#Growthhacking: 5 Ways to Boost Your Lead Generation

How many of you have stuck to your New Year’s Resolutions? Many of us start the year with lofty goals for lead generation, but by the time Q2 ends, we become disillusioned with how much work is left to go. Maybe we don’t see the progress that we wanted, and we consider giving up entirely.

But all hope isn’t lost! Even if you didn’t see the lead gen growth that you wanted in the first or second quarters, there’s still plenty of time to meet and even exceed your goals.

Referrals are a great source of lead generation. In fact, they produce a higher quality of lead, with more of a focus on building connections as opposed to just cold calling. But even referral channels aren’t foolproof — you need to do them correctly if you want to see results. Here are five ways that you can supercharge your lead generation.

Know where you stand

How can you fix your lead generation if you don’t know what’s broken? It’s helpful to compare yourself against industry benchmarks to see how you stack up. As referenced in some of our annual benchmark reports, the kind of performance you can expect from referral partners is not the same kind of performance you can expect from customers. Make sure that you are comparing “like for like” when optimizing your program is key.. Once you do that, you can see where your programs exceed expectations and where there’s room for improvement.

Rethink where your leads are coming from

The quality of the lead is often determined by the source of the lead. This is why referrals are such a good option, but it goes even further than that. For example, a message on social media is an easy way to give a referral, but it isn’t always the most effective — only one percent of social media leads from customers convert, and nearly none from referral partners do. For example, social media is a great way to drive awareness through referral partners, but social generated leads tend to convert at a lower rate as compared to lead suggestion tools. Furthermore,verbal referrals are consistently the most successful. By empowering the right referrals sources with the right tools, you can greatly improve lead generation.

Engage your sales team

Sales involvement in a referral program is the secret ingredient to successful lead generation. In customer referral programs, lead quality increases 17 percent with sales involvement, and in partner referral programs it increases by 10 percent. Developing a formal sales engagement plan, then, might be beneficial to increasing the number of leads generated. Focus on making it easy for your sales team to get involved. This will help them actually get excited about providing referrals, which will increase leadgen!

Rethink your Incentives

Incentives encourage action. But there’s a big difference between an incentive that’s good, and one that either doesn’t produce the right results or isn’t cost effective enough to sustain itself. Calculating the right incentives is often the deciding factor in the success of your program.But when done correctly, great incentives will encourage repeat referrals, and can get more people generating leads than ever before.

Automate

All of these tips are great, but they often aren’t realistic for busy business owners. Who has time to be constantly tracking metrics, encouraging verbal referrals, engaging sales teams and handing out incentives? That’s why more people are turning to automated referral channels managed at scale. These are easy to adjust as needed, and they stay running without constant supervision! Best of all, they’re easy for partners and customers alike to use — ensuring that businesses see more lead generation, and more revenue growth.

Tips For Getting Your Sales Team Excited About Referrals

Your sales department is key to the success of your referral program, so it’s important to get them involved early and often. Here are some tips you can use to get your sales team excited about, and asking for, referrals.

Promote your referral program

To start, you need to promote your referral program to sales the same way that you are promoting the referral program to your partners and customers. Why? Because the more they know about the program, the more likely they are to be actively engaged in it. You can promote your program a few different ways:

  • Create an email blast – You can send email blasts to your sales team educating them on the program, and emphasizing the value of referrals.
  • Brand your program – By giving your program an internal brand, with a specific look and feel, you make it easily recognizable to the sales team.
  • Invest in promotional materials – Hang up flyers and banners in the office. Include details about the referral program to create awareness and understanding. You can even put flyers in common areas, like the company kitchen or bathrooms, that teach sales how to start asking for referrals. If you have the budget, you can also get t-shirts or mugs for the sales team. Make referrals an exciting initiative for the entire company!
  • Create a program owner – In all your promo materials, emails and flyers you should clearly identify who owns the program, along with contact information, so that anyone with questions, comments or concerns knows who to go to.

