How B2C referral strategies enhance B2B referral programs

Why B2B businesses should incorporate B2C referral strategies

It has been widely recognized that referral software is highly beneficial for stimulating strong revenue growth. But a successful referral program doesn’t just happen. It needs to have a dynamic promotional strategy.

Most of us will remember hearing versions of George Berkeley’s philosophical question even if we didn’t know it was him who originally conceived the notion: If a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? In 1710, the original question appeared in his work, Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge, and unintentionally and unexpectedly it applies to referral strategies today.

Berkeley’s conclusion was that, “The object of sense exist only when they are perceived; the tree therefore are in the garden . . . no longer than while there is somebody by to perceive them.”

In context, even if you have the best referral program, without the right promotional strategy that allows constant and increased perception it essentially doesn’t exist. After all, if advocates don’t know about your program there will be little to no participation, and soon enough your program really will cease to exist.

But understandably, it may be difficult for B2B business to kick off the right promotional strategy for their referral program. This is based off the idea that multi-channel advertisements and promotional strategies that drive immediate action are not as much a natural part of many B2B’s overall business model. The majority of always on advertisements, special offers, and promotions having largely been a B2C game because of their shorter or immediate sales cycle.

So instead of thinking along the lines of regular B2B promotions for your referral program, try taking a page from a B2C business. DIRECTV is one such business that has rocked the promotion of their referral program which has resulted in the utmost success.

DIRECTV’s referral strategies

DIRECTV has created an extremely successful promotional campaign for their referral program. This success stems from the fact that their referral program promotion campaign came as a natural extension of their current promotional strategies. DIRECTV employed an entertaining and engaging promotional strategy that aligns with standard practices for a B2C. But that doesn’t exclude it from being extraordinarily beneficial for B2B referral promotions.

Through the use of multiple channels and an always on approach, DIRECTV created awareness of their referral program with the majority of their customers knowing the benefits of referring their friends and how to do so. By taking a similar approach to referral promotions a B2B referral program can garner the same kind of success that DIRECTV has been able to accomplish. The channels DIRECTV used to build awareness are:

Video – DIRECTV created a variety of short commercials that were built around humor and entertainment but communicated how to refer your friends and the benefits clearly. These commercials engaged customers and their entertainment value improved how viral their videos became. For B2B businesses these videos can be posted on social media, the homepage, the account page, and on any online communities.

DIRECTV Refer a Friend IMAGE 1

DIRECTV Refer a Friend IMAGE 2

Special Offers – DIRECTV continues to create renewed special offers that reengage their customer base and continue to motivate referrals from their advocates. For a B2B, these special offers can be sent in the mail, by email, posted on social media, or posted on an online community. This will not only drive continued engagement by advocates, but help recruit new advocates by offering an incentive that is too good to pass up.

Referral Rewards

Website and Account Promotion – Together with DIRECTV’s other offers, homepage and account referral promotions help to increases their referral program awareness. This strategy can be applied to B2B business to ensure that each interaction with your brand encourages engagement in the referral program.

DIRECTV is Amplifinity's customer

Regular Email  – Regular email are advantageous by reminding customers of a way to reduce their bills when they receive it. For B2B businesses, email is already a part of the promotional strategy. Try to include referral promotions in the footer of regular subscription emails along with creating dedicated promotional referral emails.

Learn more about what it takes to develop a winning referral promotional strategy by downloading the free e-book, 8 steps to Initiating the Right Launch Sequence for your Referral program.

launching a referral program

Photo Credit: DIRECTV

Originally published on Customer Think

Questions? Email me at


A CMO’s observations of the 2016 SiriusDecisions Summit: The personalization craze vs. the real thing

They made it personal but how are you supposed to?

What I observed at the 2016 SiriusDecisions Summit is that everyone, in every category of marketing is trying to achieve personalization. From all of the emphasis from vendors and presenters on the customer experience, Account Based Marketing (ABM) and Customer Advocacy, it was clear that personalization is seen as the way to get better demand creation. This was such a strong message that even data and predictive analytics vendors were glomming on by saying they do ABM.

