Why referral programs generate more quality leads than automated personalized marketing

Technology is trending, and as Marketers, we’re always keeping an eye out for the next big breakthrough (like referral programs) that will make our job easier. So when automated personalized marketing came onto the scene many thought it was that breakthrough. After all, personalized marketing has made amazing strides in the past few years and automated personalization has become a highly adopted best practice for both B2Bs and B2Cs. This is often employed through an automated software like marketing automation, which crafts individual messages in an attempt to create a customer-centric approach. And for a while, this form of personalized marketing was the ultimate way for Marketers to create a targeted strategy. But as we know, when a channel or tactic becomes highly adopted its effectiveness begins to wane as it becomes increasingly crowded and noisy.

In fact, as of recently, “The majority of marketing leaders report dissatisfaction with results from Marketing Automation. Frost & Sullivan reveals 75% not accomplishing what they expected,” (Root Causes of Marketing Automation Failures).

This is not a surprise. After all, just in one day I receive an average of 30-50 personalized automated emails in my personal email account and 10-15 in my work email.

So what do I do? I click check all and delete. Whether it’s 50 consumer emails or 15 B2B emails, ask yourself, would you really take the time to sort through them all to determine if one offers you value.

The reality of the situation is, that even for the 15 B2Bs that are sending automated personalized emails to my business account, I’m very unlikely to open them. I have deadlines to meet and despite if I know the business, I haven’t developed any personal relationships with them so in my mind they can’t be sending me anything that will fulfill some unfulfilled need because they don’t know me well enough.

The same can be said for prospecting emails. I’m sure you’ve experienced someone who has stalked your LinkedIn or Twitter profile to piece together your work email and send you their solution to all your problems. Or it might be your job to send those emails.  And while you or one of your prospect may click on them once in a while, they mostly end up in the same place – the trash. But this doesn’t mean that the sender of those emails are doing anything wrong, it’s just the nature of prospecting today.

And although the success rate of automated personalized emails and prospecting emails has declined, I’m not saying that you should abandon these marketing efforts, just that you can’t rely on them to generate high quantities of quality leads anymore. While you’re headed down the right path with personalization and the attempt to create a customer-centric approach, these approaches are missing a vital component to succeed today – the relationship.

How referral tracking programs succeed in high quality lead generation

Referral tracking programs are that next big breakthrough for Marketers.  Referral programs employ a relationship-focused sales approach in a strategic customer-centric way. Referral tracking programs harness the power of your current customers, partners, and employees’ relationships with their network and  incentivizes them to provide you with a warm and trusted introduction. These advocates already have an established relationship with the customer demographic that you hope to capture, and because of that, they’re referral of you is more powerful than any unsolicited prospecting email or automated personalized email.

Referral tracking programs offer automation and clear ROI while employing all-inclusive sharing options that attribute advocate referrals and measures each advocates individual success to optimize your nurturing strategy and get the most return on investment.

In fact, referral programs:

  • Create a 4X higher conversion rate than typical marketing channels (emarketer)
  • Increase LTV by 16% compared to non-referred customers (Harvard Business Review)
  • Decrease churn by 18% compared to non-referred customers (Harvard Business Review)
  • Increase a leads likeliness to buy by 400% (Nielson)

But you don’t have to trust the numbers. Discover what your individual ROI and revenue would be with a referral tracking program by using the referral ROI calculator now!

ROI Calculator

How widgets limit your referral program’s functionality

Are referral widgets just a vanity application?

Referral widgets have become a widely adopted approach for businesses so you may be considering whether this is the best path to launching your referral program. But unless you’re an ecommerce company concerned with only tracking a single transaction and not interested in generating repeat referrals, widgets fail when applied to referral programs.

In fact, when widgets are applied to most B2B referral programs they become more of a vanity application than anything else. Like vanity metrics, widgets’ trending popularity in the technology sphere might make you think that adopting the widget strategy will improve engagement since it has no barrier to refer. But for B2Bs, widgets fail to prompt and capture repeat referral action and data which is essential to a successful referral program. While a widget makes it easy for customers to make a referral, it only does this by dramatically reducing the amount of valuable information you acquire.

A full referral program however, captures customer and partner information in order to build a mutually beneficial relationship and increase the value of referrals, generate and close a higher number of referrals, and obtain repeat referrals from the same costumer.

Check out these 7 questions to help you decide if a widget is really what you want or will just act as a vanity application.