Structure your referral program to incentivize sales

By structuring your program in a way that enables advocate ownership, your sales team can override the normal lead routing rules. This makes it so any referrals that come from the advocates owned by a specific salesperson go to that salesperson instead of the regular routing rules. We find this type of referral functionality motivates sales to invite and nurture customers to become engaged advocates while working their referrals. This also helps motivate sales to meet quotas and get their commission.

Make it easy for sales to take part in the referral program

You can promote and incentivize your sales team all you want, but if it isn’t easy to see advocate and referral data, and recruit and nurture customers, sales won’t put the effort in. Your referral program shouldn’t add unnecessary work for your sales team. That’s why having the referral program data and functionality integrated into the sales CRM is critical. Functionality and data you should have includes:

  • The ability to invite customers to the program.
  • Seeing referring advocate information to reach out and qualify the referral and get a facilitated introduction.
  • Seeing advocate referral metrics in order to nurture them to refer multiple times.
  • The ability to input trackable verbal referrals for both registered and unregistered advocates.
  • See lead source as a referral.

For more referral program management tips and tricks, check out the resources section of www.amplifinity.com.

How Verbal Referrals Can Increase Advocate Referrals

We all know that customers, like ourselves, want things to be easy. The more barriers you have in your sales cycle or on your lead forms, the less likely you are to convert all of those leads into opportunities. As marketers, it’s important for us to make every step of the customer journey  easy – starting at the first point of contact, all the way through to the end. According to a survey from McKinsey, making the customer journey as easy as possible increased revenue growth by 10-15%. The survey also found that an easy and effortless customer journey resulted in happier customers, as positive customer experience ratings increased by 20 percent.

Look at companies, like Amazon for example, who have perfected the easy customer journey. By giving users the option to enable 1-click purchase, Amazon removed the barriers that might otherwise stall an online purchase. How can you replicate a similar ease of use for your referral marketing program? You can start by automating and tracking verbal referrals within your system.

Verbal referrals, also referred to as offline referrals, can be difficult. When you have a customer or partner who is ready to pass you a warm introduction to someone excited about your product or service, the last thing you want to do is ask them to stop and fill out a form online or apply to join your program. Instead, you want to be able to receive that referral lead and, in the easiest way possible, be able to enter the referral into your program workflow and make sure it is tracked back to the partner or customer for proper credit. If you are currently trying to track these types of referrals manually, it’s likely the most difficult part of managing a referral marketing program.

By incorporating verbal referral functionality into your referral workflow, you can eliminate a pain point for advocates who make verbal referrals but don’t get the credit due to a lack of attribution in the existing CRM or system of record. By allowing for verbal referrals, your advocates aren’t tied to lead forms through your dedicated system. Instead, they are empowered to leverage those close connections through the power of conversation. Chances are, your advocate will thank you, and be more willing to refer leads in the future.

Listen, people are busy and time is money. We all know this. That’s why it’s more important than ever to track verbal referrals. By allowing proper attribution for verbal referrals, you are allowing the advocate to keep leads engaged and collect those verbal referrals when a lead might not have time to fill out a form. Simply put. a verbal referral reduces the amount of effort an advocate has to put forth in the referral process.

And if you’re still not convinced, listen up. By offering verbal referral functionality as part of your program, you give customers the option to simplify their referral process which, in turn, increases engagement with the referral program. If you incentivize the enrollment process, advocates making verbal referrals are automatically sent an invite to your program if they aren’t already registered. Because the advocate has already made at least one referral, they are more inclined to register to be part of your program. When that verbal referral turns from a lead to a customer, your advocate will be notified and can see their reward which will encourage future referral engagement with your program.

In summary, having the functionality within your program to track and reward verbal referrals is essential to the success of your program – so remove those barriers and increase your advocate engagement! If you’d like to learn more about how you can increase your referral ROI, check out the Amplifinity ROI calculator.