What this says to me is that whether you are a Customer Marketer, a Demand Gen Marketer, a Digital Marketer or a Content Marketer, you are trying to find ways to connect at a more personal level with your target buyers and your customers.

The disappointing part of the conference for me is that while everyone was talking about personalization. Very few presentations (and even fewer vendors) actually covered how to make personalization happen.

But there was one presentation that blew me away

The one presentation that began to approach this in a demonstrable way was called “Customer Advocacy: Its Impact on Demand Creation”. This was a collaborative presentation between the Account Based Marketing/Advocacy group and the Demand Creation group. Research Directors Lisa Nakano and Jen Horton went to a variety of clients and interviewed people that are undertaking advocacy programs and more importantly measuring them. They looked at marketing programs where customers are having influence over personalized 1-to-1 interactions with target buyers. From that, they specifically looked to the data to see if this is truly driving high quality demand creation.

What I liked about this presentation is that they truly addressed all levels of advocacy – from general collateral and reviews of customers, to direct referral leads and even through to customer references used by marketing and sales. What they discovered were some great correlations to demand and revenue. Here are the notable advocacy program examples that yielded indirect influence or even a direct impact on closed business.

Bomgar uses advocacy to drive awareness

Advocacy program: Bomgar runs an advocacy program run on Influitive focusing on using gamification to get customers to post in social media and provide reviews and case study content.

Results: Significant increases in social followers, mentions and posts. They doubled case study content and got 400 suggested leads.

Action Item: While none of this was carried through to a revenue analysis, any Brand or Communications Marketer should take note and work with Customer Marketing to start an awareness-level advocacy program.


Citrix tracks the impact of references

Advocacy program: The customer advocacy program at Citrix has a robust customer reference system and tracks how references used in marketing content and by sales influences deals won.

Results: They showed a clear correlation from 3 years of data showing that the number of references used correlated to pipeline and revenue.

Action Item: Customer Marketers who run reference programs are often seen as librarians and not adding significant value. It might be time to start running some analysis of your own so that you can show value and get buy-in to expand beyond references to other forms of advocacy.


ADP drives demand creation with referrals

Advocacy program: ADP runs four referral programs using the Amplifinity platform. Their largest program is for customers and they run three partner referral programs as well. ADP uses referral programs to achieve personalized 1-to-1 recommendation of their products which drives high quality leads into their system.

Results: The presentation stated that their referral programs are their #1 source of new demand creation. They see a much higher conversion to purchase with referral leads. Additionally, they’ve found that customers that came from referrals are much less likely to churn.

Action item: Digital and Demand Gen Marketers need to stop and re-read the first sentence of results. A company with annual revenue at $11B stated that referral programs are their top source of demand creation. Whoa! If you’re not already doing referrals, seems like it’s time to get started.

Referral programs are becoming integral to demand creation

It is worth mentioning that ADP isn’t the only company mentioned at the SiriusDecisions Summit that has implemented referrals as a key part of their demand creation mix. TSYS Merchant Systems was featured in a Case Study called “Constructing a Referral Channel for Organic Growth”. In it they shared their advice on how they designed and launched their program.

During the presentation they said that their investment in referral software paid for itself in the first 6 weeks. Additionally, while normal marketing-generated leads convert to purchase 1% of the time, they stated that the leads from their referral program were converting to purchase at a rate of 80%. That is astounding!

Bottom line: Advocacy is a proven personalized channel for generating revenue

It is clear that the Bomgar and Citrix examples show what we’ve all felt in our gut – that investing in Customer Advocacy just makes sense.

From the ADP and TSYS examples, it is obvious that referral programs are a direct way to establish at scale the 1-to-1 personal interaction between customers and your target buyers. And more importantly, that it results in the highest quality and highest converting demand creation.

