Capture your customer acquisition ‘white whale’ with referral marketing

Herman Melville’s mishaps and how to avoid them with referral marketing

Recently, Christopher Ross, Research Director at Gartner, published a very interesting article entitled, Moby Dick Marketing, on the Gartner blog. As the title suggests, it referenced Melville’s novel Moby Dick, and explained that while this novel is an intelligent piece of writing, it might have benefited from some editing. Ross goes on to advise businesses on how to avoid making the same mistakes when telling their own story. The conclusion of the blog being less is more when you’re trying to get your story heard. I agree with Ross on this. But what about when you’re trying to tell your story through PPC, email, or any other marketing initiative where you’re competing with the overabundance of your competition’s content? You can’t edit all of Google, or delete emails prospects are receiving from other companies. You can only pour more money into these channels to try and get more viewing time with target buyers.

However, even as companies are dumping more money into PPC, they’re getting less and less return (unlike referral marketing). According to a new WordStream benchmark report, the median conversion rate through paid search has decreased by almost 50% in the last four years. The 2012 paid search ads having a median conversion rate of 5.36%, while display ads came in at 4.68%, and by 2016 paid search decreased to 2.70%, with display ads at a shocking .89% median conversion rate.

WordStream Google AdWords Benchmark Study
WordStream Google AdWords Benchmark Study

Why did this happen? Essentially, you’re one page of Melville’s 135 chapter, 600 page book, and your target buyers are reading the cliff notes.

But that’s not the only struggle that modern marketing and readers of Moby Dick face. The difficulty of Melville’s 135 chapter novel stemmed also from its lack of direction. Up until chapter twenty, Melville was writing a comedy, not a drama, but upon reading some of Shakespeare’s great works, switched gears and decided to write a drama. Mainly, he was trying to accomplish too many things in one novel. Marketers face that same dilemma. As marketing departments try to make up for their drop in conversions they are taking on more and more lower performing channels without seeing direct ROI.

But as we compare Melville to marketing, there is a glaring difference that works in Melville’s favor. As many scholars point out, the audience in the 19th century was much more patient than they are today. While Melville’s Moby Dick might go on and on, he was writing for his audience.  If companies are looking to market to their audience it needs to be in a format current target buyers will hear today.

In the same four year span that PPC effectiveness decreased, referral marketing’s average conversion rate shot up to 35% (Amplifinity). Why did that happen? Because that was what the target buyer was listening to.

How referral marketing can help you edit your marketing initiatives

While today’s readers of Moby Dick flock to cliff notes in order to avoid sifting through what many consider the monotonous details of the novel, leads are flocking to their network of peers, friends, and family in order to avoid sifting through the endless marketing noise. Businesses especially are looking for the most conscious way to narrow down companies and products in order to save time and resources. Referrals provide leads with a trusted source to gather information and validate a company’s ability to provide an offering that fulfills their needs.

Referral marketing software helps you take control of this process. Current customers and partners know if certain individuals in their network of peers, family, and friends are in the market for a product or service like yours. Referral marketing programs incentivizes customer and partners to make a trusted introduction between those individuals and your business.

In addition to that, you can empower your customer and partner advocates with both online and offline trackable referral methods and persuasive content that they can provide to your prospects in order to nurture them.

As Barry Nalebuff, Milton Steinback Professor, Yale School of Management, co-author of Why Not? and Co-opetition, and co-founder of Honest Tea, says in his editorial review of the book Content Trap,  “‘Content is king’ may once have been true, but favoring content over connections will only get you dethroned today.”  

Referral marketing programs connect target buyers to your content and offerings through customer and partner advocates. And as Bharat Anand, the author of the book, Content Trap, Henry R. Byers Professor of Business Administration in the Strategy Unit at Harvard Business School, exclaimed at Dreamforce, “Companies that win on connections really don’t have to market.” This mean that you get a better conversion rate and higher quality leads than channels like PPC for less money and can eliminate marketing channel that no longer meet expectations. And not only that, referral are proven to have:

  • A 4x higher conversion rate than traditional marketing channels (emarketer)
  • Reduce churn by 18% compared to non-referred customers (Harvard Business Review)
  • Increase LTV by 16% compared to non-referred customers (Harvard Business Review)

Prove the value of referral marketing with the ROI calculator and discover how referrals can help you edit your marketing plan and avoid turning it into the Moby Dick of marketing.


Northern Michigan University selects Amplifinity to provide referral automation to improve enrollment

Many higher education institutions are finding it increasingly difficult to reach their target audience. Student and alumni referrals is the solution for enrollment challenges.

