Discover, Explore, Buy: How Referrals Play into the B2B Buyer’s Journey

In today’s world, the B2B customer has more choices than others. And that means their journey to purchasing something is more complex than ever. They’re constantly inundated with cold calls, emails, and other noise, to the point where they willfully tune out much of it.

How can you, as just one business, break through the noise and be heard?

Part of that is understanding what the B2B buyer’s journey looks like. Once you have an intimate understanding of how these customers make decisions, you can position yourself as the best choice.

First, Understand that there is No Single Buyer’s Journey.

Every customer is a little bit different. Some will spend several weeks deliberating over options, while others will simply pick the first one that stands out to them and move on. So how can you appeal to every B2B customer, regardless of their time frame or patience level?

The answer is simple: referrals.

Referrals are a powerful tool. Statistics show that 92% of buyers trust referrals from people they know, and they’re one of the most trusted forms of advertising. If you’re not harnessing the power of referrals with a dedicated channel, you’re missing out on quality leads.

But when in the customer journey do B2B buyers want to get referrals?

At the beginning.

This is the point that the B2B customer realizes that they want or need a certain service. A well-timed referral here can stop their journey before it even begins — which, although it sounds ominous when phrased like that, is actually convenient for them!

Remember, the B2B customer journey is complicated. And it takes them away from the time they could be spending doing other things, like actually running their business.

So if you have a well-timed referral, you can save them that hassle. In many cases, the suggestion from someone they trust will make their decision for them. This will help you — and them — close the deal quickly.

During their research.

Another great time to encourage referrals is while someone is doing research. Often, this is a very easy time to give referrals, because the prospect will be asking for them.

Social media might be your first instinct for these referrals, since that is frequently where people will be asking. But our research shows that verbal referrals are actually far more effective at creating leads that convert to deals.

Encourage your referral partners and customers to meet with prospects face to face during this time. This will help make you memorable.

While they’re deliberating.

This is closer to the end of the buyer’s journey, where they’ve narrowed down their choices and are trying to decide on the best one. Often, you will have already been referred to them as an option.

But here, a second referral can help drive the point home that you’re the fit for their needs. It will bring you to the forefront of their mind, and position you as the most impressive candidate, since you have multiple people talking about you.

Getting referrals at any stage of the game can be beneficial, but getting referrals strategically is how you generate steady revenue. However, this can be difficult to maintain without help. That’s what makes a referral software so important.

By automating your referral channel, you can ensure that you’re hitting B2B customers at the right time, in the right way.

Four Ways Amplifinity Can Improve Your Existing Referral Program

So you have an existing referral program, but are you getting the most value from those referrals using your current system? Chances are, you aren’t. That’s why referral automation software like Amplifinity exists. Not only does the software provide a number of workflow benefits, but it can improve your work life and your bottom line – making everyone happy. Don’t believe me? Here are four ways Amplifinity can improve your existing referral program.

A User Experience That Promotes Activity

Do you want to keep your referral sources engaged and active? Amplifinity not only provides a simplified sign up process, but better sharing tools (i.e. social posts, personal URLs and suggest a lead functionality), more account and activity visibility for those making referrals, and the ability to personalize the experience for your advocate or partner. What does this all mean for you? A better overall experience for your referral sources making them happier, more productive and more likely to remain active in making referrals.

Automated Tracking

One of the most common reasons we see referral programs fail is because referrals are being tracked manually. If you are doing this with your existing program, you know how difficult it can be to keep up with the current status of a referral and making sure the right people get paid when the lead closes. Using a software like Amplifinity gives you an automated system that is tracking every status of a referral to close, then to reward and then to payment – vastly improving your program’s success. Automating the entire process will also make your life better, as you no longer need to track every step in your spreadsheet. This will also make your referral sources happier, as automation will eliminate some of the inevitable oversights that happen in a manual process.

Better Reward Payment Configurations Options

As the person in charge of your company’s referral program, you know that finding the “sweet spot” for the reward amount is essential to getting the most out of your partners and customers. You also know that reward payment failures or delays are the quickest ways to lose an active member of your program. Having a software that allows you to configure a reward amount that makes sense for your referral source, and the ability to personalize the reward if needed, is key. A software like Amplifinity can also give you the tools needed to easily troubleshoot any issue that arises, as well as the confidence that a payment will make it to your partner or advocate as intended.

Tighter Integration With Your Existing Sales Deal Flow

The last thing you want to do when trying to automate your program is to re-engineer your entire sales workflow to fit your software purchase. Instead, you should find a tool that both automates the referral process and fits into your existing sales workflow. Whether it’s having a solution for the automation of offline referrals, as Amplifinity offers with verbal referrals, or making sure you can easily map referral tracking to the important steps in the sales process – having a platform that works with the way your sales team works is paramount to driving success.

If you’d like to learn more about Amplifinity and how our software can help you scale and grow your referral program, visit www.amplifinity.com and request a demo today.