The bad news is that according to SiriusDecision’s 2015 Customer Advocacy study only 23% of b-to-b marketers focus on advocacy for early stage demand creation. With results like those shown from ADP and TSYS I predict that many more b-to-b companies will focus on this in the coming year.

Find out if you are one of those companies by taking the quiz, “Are referrals a fit?

cta referral quiz

Questions? Tweet me @TrishaWinter

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

The lead generation matrix

Okay lead generation marketers, red pill or blue pill?

Anyone in marketing understands the continuous state of change we’ve endured since mobile and social technology entered the picture. Lots of amazing innovation that turned marketing practices on their head. I don’t know about you, but to me it feels like we’ve kind of got a handle on things for the first time in many years. We tackled SEM and SEO. We’ve got an advanced lead nurture program. Our websites are optimized for lead generation. Many of us have even found ways to adopt a level of personalization into our digital experiences. So what’s next?

Whether you realize it or not, marketers are living in a “matrix” of their own creation. A matrix that has kept upper management happy for a while. But take a good look around. Is everything as you think it is? If you take a close look at your data, you may start to notice some interesting things.

  • Your lead nurture email open and click through rates are likely eroding
  • Teleprospecting success rates are slowly declining
  • Paid search costs are rising
  • Advertising and even syndication are losing their luster
  • Activities like tradeshows and webinars that used to be for lead generation are now predominantly for awareness

But why is lead gen declining? It was going so well…

The answer depends on which pill you take.

If you take the blue pill, you can live in bliss for a few more years. Your results will still be decent, but you won’t be able to achieve demonstrable growth. That’s okay, you’ll still keep your job, mindlessly doing what you’ve been doing for the past 5 years.

If you take the red pill, you’re going to have some hard work ahead of you. You’re going to need to rethink your lead generation methods and how you engage customers. For those of you ready to take the leap, here’s what lies ahead.

  1. First, you need to stop putting so much effort into traditional outbound marketing. That’s what is collapsing. Take a hard look at the resources (both people and spend) that you are putting into activities where you are paying for leads. Take note of what’s still working and what is losing its luster so that you can reallocate those resources.
  2. Next, invest in customer advocacy and referral marketing. While your target buyers have started ignoring your message, they have some key people in their network that they trust. Referral marketing allows you to leverage those trusted advisors like customers and partners and have them approach your target buyers on your behalf. This drastically scales your lead generation efforts at a low cost.
  3. Then, you need to put focus on customer delight. Per the point above, your customers can expand your reach, but you need to make sure they are thrilled with your product and service.

Taking the red pill means you are going to have to shepherd a new lead generation strategy and culture through marketing, sales and customer success. It won’t be easy. But it is the only clear path to marketing success.

What will you decided? Will you take the blue pill and continue to add to the marketing noise? Or will you take the red pill and wake up to a whole new way of marketing?


launching a referral program

How to grow a software startup without marketing

I feel a little “Benedict Arnold” writing this as I make a living as a Marketer. However, it has become glaringly obvious to me in the past few years that early stage startups have some interesting opportunities to stimulate growth without needing to invest scarce funding in Marketing headcount. When the company takes off, by all means get some Marketers in to help scale. In the meantime, here are the key things you need to do.

1. Build a website
I think everyone gets this one. You need a website, but don’t outsource this! The one hire I recommend you make is a Digital Marketer who gets how to build a lead converting website, understands SEO and SEM.  Your website needs to be a dynamic part of your marketing strategy where you are constantly working to improve traffic to your site from organic search and conversion once they get there.

The next step in maturity once you have the funds will be to make sure you show up in search for the key buying terms for your product. Again, do not outsource! Make sure your Digital Marketer is Google certified and knows their stuff, then turn them loose. They will get farther than any agency because they understand your product(s) and are a part of your business.

2. Keep software to a minimum
Vendors would have you believe that you need marketing automation as soon as you start generating leads. But really, you don’t need it until you are much larger and even then you might not need all the bells and whistles that marketing automation is based on. If you want to email product releases to customers, just use your email system. Lead nurturing with email is starting to become an outdated practice as prospects are filtering and ignoring vendor emails as a standard.