ANN ARBOR, MICH., November 19, 2015 — Amplifinity, the leaders in referral automation software, announced today that Northern Michigan University (NMU) has chosen the Amplifinity platform to automate and manage their new referral program designed to drive enrollment.

NMU, like other universities found it was receiving a record number of applications but a lower amount of the applicants were converting to enrolled students. According to Moody’s, 20% of higher education institutions admit less than 20% of their applicants. Simultaneously, the rate of high school graduates will be flat through 2020, according to Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education. With enrollment being crucial to their ability to be a competitive and thriving institution, NMU decided to add the power of alumni and current student referrals to their marketing mix.

“Small and mid-tier universities can’t continue to use contingency and donor funds to make up for enrollment shortfalls,” stated Steve Neiheisel, VP Enrollment Management and Student Services at NMU. “Recruitment needs to regain control of the stealth application trend and find new ways to get the attention of the right future students. Referral programs are the answer.”

Amplifinity’s referral automation software paired with Salesforce allows NMU to accurately track referrals, reward advocates and ultimately increase enrollment. These programs allow alumni and students to help identify students who are likely to be a good fit at the university. With this program, called Share Northern, NMU hopes to increase the conversion of applicants with students who are more likely to enroll. In the initial test pilot, 34 student and alumni advocates drove 336 referrals in two weeks.

“NMU has a distinct learning and geographic environment and, it’s a challenge to find students who fit into our culture,” said Neiheisel. “By partnering with Amplifinity to reach the right students at the right time, through mass personalization by using the power of referrals, we will achieve our enrollment goals.”

“Amplifinity has the solution to help universities grow enrollment,” said Larry Angeli, CEO of Amplifinity. “Students and alumni of universities want to see their school thrive. With Amplifinity, these institutions can take advantage of that enthusiasm to drive full enrollment. NMU’s approach combining Amplifinity and Salesforce is a great way to make recruitment personal and effective in the digital age.”

About Amplifinity

Amplifinity’s referral amplification software turns customer, employee and partner advocacy into revenue. Our platform provides complete referral tracking and management with 100% accuracy so none are missed. Enterprises like ADP and DIRECTV trust Amplifinity to enable high-quality acquisition while providing an engaging, fully-branded experience for their advocates.

About Northern Michigan University

Northern Michigan University, located in Marquette, Michigan, is a dynamic public, comprehensive university that has grown its reputation based on its award-winning leadership programs, cutting-edge technology initiatives and nationally recognized academic programs.

Dreamforce 2015 – it was all about Personalization

Sitting here on the plane going home from Dreamforce, it is the first opportunity I’ve had to really think about the conference. More specifically, what message I can take back for my organization and for where the market is going. Despite my extreme lack of sleep, it is clear to me that everything boils down to one word: Personalization.

As Mark Benihoff said in his keynote, “We are all here to fill the gap between our companies and our customers.” And personalization is the way to do it.

As a marketer, I get that the more custom and personalized I can get with communications, the better they do. But Dreamforce made me think about how personalization touches every aspect of business. (And of course, Salesforce has solutions for each one.) I can almost hear you ask, “But how can I personalize my marketing even more than I already am?”

Personalized Marketing – There are lots of phenomenal capabilities available today for companies to take in the incredible amounts of data available on prospective customers and serve up information that is specific to what they want. Mathew Sweezey, Author, Marketing Futurist and Salesforce Evangelist, commented that “The average number of pages a visitor to your website sees is 1.5. Don’t you think you should make those 1.5 pages count?” But personalization in the marketing realm goes way beyond web and email.  The way you acquire leads in the digital age needs to be personal as well. It’s clear that many companies are looking toward advocacy and referral marketing to help fill that gap.

Personalized Analytics – After years of complaints, Salesforce is releasing its new UI/UX called Lightning. It looks great and has great functionality, but the key is that they heard their customers say they want to customize views. Don’t limit me to 2 columns, I might need 14 columns! And they are delivering. I think all companies need to think about what level of customization they can deliver to their customers. It really does make people happier with the experience. We all want what we want, the more flexible you can make your product, the better.

Personalized Sales – It’s clear that Salesforce sees the lines between Marketing and Sales as blurry at best. The Engage functionality coming out of Pardot clearly sees Marketing investing in tools to help sales prospect in a more personal way. Do generic marketing blasts even work anymore? It’s all about getting an email from an individual with a message as catered to them as possible. Doing that at scale is of course where Pardot and Salesforce comes in. It is clear that the faster that sales and marketing leaders get over their differences and begin practicing the art of smarketing, the more successful they will be.

Personalized Community – The Community keynote at Dreamforce was awesome. What Salesforce has done with this product is incredible and I’m sure it is the fastest growth area of their business. It looks so easy to spin up communities for customers, employees and partners with incredible functionality.  And of course, communities are the embodiment of personalization. You can provide a way to allow your customers to hear from other customers on your products/services and even make purchases from within the community. I predict this will be a powerful add on for companies to seriously pursue and I’m sure much more functionality will be added over the coming year.

Personalized Service – Lots of sessions were focused on Customer Success and the idea that they own the customer journey. This means that they need to understand it and find ways to influence it and make it consistent across silos of engagement. Salesforce has always been a great tool for this as it integrates across departments. The real innovation comes with some of the AppExchange partners doing advocacy and referral marketing with a sales referral program. With those as add-ons you can get an actual ROI from your customer journey while making customers feel more engaged with your brand. It’s no wonder that companies are aligning around this function and are hungry for improvement.  Who doesn’t want happy customers and revenue growth to boot?

In the age of digital, it is clear that companies need to be looking in every area of the business for ways to enable 1 to 1 interactions and provide an experience that makes each person feel that your brand understands them. Each engagement is an opportunity. An opportunity for delight. An opportunity to generate a high quality lead. An opportunity to turn a negative situation into a positive. Make each engagement count with personalization! Now time to get some much-needed sleep!


A CMO’s Dreamforce 2015 session hotlist

I Dream of Dreamforce.

Dreamforce 2015 is almost here, and if you’re like me I’m sure you’re also in frenzy as you try to get your schedule in order to be a part of the most fascinating sessions Dreamforce has to offer. I took a deep dive into the sessions and picked out 12 that I will definitely be attending. If you are interested in improving demand generation and learning about the  latest and greatest processes and technology then this list is for you. More specifically, this list is based off what I and many others in the business world consider the biggest challenges facing a company today:

  • Finding the right people
  • Sending them the right message
  • Nurturing them into happy customers

Did one of your Dreamforce Favorites make my Top 12?

1. Predictive Intelligence 101: Personalize Content for Customers Journey

Tuesday, September 15, 8:30 – 10:30

Linda Erickson


I’m starting out Dreamforce early and with a session that establishes the paradigm shift that is effecting all business’s marketing and sales tactics – the switch from business to customer control over the buying process. Linda Erickson is a knowledgeable member of the Salesforce team and will address the need to incorporate personalization into marketing and sales efforts in order to counteract this shift.  This session establishes a solid foundation on how marketing and business overall must change tactics to continue to capture leads. I’m looking forward to seeing her views on the issues and how she suggests businesses change their strategy.

Unfortunately, I won’t have time to stay around and chat because I’ll have sprint to my second session of the day.

2. Innovation Recruiting Strategies: Advocacy Marketing and Mass Personalization

Tuesday, September 15, 10:30 – 10:50

Steve Neiheisel

VP of Enrollment Management and Student Services

Northern Michigan University

Trisha Winter (That’s me)



This session joined my top 12 not because I’m one of the speakers but because of Steve Neiheisel. Steve Neiheisel is on the cutting edge of higher education recruitment strategies and comprehends the need for changing tactics that reflect the changing and challenging recruitment environment of higher education. Steve understands that advocates, social media, and personalization in marketing are needed to succeed more than ever before. Even if I wasn’t a speaker I’d turnout just to hear about Northern Michigan University’s innovative new recruiting programs. Having knowledge of the content I can definitely say that their approach is applicable to companies as well.

3.  4 Steps to Turn Your Customer Feedback Into Action

Tuesday, September 15, 2:00 – 2:40

Brent Chudoba


Many marketers and sales teams have become obsessed with customers, and more specifically customer feedback. What first caught my attention about this session was its claim of taking feedback and translating it to action. While customer feedback is always appreciated, you can never take all customer feedback and implement it otherwise you would be changing your product 10 times a day. This session intrigues me and I look forward to hearing Brent’s advice.

The one aspect of this session I regret is its timing. Number four on my hotlist appears at the same time as this session and after much research no time travel device, cloning process, or pleading with Dreamforce to change the time will work. But I refuse to take either off my list.

4. Advanced Tips for Lead Nurturing: Resurrect your Dormant Leads

Tuesday, September 15, 2:00 – 2:40

Matthew Sweezey


I’m hoping for some good ideas from this session. Every business wants a way to heat up leads that have gone cold, but the whole practice of nurture seems to be changing both with new technology and just a change in prospect behavior. There are a multitude of schools of thought on how best to nurture a lead.  And recently, lead nurturing has gone through excessive changes that have spurred marketers and sales to address leads with personalization at the forefront.  I plan on absorbing Matthew’s session like a sponge.

