruptive

A disruptive marketing trend that is impacting higher ed recruitment is brand advocacy. Within the brand advocacy category, referrals to your organization are the highest value action that a donor, alumni, board member, partner, student or employee can do for your school.  Whether the referral is a donor referring your schools funding program into their network or an alumnus referring you to a prospective student and their family, referrals are a key to drive donations and student acquisition. Just like anything, we trust our friends and family for guidance on matters as large as choosing which university to attend. People are 400% more likely to buy a product or service recommended by a family member or friend (Nielson) and 68% of students choose their school of choice because their family or friends.

Two key things need to happen in order for higher education institutions to capture referrals and leverage the incredible opportunity that referral advocacy brings.  The first is that universities need to place a very high level of focus on student recruitment and enrollment.  They will need to learn to develop new tactics and ways to engage students where they are at and as they do this retention will be more important then ever.  Secondly, universities are going to need to invest in new disruptive forms of marketing technology that will allow them to develop, deploy leverage and track the power of referrals at their institutions.

 

Co-written by:

Andy McKeever is a Strategic Account Executive at Amplifinity, the leaders in referral automation software for enterprise companies. With over 17 years of experience of connecting people with solutions, Andy thrives in showing the lifetime value of a referral strategy in higher education. When he is not working, he can most likely be found playing with the three most important people in his life his wife and two kids!

Conor O’Leary is a college student who is passionate about life and has many interests ranging from classical music to technology. When not working diligently in the Sales and Marketing Department at Amplifinity, he is earning two degrees from Indiana University in Bloomington, one from the Jacobs School of Music in Classical Guitar Performance and another from the Kelley School of Business in Financial Literacy. Conor values his family and friends and looks forward to graduating and starting a career.

What is brand advocacy?

Leverage your Net Promoter Score

I recently had the opportunity to attend the Satmetrix Customer Passion Summit, an event that brings together professionals focused on improving customer experience to grow their businesses. Much of the content of the conference focused on the power of measuring customer experience using the Net Promoter Score. Net Promoter Score is a method used by many companies for measuring customer experience by asking one simple question, “How likely is it that you would recommend this company to a friend or colleague?” In the NPS eco-system, customers that respond to this question with a 9 or 10 (0-10 scale) are labeled Promoters. Enter referral marketing. Referral marketing at its core is the practice of turning Promoters into Advocates, customers or clients who actively promote your product or service, by turning “likelihood to recommend” into the action of referring.

Here are three ways to drive growth in your business with the help of your greatest asset, your Advocates

1. Find Moments of Truth and Leverage them

Recently, I received an email from my credit card company informing me of the need to activate my newly issued Chip Card technology complete replacement card.

Problem was, I never received this card.

Problem solver mode activated. I log into my account and decide to try and solve the problem via live chat. What a magnificent customer experience! I was asked some well-crafted initial questions, I was quickly connected to an agent who was ready, willing, and properly trained to easily resolve my issue, and within five minutes a new card was on the way. (Insert mental image of me clapping the dust off my hands here.)

And then a question appears on my screen.

“How likely is it that you would recommend this company to a friend or colleague?”

9!

And then nothing…silence.

What if what came next was an invitation to enter the company’s referral program? What if that invitation would have led me to share my great experience and my currently heightened love of the brand with my Dad who had just the night before been asking me about my credit card rewards as he contemplating a switch?

Finding these moments of truth, where your company consistently wins with your customer and providing your newly created promoter with an opportunity, is a phenomenal way to turn willingness to recommend into referral action

 

2. Make the Ask

The popular statistic attributed to Dale Carnegie states that 91% of customers say would happily provide referrals yet only 11% of sales people will ask for them. Customers love to talk about the products they love. In the B2B world especially, PEOPLE are very quick to share the ways the tools and systems they have adopted are driving improvements in their business. If these people are already spreading their enthusiasm for your product why not ask them to increase the reach of their good news by joining your referral program.

Amplifinity’s CFO recently wrote how hard the B2B buying process used to be, 20 years ago, before referrals were even “a thing”.  He remembers how he had to make his best guess, and inevitably always bought the wrong thing! He is happy that it is so much easier today to get recommendations for products and services.  Think about it, referrals have become a way of life, a key part of every purchase process. We have become so dependent on our network for so many things in our personal life ­- just yesterday a Facebook friend of mine was looking for restaurant suggestion for a business trip he was taking, and within minutes received a dozen referrals from people who were more than happy to share the name of their favorite place and even suggest what to order. With results like this, why not apply it to your professional life?

 

3. Make It Simple to Refer

The final way to drive growth through referrals is to make the action of referring simple. Creating a simple way to drive referrals means two things, making the advocate’s path to action simple, but also making your company’s referral management process easy to execute.