That means that email marketing software (the simple version of what marketing automation is based on) is no longer a must have either.CRM is a tougher call. You are going to want to keep track of your customers and you’ll want CRM functionality as you grow. There are some inexpensive entry level products for startups. But don’t be bullied into it. The important thing is to keep a clear record of your customers, their contact information, the product(s) they have and a way to keep basic notes on your interactions with them. You will have turnover and you’ll want to make sure that customer IP doesn’t leave with your employees.

3. Start a referral program
So if you don’t have marketing, how are you going to grow your business? The answer is with a referral program. Uber, Dropbox, AirBnB and countless others achieved growth via referrals. It works because your happy customers are doing the marketing work for you. They are finding the right prospects that are interested in your products. This is critical to helping you scale because you don’t have the money to have the few precious people who are selling chase down a bunch of bad leads. You need them focused on the highest quality leads and referrals from people who already use your product are the answer.

This is the one place I recommend you invest in a solid referral software solution that can grow with your business. The reason for this is because tracking referrals is not an easy thing. You need to connect a prospect to an advocate across multiple digital avenues and through the sales cycle. If anything breaks or is missed, you can easily give your once happy customers a very disappointing experience.

4. Spoil your customers more than your kids I can’t stress enough how important this last step is. Gone are the days where customers use your product and are satisfied that’s enough. They expect you to delight them. They expect you to treat them like they are precious and valued. This is particularly true in software where you have a long term subscription relationship. You constantly have to be earning their business.

So what can you do? Be proactive and give them value beyond what your product does. Don’t wait for problems to come in, solicit feedback from customers often. Invite them to focus groups with their peers to discuss how to use the product or how it can be improved. Monitor your customer’s use of your product and consult with them on how they can get more value.

And of course, random acts of kindness don’t hurt either. Call them to congratulate them on a successful referral and make them feel special. Send something fun to them in social media or via direct mail just because. If you aren’t giving them all the love and support that a parent would, they just might start thinking they aren’t wanted and take their business elsewhere.

ROI Calculator

Care to further the discussion? Tweet me @Trishawinter

Software ROI that’s a piece of cake to measure

Throughout my 20 years as a marketer, the hardest question to answer has always been “Can you prove that this [insert latest marketing program or technology] is going to make us money?” Even with all of our current capabilities to collect data, there are still many areas of marketing where the honest answer is “We can’t prove the “it,” but we believe this will help us.”

Unless you’ve done “it” before, you have to rely on reference calls with a star customer to prove that “it” works. Kind of a skewed representation of value, which doesn’t always help you feel confident that your new initiative is going to move the revenue needle.

The good news is that with all of today’s capabilities to collect data, software companies are able to collect the information on how effective their product is for their customers. If they’ve got some good analysis behind it, they can even predict your results.

Here are some questions to ask the next time you are looking to bring on a new technology:

  1. What is the average result for a company of my size/situation?
  2. Is there a wide variation in that result across your customers?
  3. What bottom line cost savings or top line revenue growth can I expect to see in year 1, year 2 and year 3?
  4. What ROI can I expect to achieve in year 1, year 2 and year 3?
  5. What are the key factors that affect ROI year over year?

If you just read these question and scoffed because you don’t think any company can accurately predict how their software will affect your revenue, think again. Amplifinity has analyzed all of the data on its referral automation platform over the past 3 years and can provide this information based on real customer use. If you are tired of not having a solid argument to drive your ideas for demand generation, I encourage you to test drive Amplifinity’s ROI Calculator. Just by inputting the number of your customers, employees or partners and identifying your average annual revenue for a single customer, the calculator generates your predicted results based on real customer data.

If you are dealing with a vendor that can’t provide answers to your ROI questions, you might want to think about changing your investment to something like referral software that can truly demonstrate success.

ROI Calculator