Building a Referral Partner Channel: Step 8 – How to scale your referral partner program

In the last article in this series, I highlighted the key metrics for running a referral partner program. But if you want to grow your program, the best place to start is to benchmark those metrics. You can compare your results to other companies running referral partner programs in the annual data report: The State of Business Partner Referral Programs.

After developing benchmarks, you can now set some goals for growth and identify opportunities for changes that can drive that growth. In this article I will walk you through the most common opportunities for growth and how to capitalize on them.

Key areas to consider to drive program growth:

  1. Do I have great partners, but just not enough?
  2. Is my program too complex or too limited for what my partners need?
  3. Is the incentive not motivating enough activity?
  4. Are my partners becoming disengaged with the program?

1. Do I have great partners, but just not enough?

While you may have referral partners already, in order to meet your growth objectives the question becomes how do I get more of those successful referral partners? There are a few things to consider here:

  1. Have you exhausted the pool of partners that you would categorize as similar to the ones that you already have? For instance, if you have a referral program aimed at small business accountants, there are probably a bunch more out there you could recruit.
  2. If the answer to the first question is yes, there are no other partners like the ones you have, then it’s time to consider who else in your partner ecosystem could be a referral partner? What about all of those ISVs that sell to the same target buyer as you? Fundamentally, you need to think about who touches your target buyer and consider if they are in a position to refer your product or service.
  3. If you are still looking for more options, how about your resellers? I’m not talking about your top tier resellers, but rather think about referrals as an entry and exit point from a reseller arrangement. For entry try establishing a referral program as a qualification step for a future reseller to prove they can reach the target buyer before putting in the effort to make them a reseller. Regarding reseller exit, there are times when your business model changes (like the shift from on premise to the cloud) and not all resellers will be able to make the shift.

2. Is my referral partner program too complex or too limited for what my partners need?

The red flag here might be initial enthusiasm, then a drop off in activity. You may want to survey your partners to understand what the issue is. There are a lot of referral software out that that allows you to automate processes for partners to make it easy to join by reducing barrier to entry, track referrals,  and receive referral incentives.

Automation also removing operational hassle from the partner and making it easy to make referrals. This helps you gain their trust and increase their desire to keep referring business your way.

3. Is the incentive not motivating enough activity?

If you’ve got lower than expected participation, it just might be that your reward isn’t high enough. Revisit Step 4 in this series – How to incentivize referral partners to get a better feel for industry standards and approaches. If you are questioning your incentive, I’d encourage you to go back to your inbound marketing team and ask them what their CPL and CPA is. The goal is to be less that the cost of a marketing generated acquisition, but not so low that you are cheating your partners.

If you’re considering a change in incentive to drive more activity, make sure you also consider reward structures that encourage repeat referrals.

Lastly, make sure you aren’t “punishing” your partners for earning a reward. Put payment transaction fees and currency exchange in your budget so that the partners get what’s been advertised.

4. Are my partners becoming disengaged with the program?

Lack of engagement with a program is a daily struggle for any marketer. Luckily, there are a few key things you can do to help here with minimal effort.

  • Communicate – but automate first.  As a part of your referral tracking, each time a referral lead hits a different status milestone (think opportunity stages) you can trigger an email to be sent to the partner to let them know that their referral is making progress.
  • Let the data trigger touchpoints. Setup email that trigger based on dashboards/reports that provide you the list of those partners that haven’t logged in in over 30 days, those that have made referrals, but haven’t been successful, those that have been incredibly successful, etc. See previous article on Key Metrics to see examples and get other ideas of what to track. [add hyperlink once live]
  • Give partners full transparency. Nothing frustrates a partner more than not knowing the status of their referral and/or reward. Make sure they also have access to all the data from their personal referral activity in their referral portal.

 

 

referral partner program, referral partners, channel partners
If you can relate to any of these four points it is probably time to automate your referral partner program. The good news is that referral partner program software can remove the operational hassle of referral tracking, attribution and reward fulfillment.