Imagine this scenario. You have provided your customer with a product or experience that has exceeded every one of their expectations and you have turned that every day customer into a brand advocate. You have discovered a moment of truth and are ready to ask your new brand advocate to take action and share their love, the last thing you want to do is risk decreasing that love by providing a referral experience that is difficult. Make it simple to share the love. Offer the advocate the ability to invite people to your brand using the methods of their choosing (i.e.-email, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) and make it easy to track their referral progress.

The importance of simplicity does not end with the customer facing portion of your referral program. One of the quickest ways to destroy any program within your business is to create a process that depends heavily on manual tasks. When providing programs that rely on time consuming manual tasks success often leads to failure. Meaning, the more effective the program becomes the more work that is created and the more time intensive and manual the program becomes the greater the chance of mistakes and failure. The lack of simplicity in this area leads to the same outcome with the new brand advocate, a loss of love. When program failure leads to missed rewards or inaccurate referral tracking you risk losing the love of your best customer or in NPS speak turning promoters into passives if not worse.

Your promoters are one of your greatest assets. Turn their willingness to recommend into referral action.

Want to continue the discussion? Email me at JSwenson@amplifinity.com

What is brand advocacy?

 

Photo credit: Freedigitalphotos.net

 

 

 

 

 

The best sales channel you’re probably not using

I’ve been in technology for nearly 30 years and I’ve watched many tech businesses attempt to grow their businesses “through the channel”. This is code for various forms of business partnerships or distribution models that drive incremental revenue.  These partnerships come in many shapes and sizes and include industry designations such as resellers, agents, integrators, etc.

 Back in the day…

Whether the nature of the partnership is “sell with” or “sell through” you usually consider the trade-off between investment in the channel partner, and the potential lift to sales. The investment comes in the form of training, enablement materials, support personnel, commissions etc. and usually mirrors the amount of the sales process you are expecting the partner to carry. The expected payoff is incremental revenue you would not have received through your direct or ecommerce channels.

 Too complicated

Many of these traditional partner efforts fail to live up to expectations. Without early success, execution quickly wanes and eventually the partnership flames out and the investment is written off.  There are a host of reasons why partnerships can be challenging, but one that I often witness is that channels partners can rarely execute the sales process as well as the primary supplier. If they don’t have immediate success, they lose focus and move on to where they can make money faster and easier.

 Watch out for an upset (aka, don’t get Uber-ed!)

In the same way that technology has disrupted markets (think Uber, Lyft, AirBNB), etc.) technology is poised to disrupt the nature of these traditional channel partnership models. And, just like the aforementioned disruptor companies, cloud/SaaS, and mobile technology will provide the crucial linchpin that drives obsolescence of these traditional channel models.

The concept is a simple and elegant, but also powerful and scalable– leverage technology to quickly and inexpensively ramp channel relationships that can drive new customer acquisition and revenue generation. The referral of an opportunity that results in a closed sale becomes the unit of exchange in this new channel ecosystem. It’s pretty much a given that referrals are the highest quality leads with higher close rates than traditional lead methods.

Let’s look at what we really want out of our channel partners and how technology enables could enable a truly disruptive new channel model:

Low friction: Both suppliers and partners want easy and simple. Complex partner models decrease the odds of success.  Today, mobile and social technologies combined with the networked nature of relationships can allow you to make almost anyone a partner that helps you identify and influence qualified buyers.

Speed: The more extended partner network you can build, the better opportunity you have to quickly identify in market buyers and beat your competition to the sale.

Scales easily and effectively: SaaS software can provide a platform for a 100% closed loop process that fully automates tracking, attribution, compensation and communications to the parties in real time.

 

Are there leading edge companies doing this already? You bet!

In the B2C world, the aforementioned Uber and Lyft utilize this method to drive a fast, frictionless growth in a way that is authentic to their brands. Immediately after a ride on Lyft, I am prompted to post a tweet to my network embedded with a referral link. I get my reward if they use my referral. A great example of levering customers as a channel.

In B2B, fast growing SaaS players like RingCentral and Citrix GoToMeeting are using referrals as growth channels with both partners and influencers. Citrix’s Senior Manager, Randy Fahrbach recently wrote a piece on Referrals as a Service (RaaS) for his interesting take on this channel trend.

Who are your potential new channel partners? It can be anyone! Open your thinking to any groups, companies, communities or professionals that may have experience with your product or are in a position to influence your buyers. As an example, if you target small businesses, accountants can be very influential in the certain buying decisions that an SMB makes.

What about companies that sell an adjacent product or service to yours? These companies may be interested in becoming your partner. With little additional work or distraction from their core business, they get to create an additional revenue stream from the relationships they already have today. You can also use the same model for companies that may already be a partner, but you need a lower cost, lower friction way to make the relationship productive and profitable.

Once you are freed from the cost and effort of ramping a traditional partner relationship, you’ll be able to brainstorm many new potential partnership opportunities. Think about your end buyer and what natural partner synergies might exist if you could enable them to refer your product cheaply and easily.  With a simple referral execution, you can engage this channel and make it very easy for them to identify leads and be rewarded for doing so.