7 Questions to ask when considering a referral widget

  1. Will a widget inhibit referral program data collection?


Yes. With a widget, there is no referral program registration. Program registration provides deeper understanding of your advocates and repeat referrals. The information you collect at the time of referral using a widget is usually the bare minimum necessary to track and fulfill a reward. Typically this is just an email address. The gathered information is more concerned with delivery of the gift card than creating a relationship with your advocates.


  1. How does qualifying leads change with a referral widget compared to a full referral program?


With a widget no advocate profile is created, which means that you cannot see top advocates (other than email addresses). Additionally, there is not enough information to pass into Salesforce to match up with a contact. Therefore, no advocate data exists in Salesforce. That also means no Advocate name listed on the referral lead so you can’t contact them to prequalify the lead.


  1. But wait, can’t we just collect the name and create a profile each time a customer or partner use the widget?


Sure, but then you are forcing them to register each time and they might change their contact information so you have no way to ensure that their data will be combined properly. Furthermore, this would eliminate the fundamental advantage of the widget that it is a simple process. Once you add registration, you might as well not use the widget.


  1. Hold up, if it is an SSO system, can’t the widget talk to that system and get the info?


This is possible, but only with so much dev effort that it eliminates the value of the widget being easy to drop in. One company I talked to about this strategy attempted to do this and had to develop an entire page solely focused on supporting their new widget. It took so much dev time and effort that they never were able to implement the widget on any other page.


  1. Does adopting a widget based strategy introduce any security concerns?


Yes. Another issue with widgets is that they open up your website to the potential of getting hacked. More specifically, your website is at the mercy of the security processes and standards of the company developing the widget you are adopting. To avoid this issue marketers should make sure the widget goes through a comprehensive internal security review to avoid introducing any security risks to their web properties.


  1. But widgets at least are always available and visible to a website visitor right?


No. Another limitation of widgets is that they don’t always work when a web visitor has ad blocking turned on. About 20% of web users today utilize ad blocker technology, which means 20% of your visitors won’t be able to refer.


  1. So how do widgets keep customers or partners engaged in the referral program?


They don’t. Another issue with the widget is that you can’t accumulate rewards. Since the widget tracks the single referral and not the advocate, you can’t use reward structures such as monthly commission checks. This also discourages repeat referrals.

At Amplifinity, our platform is designed using a relationship focused sales approach, which means that providing you the best data while creating a good experience for the customer and partners who are referring you is our top priority. And with the option of single sign-on (SSO) we lower the barrier of entry into the referral program to make customer and partner referrals seamless. Learn what features will increase your referral program ROI by checking out our features page and requesting a demo today!


ROI Calculator

Questions? Email me at JSwenson@amplifinity.com

Originally appeared in Customer Think

8 Magnificent marketing predictions for 2016

What should your New Year’s resolution be for your marketing department?

Where has the year gone? Already Marty McFly has come and left and turkeys have lost their heads over Thanksgiving, which can mean only one thing. It’s that time of year again. You know the time I’m talking about. That’s right . . . year end prediction time. So let’s get right down to it. What will marketing look like in 2016?

Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, it still won’t look much like Back to the Future 2 predicted, but there will be some significant marketing changes. The importance of provable ROI, an exchange of responsibilities, the deprioritizing of some marketing initiatives will be evened out with the reprioritizing of others, etc. will all be taking place in 2016. In essence, there will be some exciting moves forward in how we go about marketing.

What does the ghost of marketing future have in store for you?

For starters . . . .

  1. Provable ROI will go from recommended to required – While this may not be much of a surprise since there has been a push for marketers to adopt technology that delivers provable ROI for a few years now, in the past it was only recommended, but in 2016 it will be a requirement for marketing departments. To stay competitive you need to know which initiatives are creating ROI and which are failing to produce. And with so many businesses adopting technology that delivers provable ROI, to stay in the game you can’t have your technology lagging behind.


  1. Marketing will take on more sales responsibility – Marketing is constantly on the move to try and deliver more qualified leads to sales. In 2016, marketing departments will take on more of your sales team’s responsibilities to continue to increase the amount of qualified leads they deliver to sales. This will expand to include:


  • Management of referral program and it’s leads
  • Creation and deployment of email templates used to prospect
  • Strategy and management of prospecting through email and by phone
  • Create customer programs for cross sell and upsell


  1. Social influencers will become more of a key part of content marketing – Social influencers have been becoming a larger part marketing these past few years and are forecasted to become an even greater part of content marketing. Social influencers have the ear (and the eyes) of your key demographic and they can ensure that your content reaches beyond the arm length of your business. In 2016, more marketers will focus on developing their relationship with influencers to harness the trust that the influencer’s network invokes and promote their business.


  1. Marketing departments will reduce their PPC budgets – PPC has been an easy standby for years. But unfortunately, more often than not first page bids has become exceedingly expensive when it comes to words that you and all your competitors are vying for. Along with that, ad block and the average searcher now prevent and ignore the noise of millions of ads that are assailing them. With this in mind, 2016 will be a time to reduce your PPC budget and reallocate the funds to channels that can deliver quality leads inexpensively. Instead, PPC will be used primarily as a way to fill in the gaps from your organic search.


  1. Customer marketing will play more of a strategic role – Customer marketing has become exceedingly important to businesses. In order to successfully upsell, cross sell, avoid churn and increase the profitability of your current clients and customer, you need customer marketers. So it’s not a surprising that it is the hot job to fill in 2016.


  1. Customer advocacy will be a high priority initiative – Customer advocacy has been rising in popularity because of its ability to deliver large amounts of high quality leads, increase upsell and cross sell opportunities, improve the LTV of a customer, and decrease churn. But of course, how successful your results are will depend on what technology you use to extend the trust of your advocate’s family, friends, and professional network to include your business. In 2016, more marketers will be developing advocacy initiatives and scouting out referral software to support it.


  1. Adoption of account based marketing will increase – In 2016, another form of personalization that will have a higher adoption rate is account based marketing. Account based marketing is an extremely personalized method of targeting key prospects from companies to marketing straight to them. Whole marketing campaign are created and aimed at one lead.  This in-depth personalization breaks through the marketing noise and attracts the attention of advocates and marketing leads at a higher rate of success.


  1. Mass personalization at scale will drive leads – Consumers and business are inundated with advertisements and emails. If you’re still doing mass email marketing you’re not going to be heard by prospects through the cascade of emails coming their way unless it personally relates to them at the right time. While in the past mass personalization has been worked into certain marketing initiatives, 2016 will be the year to drive all channels of communication and touchpoints with mass personalization at scale.



Care to continue the conversation? Tweet me @Trishawinter


Originally posted on the Salesforce blog

5 Customer success premonitions for 2016

What does the future have in store for customer success?

Glass balls get cloudy, but the vision for the future of customer success is steadily getting clearer. Customer success is still an emerging role, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that it will undergo some changes in 2016. As of right now there are still a number of different ways business are addressing scope, reporting, and the activities that fall under customer success.  But in 2016, the activities that customer success plays a part in will become more solidified.

So what are the details of how customer success’s organizational alignment and activities will change in 2016? These four predictions will lay it out.

5 Changes customer success will undergo 

  1. Customer success will closely work with marketing to manage the customer journey – In 2016, customer success will redefine the scope of their functionality. Since customer success’s focus is on the continued customer journey after the sale, it makes sense that they start to align with marketing to strategically manage the customer journey during the buying process as well. As of now, customer success ensures a customer’s continued happiness to promote a greater LTV which means they have access to the information on what makes a customer happy and what a customer would like to see improved. That information can give marketing valuable insight when deciding how to provide a consistent, engaging customer journey.
  2. The department will be managed as a profit center – Customer success is responsible for retaining and growing the business. This makes it logical then to run the department like you would run a profit center. And in 2016, that’s what will likely happen. Like a profit center, customer success will be crucial to determining which clients are most and least profitable so as not to spend time on customers that have little to no chance of cross-sell and upsell with the worst case scenario being that you break even. Understanding which customers are in the business to cross-sell and upsell will reduce the allocation of resources to less profitable customers. This will make customer success seek out technology that can provide increase cross-sell and upsell opportunities. Advocacy methods and referral programs are one avenue that will be more sought out to accomplish this.
  3. Customer success will take more ownership of digital properties that customers touch – Customer success understands what customers want, like, and dislike. As a result, in 2016, customer success will take on more responsibility that aligns with the current customers they come in contact with. User communities will be managed by customer success to further nurture and interact with current customers. In addition, customer success will direct marketing on the best forms and styles of customer communication. This insight will lead to better and more successful communication between marketers and customers.
  4. Customer success will take an increased marketing role – Customer success has the know it all that marketing needs to market successfully. That’s why in 2016, customer success will take on more of a marketing role. If there are no customer marketers to start, customer success will hire marketers internally. Marketing and customer success are tightly tied together. This will cause customer success to seek out new technology that can help customer success and marketing better align.
  5. Adoption of technology to track the health of a customer relationship will increase – Two metrics that are extremely important to customer success are the rate of client retention and churn. Minimizing churn and maximizing client retention are key to the success of customer success. That’s why in 2016, the adoption of technology that can improve and monitor the health of the customer relationship will become a high priority. This will include the research and adoption of automated advocacy and referral program.

Care to further the discussion? Email me at JVanhaaften@amplifinity.com

Best referral program



3 growth hacks for the cost of a lunch

Sometimes growth can come from your own optimization efforts. Change your paid search terms and you might squeeze out a few hundred more leads. This is commendable and hopefully every marketer is looking hard at the performance of their various campaigns and programs and working to improve them.

However, in my experience, significant growth comes from a new idea, a new method or a new partnership within the organization. Honing in on the last comment, I just want to remind everyone of the power of cross-functional collaboration. I think most people get that sales and marketing need to work together. There is even a buzz term for this ­smarketing. But here are three internal partnerships that you may not have thought much about that can truly provide growth for your company.

 1. Lunch with Demand Gen Marketing + Customer Success

Customer Success organizations are starting to get pressure to manage P&L. What this means, is that they are starting to be measured on their ability to bring in revenue for the company. Why? Well, companies are realizing that Customer Success is in a much better position than Sales to get new or recurring revenue from existing customers. Customer Success is talking to the customers on a regular basis and can feel out when a cross or up sell opportunity pops up. Even more than that, studies have shown that customers are more willing to make a referral when they are happy. Customer Success is there when the customer completes implementation and when they just pulled a super hero move solving their problem. These are great times to ask for a referral into new business unit or a new company.

The partnership: Demand Gen and Customer Success can work together for a win-win here. Customer Success has the link to the customer. Demand Gen has the expertise on how to operationalize a referral program at scale. Working together, there is a big opportunity to grow revenue and satisfy objectives in both camps.

 2. Lunch with Demand Gen Marketing + Customer Marketing

Like Customer Success, Customer Marketing has an inroad to existing customers. They might interact with them for references, at user events or by managing a user community. These are all great opportunities for Customer Marketing to facilitate some extra demand generation. You just need to give them the tools to capitalize on it. The story of this collaboration is illustrated beautifully in this SlideShare presentation: Digital Marketing and Customer Marketing just did something amazing.

The partnership: Demand Gen can work with Customer Marketing to create a customer referral program. Customer Marketing can integrate the promotion of the program into user events, reference calls and in any online communities. Customer Marketing will look good by generating revenue from customers and Demand Gen will be bringing the highest quality leads into the pipe.

 3. Lunch with Demand Gen Marketing + Channel Sales

In most companies, the channel group is so siloed from marketing that they’ve no idea what each other is doing. When you stop and think about the fact that both are doing Demand Gen, just using different channels, it seems there would be a lot to share. And that is exactly the benefit of these two groups getting together, to share best practices and see where there are mutual opportunities.

The partnership: The channel group controls partner relationships, including referral partners. If you ask how those referral partners are doing, the answer is usually, they should be producing more. Demand Gen can help with that. By taking expertise in running programs, a referral program can be created to harvest high quality leads from referral partners at scale. Channel Sales gets tracking to direct ROI and Demand Gen gets more high quality leads.

Reach out and schedule a few lunch dates with your colleagues in these departments today. Your growth hack is just an order of Pad Thai away!

SaaS referral automation

6 ways sales and marketing can align with customers and grow revenue

Originally published in Marketing Profs

Marketing leaders at B2B organizations communicate directly with their sales counterparts to review quantity and quality of inbound leads; to apprise one another of upcoming promotions and sales enablement initiatives and objectives and strategically determine the most effective ways for their teams to work together to benefit the organization as a whole. But often these meetings don’t include a topic that is possibly the most important of all: existing customers.


Sales teams are hardwired to focus on getting new logos into the pipeline and they want marketing to partner with them to make that happen. Marketers want that too. However, it is important to not lose sight of your existing customers; it is these logos that got you this far! Here are 7 ways in which aligning sales and marketing goals around current customers can be the difference between meeting quarter goals and hoping next quarter will be better

   1. Use Personas to segment your communication

Marketing invests in marketing automation or email marketing systems so that they can track their emails and ensure that they aren’t bombarding their database with too many emails.  That’s all great, but inevitably there is a time when marketing unknowingly blasts an account that sales has an active opportunity with. And it gets noticed because it is a communication that doesn’t fit the customer.  The customer is thinking, “Don’t they know me by now?”

Marketing and sales need to divide the customer base into personas and regularly discuss the buying behavior of each persona.  From there, a plan to communicate with valued information to each persona can be developed that keeps customer engagement high. Additionally, the email communication plan should be very transparent with sales so that they can flag to have their active opportunities removed from communications during the sales cycle if that makes sense.

   2. Ensure sales involvement with referrals

A great sales rep always asks a new customer if they know of anyone else who may be interested in your product. Most reps forget to ask or simply aren’t asking at the right time or in the right way.  On the flip side, sometimes marketers will start a referral program, but forget to engage sales.  Marketing and sales needs to be in tight alignment on this one.  If they are, it can be the best producing channel for leads and customer acquisition.

One of the keys here is that the referral software be integrated into the sales CRM system.  Sales needs to know if the lead came from a referral and who it came from so that they can call up that customer, thank them and get more info on the new lead.  The referral software should also have a way for sales to input new advocates and referrals into the system so that it is fully tracked and referrals are rewarded without causing operational burden for sales.

    3.  Be strategic in approaching cross-sell and up-sell

Your existing customers already know how you have helped them be awesome. Why not suggest ways you can help them be even more awesome and increase their profits by cross-selling or up-selling?

If you are selling into a large company, crossing over into another department can bring all the revenue of a brand new customer.  Usually this is left to sales to have a good enough relationship that their contact will refer them over to another department.  But what if marketing could help? Back to point #2, a referral program can be structured so that existing customers are offered incentives to refer others in their company and to help influence the buying process.

Up-sell gets more complicated because product management is in the mix.  They’ve created release notes for their next great product and it gets sent to all customers via an email blast.  Sigh.  Just a little discussion with sales and marketing could lead to a better understanding of the target customer.  Better yet, the beta customers can be tapped to provide quotes and a use case.

   4. Use the power of your social influence

Social media marketers are often an isolated group.  They are the front-end communication vehicle for the company, yet typically have limited interaction with anyone outside of marketing. And social media channels are often used to push out company news.

But remember; your customers are on the other end of your social conversations too!  Just like email, marketing and sales need to be in alignment with targeted messaging campaigns for social media – this can be at the campaign level, or it can even be at the account level where the social media team is giving “social love” to key contacts at customer accounts.

   5.  Get value from your user communities

Most user communities that exist today are a great resource for product tips and tricks.  Product management and customer support teams have dedicated resources that push content into the communities and respond to product issues.  Fantastic! But where is the effort to leverage that user community for cross sell, up-sell, referrals and advocacy?  Maybe you have a banner ad or two, but is that enough?  If you’re not sure, I’m guessing it’s probably not.

Sales and marketing needs to create goals for user communities so that specific effort can be placed on starting conversations that naturally encourage new product discussions (up-sell) or that get customers talking about what they like about a product (advocacy). Those kinds of conversations don’t organically occur (unless you’re lucky).

So, just like your social media channels, dedicate a marketer to work with sales, product management and customer support to ensure that you are leveraging your user community to its full potential.

  6.  Give ‘em some Love!

In my opinion, you can never give your customers the recognition they deserve, but it doesn’t hurt to try!  You exist because of them.  Their feedback makes you better!  Why not give them love in as many ways that you can.  In most companies, sales and field marketing is fairly well aligned on this.  They help provide company swag and customer events.  But my argument is that more can be done.

Once sales and marketing has discussed the types of customers that they want to attract, it makes sense to highlight the current customers that fit the mold.  And I’m not talking about case studies and press releases, but genuinely making these customers feel good about your brand.  This could be by giving them an award, giving them some love on social media or even inviting them to an exclusive event with executives.  If sales and marketing work together on programs like this, it can be rewarding for all involved!

Don’t wait for a miraculous organizational shift to align your sales and marketing teams; it probably won’t happen. Instead, find the mutual benefits of working collaboratively and communicating regularly. Just throw a few of these items into a calendar invite and re-introduce yourself to your sales or marketing teams.  Increasing revenue for your company is a team effort.

SaaS referral automation