I talk to a lot of people running an existing referral partner program and it is all too common for me to hear, “Honestly, I haven’t promoted the program much because I just can’t handle the manual management of the program without hiring more people . . . and that isn’t going to happen.”

Don’t let this powerful channel go underutilized because you’re still using spreadsheets! Learn how you can scale your referral partner program today!

Previous articles in this series:

Step 1 – How to identify potential partners

Step 2 – How to engage and recruit partners  

Step 3 – How to enable referral partners

Step 4 – How to incentivize referral partners 

Step 5 – How to onboard referral partners 

Step 6 – How to keep referral partners engaged

Step 7 – Key metrics for referral partner programs

Building a Referral Partner Channel: Step 6 – How to keep referral partners engaged

Once you’ve onboarded your referral partners, you’ll need to find ways to keep them engaged and referring. As I discussed in Step 3 – How to enable referral partners, you’ve got to make it easy for partners to make referrals and give them full transparency into their progress. This is the foundation for engagement, but let’s build on that with ways to keep the productivity high.

Here are 7 activities to keep referral partners engaged:

  1. Regular status update communications
  2. Regular program and success story communications
  3. Involvement of sales to drive referral activity
  4. Special promotions – both internal and external
  5. Coaching programs – to improve performance of struggling partners
  6. Escalating incentives to encourage repeat referrals
  7. Non-monetary recognition

1. Regular status update communications

You can have the best portal in the world, but unless you are getting the attention of your referral partners, they’ll forget to visit. Automated email communications alerting them to status changes in their referrals is a great way to stay top of mind with little effort. Typical statuses to alert on would be when a referral lead is accepted by sales/qualified, when it becomes an opportunity, when it hits the various opportunity stages and of course closed won. In addition, you’ll want to notify them when they have earned their reward – which might be at closed won or after a retention period.

Simple, automated emails on referral status can keep them involved to influence the referred opportunity, but also reminds them of your program and how they can earn more. Links in your emails drive referral partners back to the portal to keep referring.

2. Regular program and success story communications

Not all referral partners will always have a referral in the pipeline to get status notifications on so you need to also provide regular communication on the program. A monthly newsletter can be a great way to do this, but make sure the content adds value to them and isn’t just “hey, remember us, we have a program”. Instead, focus on how you can make them a better referral partner. Give them fresh content on the target buyer and tips on how to make referrals. More importantly, showcase success stories of other referral partners.

This can be a simple as giving kudos to top performers, but the real value is in telling their story. How did a partner get 10 successful referrals in 1 month? What is the advice of your top referring partners? What is the key to their success? Take a few hours each month to interview a partner or two and highlight their story. I guarantee it will help to motivate and drive activity from your referral partners.

3. Involvement of sales to drive referral activity

If your direct and/or channel sales teams are not involved in recruiting referral partners and sourcing referrals from them – they should be! This has been proven as the most effective way to drive referral success.

To get them involved, make sure there is sufficient motivation in place. This doesn’t have to be compensation. For a direct sales team, consider breaking lead assignment rules so that every referral lead that comes from a partner they recruited goes to them. For business development, ensure your compensation plan accounts not just for partner recruitment, but also for the production of referrals from those partners.

You’ll also need to ensure sales has the right tools to input and track their activity. Enable sales with:

  • A one-click invite in Salesforce for partners who aren’t yet in the program
  • Ability to input verbal referrals in Salesforce
  • Ability to “own” partners – sales leadership can then track with reports in Salesforce to drive activity and sales ops can use to route leads
  • No hassle – everything tracked and automated so they can focus on selling/biz dev versus rewards.

4. Special promotions – both internal and external

Sometimes you need to do something special to get people to take notice and take action. Some of the most successful referral partner programs have big bang promotions to drive a ton of activity in a short period of time.