 If you go down this new channel partner path, here is what you need to be successful:

  1.      Make it easy for them to partner with you
  2.      Make it easy to refer — direct and indirect
  3.      Clearly delineate rewards with prompt fulfillment
  4.      Provide transparency so the partner is kept up to date on progress
  5.      Reinforce positive behaviors

What is brand advocacy?

 

The new responsibilities of customer marketing

Customer Marketers are no longer just librarians for reference management systems or event planners for user groups. They are being asked to expand into a much broader responsibility set in order to have a strategic impact on the customer journey. This evolution may not be a fit for existing Customer Marketers, but those with ambition will grow into highly strategic (and highly valued) position.

Here are the key areas that Customer Marketing is beginning to get involved in:

Engagement

Who engages with your customers throughout their journey?  Is the message consistent? Are we getting them what they need? Are both sides getting value out of every interaction? Customer Marketers will need to work to understand this and strategically craft those engagements so that customers are feeling 100% happy with your people and your product/service.

Cross Sell and Up Sell

Very few companies are doing well at this and strategic CEOs are realizing that Customer Marketing could play an important role. All of the engagements in the customer journey need to be architected so that opportunities for cross sell/up sell are raised or purposefully asked for during the journey. Customer Marketing will have a holistic view of this project and will therefore be able to bring to sales and client success the right process and technology to address this.

Referrals

Savvy Customer Marketers are realizing that their customers are more than willing to provide referrals if asked and appropriately recognized for their efforts. And because referrals directly impact the bottom line, this is often a great place for Customer Marketers to start.  Prove impact here and you’ll get resources to impact engagement more holistically. Lots of innovation has come around referral automation platforms that run referral programs at scale. Teaming up with Demand Generation and Sales will be a common occurrence as Customer Marketers see the direct impact on revenue. And a bonus, the high-end referral platforms can also be used for cross sell!

Advocacy

Customer Marketing has always played a role in references, but now technology is allowing for much more to be gained from customers. When specifically asked, they will review you on 3rd party sites, create content for you and yes, still provide sales references. But, instead of managing as a database, you manage as a community of advocates that you need to get the right content, right ask and right incentive at the right time. While not as high-impact as referrals, this will be an important area for

Recognition

Your customers go through a hell of a lot of work to buy your product.  They have to get dragged through a sales process (some can take over a year!). They have to then work through implementation and then are abruptly pushed out of the nest to see if they will fall or fly.  They deserve some recognition for this monumental accomplishment!  Customer Marketers are starting to get more purposeful about how to say thank you to customers in meaningful, yet inexpensive ways.  Some are sending gifts or hand written cards to new customers.  Others are recognizing advocacy or referrals with rewards and recognition.  Special achievements with product use are being awarded at user groups.  This is all a part of showing that you value your customers and is incredibly important.

Community

If you don’t yet have a user community, I guarantee that Customer Marketing will be looking to create one.  As they approach referrals and advocacy, they will naturally be developing communities of advocates (customers willing to do stuff in support of your brand).  This is going to be a big source of power for Customer Marketers as they will hold the keys to fulfilling the needs of Product Marketing, Sales and Demand Generation – all avenues for customer success.  For those who already have a user community, Customer Marketing will be looking to integrate and influence the community with increased engagement during the customer journey.  It is an excellent medium for giving value back to your customers while harvesting value from them in return.

 

There is much for Customer Marketing to tackle, but as you can see there is also a big impact to be made.  If you are a Customer Marketer working on any of these new areas or working on things I didn’t list, I’d love to hear your story!  Ping me on Twitter @TrishaWinter to continue the conversation.

 

What is brand advocacy?

 

The advocacy market explained

I’ve been to three analyst conferences already this year and each one is creating buzz around the term “advocacy”.  Unfortunately, they all talk about it differently.  Some on the social media side simply use advocacy as a synonym for word of mouth marketing.  Others label it brand advocacy or customer advocacy. To marketers like myself, it is all a bit confusing.  I wondered what type of solutions are considered advocacy solutions and who is buying them?

After doing some research in the space and having many discussions with analysts, I realized that there are two major buckets of advocacy: advocacy to drive brand awareness and advocacy to drive demand generation.  These are two totally different initiatives and two totally different buyers.

Once you understand that separation, it is clear that there are also differences in the types of solutions that enterprises need versus those targeted at SMB.  The result is 4 segments of the advocacy market.

Advocacy explained

 

 

There is a great new white paper called “The Advocacy Market Explained” that details each of these segments as well as the buyers.  The best part is that at the end it helps you to analyze where you should get started to begin taking advantage of advocacy in your organization. I highly encourage you to read and start thinking about how to leverage advocacy to meet your objectives.

Want to further the discussion? Tweet me at @TrishaWinter

What is brand advocacy?