Nurturing Your Long Tail Partners to Maximize Channel ROI

As a channel marketer, you’re likely very familiar with your top channel partners. They are the ones who engage with you often and send you referrals regularly. If your program has a number of active, vocal partners it’s possible they take up all of your time, causing you to ignore a larger more quiet (and sometimes under-performing) segment of your partner channel – the long tail partner.

The long tail partner, sometimes called a low-touch, high-potential partner or self-service partner, is a partner who rarely engages with you but still sends a few lucrative deals within any given year. While many companies view these partners as disengaged or disinterested, and therefore not worth their time, others are seeing the immense value in these partners. In fact, according to Jay McBain, Forresters’ principal analyst, companies are starting to embrace these partners and actively employ referral strategies to turn these partners into a reliable source of growth.

If companies could figure out a way to manage [these] partners even more efficiently – don’t assign a channel account manager, limit access to a rich set of expensive resources, and make all support flexible, automated, and self-service — they could rely on that annual revenue at high profits with no touching and little cost,” McBain said in an interview with Channel Marketer Report.

Companies don’t have to have a love/hate relationship with their long tail partners. By turning these partners into referral (transactional) partners, you can maximize their output while minimizing the time and cost spent trying to engage this segment of your partner channel.

Reseller vs. Referral

Companies with well developed partner programs know that reseller partners require a high investment with an uncertain return. Despite the high investment, reseller partner programs continue to dominate the industry. However, new referral marketing technology (aimed at automating the referral process) is starting to shift how companies think about their resellers vs. referrals. In fact, many companies are now finding that partnerships based on referrals are showing incredible success and challenging the status quo reseller partner programs.

Here are just a few of the benefits an automated referral partner program can bring to your company, your partners and your sales team:

  1. Quality leads: Did you know that 31 percent of referral leads from partners made a purchase? This number jumped to 41 percent when a sales team understands and participates in the referral process.
  2. Shorter sales cycles: Referral deals tend to move faster through the pipeline because they are warm, high-quality leads. In addition, your sales team will have access to the partner who made the referral and that partner can help to prequalify the lead or move the deal forward.
  3. Cost savings: Automation often results in significant cost savings. In a referral partner model, you can scale the large number of referral partners without having to add additional resources to manage, nurture and market the partner channel.
  4. Happy customers: Partners can easily meet customers’ needs with your company’s products and offerings. And because referral leads are the highest quality, partners know they will receive the attention and care they deserve throughout the buying process.
  5. Easy partner management: With an automated referral partner program, sales won’t need to manually track which partner referred whom, and what payment goes where. All of this is automated through the system so the sales team can focus on selling.

You can read more about the benefits here.

Why Automated Referral Programs Are A Perfect Fit

Investing in referral automation software, the kind offered by companies like Amplifinity, can be a great way for companies to provide these transactional referral partners an easy, hands-off way to submit deals. By providing a program that is flexible and automated, you can manage a large number of these partners for little cost with a high return.

For Jamie Mendez, director of channel marketing at IBM, making it easy for transactional referral partners to engage was vital to their program, as these partners are usually digitally-savvy. “Their expectation is they’re going to engage with you digitally,” she said in the same interview with Channel Market Report. “If you’re not up to par digitally, you’re not someone they want to work with anyway.”

That’s why it’s key, when researching referral automation software, to find a solution that fits all of your program’s needs without completely changing your existing workflow. By keeping the mechanics of your program the same, and simply automating the process, you can better automate the experience for these partners and see a better return on the deals they submit, while keeping your top channel partners engaged and happy.

If you want to learn more about referral marketing best practices, check out Amplifinity’s resource library.

How referral partner programs outperform resellers

The success of partner programs in B2B companies is highly variable. Many companies try various approaches, but what starts as a promising opportunity, often ends in unmet expectations from both companies in the partnership.

After all, the idea of extending lead generation reach and sales coverage without adding headcount is appealing. And although partnering is a great model in concept, the execution is very difficult. The reality is that you are constantly trying to train and onboard Partners in order to make sure that they understand the differentiated messaging and sales techniques necessary to effectively sell your product. In addition, servicing the relationship post sale introduces an entirely different set of challenges such as how to nurture customer relationships to deliver a continued revenue stream.

Putting it all together is  an extremely big task and one that takes a significant amount of resources to achieve success. But thanks to new referral marketing technology entering the market, we are starting to see a shift in partner strategy. Specifically, partnerships based on referrals are starting to show incredible success and are challenging the traditional mindset of resale oriented partnering.

Resale = high investment with uncertain return

With reseller partnerships you are faced with the development of detailed contracts that cover all aspects of a complex relationship. But, that’s just the beginning. Once the partnership execution begins, you’re faced with the task of onboarding and training the Partner’s marketing and sales teams and the difficult task of maintaining mind-share as other priorities of the Partner inevitably surface.

Success requires the same time and budget as direct selling efforts, but often with worse results. Why? