How to go above and beyond refer-a-friend with professional referral marketing

How B2Bs can avoid getting stuck in the refer-a-friend zone

Automated referral marketing software is a semi-new creation in the tech world that has only relatively recently started to get major recognition and acceptance for its remarkable revenue generation. But even with this recognition the adoption of referral marketing programs can still get confusing with all the different terminology companies are using. One such term that has gotten a bit jumbled in its meaning as referral marketing evolved is the B2C referral term refer-a-friend.


During the point at which referral marketing programs started to develop, they were mainly focused on the B2C arena, even though many B2B Salespeople still asked for referrals. Thus came the popularity and acceptance of the B2C term, refer-a-friend, in regards to referral marketing. And so it is not surprising that for a long time this term defined the referral marketing space and the features that were developed to support referrals.

But what’s the big deal?

Well we all know what it means to get stuck in the ‘friend zone’. But how about when a B2B gets stuck in the refer-a-friend zone? Like the ‘friend zone’, the refer-a-friend zone fails to nurture any referral relationships beyond that of a simple friend relationship due to its in-ability to perform the necessary actions and processes needed to align with a next level referral relationship, aka a business relationships.

But while more B2B focused referral programs came out, many still couldn’t shake some of the refer-a-friend functionality or the term. In other words, many referral marketing programs that were deemed fit for B2Bs still stuck them in the refer-a-friend zone because of their lack of features that aligned with B2B functionality, integrations, and processes. And while refer-a-friend works for precipitating referrals for B2C business between friends or acquaintances at the base level, it doesn’t have the functionality to nurture referrals in a business relationship.

The reality is, B2B and B2C businesses have very different demographics. And B2B businesses need technology that supports their demographic and business processes. That’s why company’s like ADT and ADP have adopted professional referral marketing programs that have features that nurture their professional customers and partners to make referrals.

To avoid getting stuck in the refer-a-friend zone understand the differences between a refer-a-friend program and a professional referral marketing program.

Refer-a-friend vs. a professional referral marketing program

Refer-a-friend programs

  • The referral program exists online only.
  • Referrals are part of an ecommerce buy flow.
  • Referrals have a lower life-time value with less opportunity to engage Advocates.
  • Refer-a-friend is best for shopping cart referrals.
  • It resides as an added promotional or campaign tool to increase engagement during key times of the year.
  • It has a simple reward structures.
  • It has minimal integration options

Professional B2B referral marketing programs

  • Referrals are integrated into the lead buy flow.
  • Sales teams have referral data and functionality integrated into their current technology.
  • Partner referrals are used to strategically manage partners.
  • The referral program is always live for constant engagement and revenue growth.
  • They have sophisticated reward structures to keep Advocates referring multiple times.
  • Advocates are segmented with targeted messages, rewards, and positioning.

By breaking down the differentiation between refer-a-friend programs and professional B2B referral marketing programs you can decide what type of program can best move you forward in your lead generation efforts to capture a 35% conversion rate from referral to purchase, (Amplifinity).  Discover what your ROI could be with a professional referral marketing program by trying the ROI calculator today.


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

How to find budget for your marketing (referral marketing) initiative

Allegory of a marketing budget

If you have never read Plato’s Allegory of a Cave or even if you have, you may have not connected it to business today.  But when you’re trying to get budget for new marketing (referral marketing) initiatives the Allegory of a Cave resonates with the predicament that many marketers are facing.

In Plato’s Allegory of a Cave, men have been chained facing a wall their whole life. The fire behind them casts shadows onto the wall in front of them.

Out of all the men, one is freed. Slowly, he makes his way out of the cave into the light of day. At first he is blinded by the light, but when his eyes adjust he is able to make out the world around him. The man descends back into the cave to tell the other men of the real world and the marvels it offers, but he is blind in the dark now that his eyes have adjusted to the light. The men chained to the wall however see the man’s blindness as evidence of the danger the world above poses and don’t believe the man.  The shadows are the only reality they have every known and they can’t conceive that anything better exists outside the cave.