This can be a promotion internally to sales where there are special incentives for the latest tech gear, special trip, or whatever motivates your sales team. Get buy-in from sales leadership that during this day or week period that they spend the majority of their time filling the pipeline with leads from referral partners buy getting in front of them and asking.

The special promotion can also work going direct to your referral partners and adding a bonus incentive for referrals made during a short period of time. That incentive could be a higher bounty or percentage of revenue, but it could also be time with the CEO or training that they would normally have to pay for.

5. Coaching programs – to improve performance of struggling referral partners

Some referral partners will struggle. They may have signed up to become a partner thinking they were going to make a killing, made a ton of referrals only to have none of them make a purchase. You’ll also have some referral partners who are tentative to refer. Run reports each month on these under performers and make a point to have marketing or sales reach out and have a coaching session with them. Find out what their issue is. Some typical issues are:

  • A lack of understanding of the target buyer and persona profiles – meaning they aren’t referring the right people/companies.
  • Not making one-to-one referrals – blasting in social media is not the way to drive referral leads. A specific ask done in a direct digital or verbal conversation is the way to initiate interest.
  • Not sure when to make the ask – some partners may be leery on the best time to recommend your product to their network.
  • Not sure how to properly message the value of your product or service – hopefully you’ve got a lot of this baked into your referral methods, but even so, make sure your partners are solid in the value propositions that drive interest with your target personas.

6. Escalating incentives to encourage repeat referrals

Many referral partner programs work because you can go broad with volume of partners and even if they only make a few referrals a year, it can drive significant revenue. If you can increase the average number of referrals made across your referral partners, you can make a big impact. One of the best ways to do this is to provide increasing incentives attached to achievement levels.

This could be increasing percentage of revenue based on the number of successful referrals during a year period. Alternatively, you can bump a referral partner to a higher incentive level if their referrals move quickly through the sales cycle or if they played an influential role in the process. And certainly, there could be a bar at which the partner relationship could expand to a reseller.

Whatever your achievement bars, make partners well aware of them so that they can set goals and work to achieve them. Send them regular communications on how they are doing toward reaching the next level (this can be part of those automated status emails). This will keep partners engaged and referring throughout the year.

7. Non-monetary recognition

Of course you have referral fees for your partners, but there are additional ways you can recognize them for their efforts. Mentioning them in the monthly newsletter with their success story is a great way to make them feel engaged. Additionally, you can offer special meetings with the CEO to top performers A call from your Channel Chief thanking them for their effort can also go a long way. From the marketing side, you could show some love by helping to promote their business through your social feeds.

Fundamentally,  you’ll want to identify top performers, make them feel appreciated and encourage continued productivity.

In the next article in the series I’ll cover the key metrics to collect for referral partner programs and the final article in the series will cover how to use those metrics to grow your program.

Previous articles in this series:

Step 1 – How to identify potential partners 

Step 2 – How to engage and recruit partners 

Step 3 – How to enable referral partners

Step 4 – How to incentivize referral partners

Step 5 – How to onboard referral partners 

Building a Referral Partner Channel: Step 4 – How to incentivize referral partners

There are many different mechanisms to incentivize your referral partners. The key is finding the right mix of appropriate amount, structure and motivation – while ensuring you can handle the fulfillment! In this article in our Building a Referral Partner Channel series, I’ll cover those elements and provide best practices so you can make these key decisions.

Choosing the best reward amount for referral partners

Referral partner fees typically fall between 5%-25% of first year revenue. While many programs use percentage of revenue, for those with a more repeatable product price a simple flat-rate bounty can work as well. The factors to choosing the appropriate reward amount are:

  • Consider if you want to reward higher amounts/percentage of revenue for higher tier partners.
  • Consider if you want to motivate repeat referrals by having an escalating reward based on the number of successful referrals within a time period.
  • Consider if you want to vary the reward based on deal involvement or lead stage.