5. Gartner Predicts: Three Trends in B2B Sales Enablement and Performance

Wednesday, September 16, 9:00 – 9:40

Ann Chen


 Ted Travis

Director of Research


Gartner is a renowned research firm and I’m interested to see their projected key trends. Many new trends that work toward enabling and improving the performance of sales are always advantageous to discuss with your team to see if they can be applied to improving your business. I’m hoping that Gartner will further emphasize the importance of personalization for sales and marketing’s digital future.

Unfortunately, I’ll have to pull myself away early to get to my next session.

6. Big Deals and High Heels: Why Women Are Naturals at Selling  

Wednesday, September 16, 9:30 – 10:10

Joanne Black


No More Cold Calling

Barry Trailer

Managing Partner

CSO Insights

This session combines two things I’m passionate about – Joanne Black and empowering women. While throughout history women have been primarily nurturers, we have come into our own in the 21st century. But current marketing and sales strategies need nurturers to build relationships and incorporate a personalized approach to feed a business’s success. And who better to do that but women? I bet many of you remember the old saying men are from Mars and woman are from Venus. That saying has much to do with the fact that men and women communicating differently. I’m delighted to see how Joanne explores the need to incorporate women’s distinct communication into the business world.

7. Forrester: Transform Your Customer Service For The Age Of The Customer 

Wednesday, September 16, 11:00 – 11:40

Ian Jacobs

Senior Analyst


This session is another one that focuses on customer obsession based off the paradigm shift that has the customers controlling the buying process over the business. No longer do we tell the customer what to buy, but the customer tells us and it is our job to listen through different channels in order to fulfill their needs. I’m enthusiastic to see how Forrester recommends we measure a successful business to customer interaction and see if it can be applied to our current business practices.

8. How Smart Brands Use Digital Marketing to Acquire, Engage, & Retain Customers

Wednesday, September 16, 12:00 – 12:40

Joel Book


Joel’s session acknowledges the necessity of personalizing, automating, and engaging customer relationships. With these strategies and resources we can focus on sending the right message to the right person at the right time in order to find and retain leads. I agree wholeheartedly with Joel and I’m eager to view a few of his many examples of a success digital marketing strategy.

9. Women’s Leadership Summit: A View from the Top, CEOs Panel

Thursday, September 17, 9:00 – 10:00

Leah Busque

Founder & CEO

Tas Rabbit

Katrina Lake

Founder & CEO


Women empowerment in the workforce is always a topic I’m pleased to see come up at large conferences. Not long ago women were largely confined to a handful of industries and today it is still highly challenging for women to rise to a top role in companies. I’m elated that these women were able to accomplish it. I eagerly look forward to hearing their unique and inspiring stories.

But just like Tuesday morning I’ll have to wear my running shoes to get to the next session on time. It’s worth it though.

10. Disruptive Growth & Customer Experience Excellence in Communications

Thursday, September 17, 10:00 – 10:40

Andrew Baer


Albert Calcagno



I have to admit that I’m a bit of a cynic when I hear marketing terms like “disruptive growth”, but the fact that this is a case study has my attention. Hopefully, this seminar will give me a deeper understand of the disruptive growth achieved by Fastweb and the tools and strategies that are being implemented to replicate their success.

11. Women’s Leadership Summit: Building the STEM Pipeline 

Thursday, September 17, 12:30 – 1:30

Mary Moloney



Lyndsey Scott

Actress, Model, App Developer

This session is one that I’m extremely passionate about. Unlike many marketers, my undergraduate degree was not in the communication or marketing field, instead I graduated with a degree in Engineering. STEM or Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics tries to bridge the gender gap between girls and fields that are primarily dominated and perceived as male. I now have two daughters of my own and instill in them the knowledge that they can be anything as long as they work at it. STEM programs are great to inspire young women to reach beyond gender and become successful leaders of tomorrow. I believe that this session is worth everyone’s time.

12. The What, Why And How of Customer Obsession

Thursday, September 17, 3:30-4:30

Julie Ask

Vice President, Principal Analyst

Forest Research

George Colony


This third session on customer obsession further demonstrates how the shift in customer business relationships are shaking up the business world. I’m looking forward to seeing how Forrester believes that this seismic shift has and will change our business models.

Here finishes my hotlist for Dreamforce 2015. Ping me on Twitter @TrishaWinter if you’ve found a great session I should add to my list. If you are a marketer with similar interests to this list, let’s arrange to meet. I look forward to seeing everyone there!

What is advocacy marketing?