Marketers who have seen the light of day often experience a very similar struggle to the one that Plato described in the Allegory of a Cave when trying to get budget for new marketing initiatives like referral marketing. But it’s not because the decisions-makers are ineffective or deaf to what they’re saying, but that they haven’t been educated in the same manner.

It can be very difficult to get someone to step away from what they know and into what they consider the unknown. Many times, experienced Marketers are so busy focusing on the shadows of leads from noisy marketing channels (PPC, social media, and email) and trying to make them real that they can’t focus on a new path to greater lead generation.  It’s up to you to show them the way.

But how do you convince decision-makers to give you budget for referral marketing?

  1. The me-too strategy – You might remember the well-loved children’s book, Me Too, by Mercer Mayer. One of the very first pages reads, “When my little sister saw me riding my skateboard she said . . . ‘Me too!’” Most likely you’ve got a competitor who has already discovered the advantages of referral marketing, or at least are talking about it. If you present a decision-maker with this they’ll be more inclined to look into referral marketing and find budget for it.
  2. Get help from your peers – Having a peer send an article or study about referral marketing to your boss/CEO helps to educate them and enforces the idea that referral marketing has support. Even if your boss isn’t the decision-maker it helps when a proposal comes from further up the ladder.
  3. Use Sales – When you’re trying to sell your CEO on something, why not bring in someone whose job it is to sell. By making the referral marketing proposal with Sales you’ll deliver your CEO the unexpected and it will be hard to say no to the first thing you’ve ever worked together on. And if you really want to make it hard for them to say no, throw a curve ball by bringing in Customer Success for the pitch also.
  4. Reallocate funds– Sometime no matter how hard you sell an initiative there just isn’t budget for it. However, that doesn’t mean this is the end. It may not be about getting or asking for budget, but creating room in your current budget for your new marketing initiative by reallocate funds from initiatives that aren’t producing quality leads anymore.  Referral marketing has a 4x better conversion rate than traditional marketing leads (emarketer). Look at your conversion rates and decide what money you can reallocate to a referral marketing initiative.

Do you want to hear from other business professionals about how you can get budget for your marketing initiative? Try listening to the webinar, Getting Budget for New Projects: Advice from CMO’s.

And to make a case for adopting referral marketing try the ROI calculator to determine what your ROI would be with a referral program.

ROI Calculator

How referral software bridges the chasm of B2B technology adoption

Escape the Neverland of the technology adoption life cycle with referral software

There are many stories and movies that document and romanticize the idea of never growing up (Peter Pan and Pippi Longstocking). And it’s not hard to see why. Childhood and adolescences is a time full of opportunity, innovation, and creativity without the responsibility or social expectation of having everything figured out. This is very similar to the technology adoption life cycle during the innovators and early adopters stages, from Geoffrey A. Moore’s book, Crossing the Chasm. The type of creative and experimental license and development that takes place during these stages of the technology adoption life cycle is only accepted at this time because of the psychological characteristics that categorize innovators and early adopters.

  • Innovators – Innovators are forgiving. They know your technology will have its challenges and maybe some issues but they embrace it because they want to be cutting edge.
  • Early adopters – Early adopters can see the potential of your technology before it has presented proven or widespread results. However, their belief in your product includes the expectation that everything is working properly.

Both innovators and early adopters are characterized by their lack of focus on a technology’s proven results as opposed to its ability to have great future results and put them ahead of the curve.

But while those adopters are necessary to amass in the early evolution of your technology’s development, no business wants their growth to halt at the early adopters stage of technology adoption. After all, even Wendy from J.M. Barrie’s classic, Peter Pan, is ready to grow up and leave Neverland eventually. Just as every startup will inevitably attempt to get their technology adoption to grow and cross the chasm to reach the early majority. Unfortunately, unlike Peter Pan, fairy dust and happy thoughts will not fly you over the chasm like it flew the Darlings home (although it would be great if it did).