According to The State of Business Partner Referral Programs – Annual Report, the average reward payment for a referral partner is $182. Keep in mind, this is an average across many partner referral programs with a high variance in purchase amount for the various products and solutions. The best way to checkpoint your reward amount strategy is to work with marketing to determine their cost per acquisition (CPA) of a customer coming from inbound efforts (see calculation below). Your referral fee should always come in much lower than the marketing CPA.

Structuring your reward to meet business needs

There are 4 key factors you need to consider when structuring your reward:

  • Calculation – This can be a flat bounty, a bounty by product purchased or percentage of revenue. And per the amount discussion, you may want to offer different rates for different partner types or deal involvement.
  • Escalation – Setting a achievement levels with higher payouts is a great way to incentivize repeat referrals.
  • Timing – If you’ve got a subscription product, you may want to consider a retention period before payout to the partner to insure that the new customer is sticky. In these scenarios, you may want to consider rewarding at multiple stages to keep the partner engaged. For instance 25% of the reward at purchase and 75% after 6 months retention.
  • Accrual – For highly productive programs, it may make sense to accrue reward payments to reduce transaction fees and provide higher accumulated payouts.

With any incentive plan, make sure it is manageable for you to execute on. The more you can automate in your referral system, the easier this will be to handle. Paying partners fairly and quickly is a key factor in success.

 

Adding motivation for repeat referral activity

Structuring your rewards with higher levels of achievement and payout is a great way to motivate referral frequency. Additionally, you can consider special reward promotions to encourage volume during slow business periods. Some examples of this are:

  • Holding a “partner day” where the sales team and the partners have extra incentives to collect referrals. This can be an increased reward for any referrals that came in that day or could be raffle prizes.
  • Incentivizing the sales team to collect referrals from your partners is a great way to drive activity. Talk with sales leadership as this is sometimes frowned upon as a “double incentive”, but many sales teams appreciate prizes or swag for quarterly referral winners.
  • Add a big goal reward that would be beneficial to strengthening the relationship with your best performing partners. Set a bar for a high number of successful referrals that is reachable for your top referral partners. The incentive for reaching this does not have to be a cash payout, but perhaps they could get a trip to meet with the CEO or be invited to sales club trips. If the partner is also a user of your product, the incentive could be a free year of your product/service.

Key steps to reduce operational hassle

Anyone who has worked in an incentives or sales ops group knows that incentive programs can be a challenge to manage on the back end. For the scale that you can achieve with referral partners, you’ll need to automate this process or else it will become unmanageable without a drastic increase in headcount. Here are the key steps to automate so that you can focus your time on engaging partners:

  • Automate the collection of tax information. You can do this either at registration or have it triggered when the partner reaches the taxable limit in reward payouts.
  • Set hard-fast rules for reward calculation based on data collected in your referral system and/or from your CRM. If you can’t collect data on it, don’t make it a factor for the reward amount. Once you have clear rules based on data, automate reward calculation so there are never disputes.
  • Similarly, make sure you have clear escalation rules and data so that reward increases can also be managed automatically.
  • Integrate your referral program with a fulfillment/payments vendor so that you don’t have to deal with paying out the rewards. Payouts should be triggered automatically once the success criteria is met (typically purchase).
  • Provide real-time information on rewards earned and paid to your referral partners within their personal referral portals. No one wants to field calls on payments so make it very easy for them to access this information. Additionally, automate email communications to the partner when a reward is earned so they are informed right when it happens.

Now that you’ve figured out how to incentivize your referral partners, you’ll want to ensure you have a smooth process for onboarding. I’ll cover how to onboard referral partners in the next article in this series. 

In the meantime, become informed on the benchmarks that demonstrate a successful partner referral program in the report,  The State of Business Partner Referral Programs.

Previous articles in this series:

Step 1 – How to identify potential partners 

Step 2 – How to engage and recruit partners 

Step 3 – How to enable referral partners