When trying to cross the chasm to grow your customer acquisition you have to understand the psychological characteristics that are inherent in the early majority to know the cause of the chasm between the early adopters and the early majority. These characteristics include:

  • Pragmatism
  • A desire for proven results
  • The craving for referrals and reviews from trusted sources
  • Evidence of program support

By understanding the characteristics that cause the chasm you can then start to figure out how to construct a bridge between your early adopter and the early majority.  Otherwise, like many other startups or new technologies, you might get stuck in the Neverland of technology adoption with little chance for growth.

So what will help you construct that bridge?

The early majority aren’t looking for your assurances on how reliable and cutting edge you are, they need to hear that from sources outside your business that have experienced the benefits and challenges of your technology. This means that your business isn’t the one who can physically layout the bricks to build the bridge, your customers and partners are.

But as you know, to be disruptive you need to have control, automation, and the ability to scale in all your processes and initiatives, including advocacy. Automated referral programs provide those features.

How to give Advocates the materials and motivation to build your bridge

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While you may not be able to directly bridge the gap between early adopters and the early majority, you do have the opportunity to increase the referral reach and activity of your current customers and partners by giving them the tools that optimize the process. And lucky for you, innovators and the early adopters are inherently enthusiastic and optimistic about your technology which makes them prime candidates to refer.

Automated referral software turns that simple enthusiasm into action by providing you with the opportunity to incentivize and empower referrals through a consistently branded channel of communication that motivates your innovators and early adopters to make a warm introduction to your potential early majority adopters. Through this channel, Advocates can extend the trust and respect of their previously established relationships to encompass your brand and create a bridge of communication over the chasm to the early majority for high valued interactions.

In fact, the automated referral software bridge is so effective at crossing the chasm that studies have proven that referral leads convert 4x more than marketing leads, (emarketer).

So if you’re in the process of staring down into the chasm that separates your current customer and the next stage of your technology adoption, ask yourself this question.

Do I have the right tools to bridge the chasm?

If you don’t know the answer to that a referral program might be the exactly what you’re looking for. After all, no one wants to be stuck in technology adoption Neverland forever. Calculate how automated referral software can bridge the gap and improve your ROI now!


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

Selling is hard! Tracking referrals in Salesforce is easy

I have a confession to make: I don’t always like sales people.  But over time, I have come to realize that being successful in sales is hard.  I’ve seen it firsthand, through all the times that I have curtly ended a phone conversation (while wishing I hadn’t picked up in the first place).  And all the times I’ve chosen to ignore a prospecting email that arrived in my inbox.   These poor sales reps were doing their job – digging and searching for leads anywhere they could, trying to grow their business. There are stats and benchmarks out there about how many contacts you need to make on average to get a single qualified lead.  I don’t know those numbers by heart, but I can tell you one thing – it’s enough to make sales prospecting a very tough job.

Help your salespeople out

That’s why organizations are always looking for the best possible tools and resources for lead generation.  At Amplifinity we have built our success on the proven value of referral leads, which are cost effective to acquire, close at a higher rate than other leads, and turn into clients that have a higher lifetime value.

But while referral automation programs are often thought of as the purview of the marketing department, the most effective referral programs also leverage the strong relationships that individual sales reps have with their customers.  The most effective programs enable reps to directly ask for referrals in the field, while ensuring that these referrals are a part of the company-wide referral program so that advocates will be rewarded properly and quickly for their successful referrals.

Tracking referrals in Salesforce

Amplifinity’s platform offers a range of useful tools for sales reps.  For users, tracking referrals in Salesforce is easy! Our platform enables reps to invite their contacts to participate in the referral program with just a single click  In other cases, we’ve configured our system to enable reps with tools such as emails, printed materials, and social media posts to recruit new advocates.  And most importantly, reps can register someone for the referral program and enter a lead on their behalf on the fly, as they are talking to a customer.

While I might not always want to admit it, achieving success as a sales rep is hard work.  Amplifinity’s referral automation software can make it so much easier, and we can all dream of the day that sales reps can spend their time following up on high value referral leads, rather than cold calling the rest of us.

Want to further the discussion? Email me at

What is brand advocacy?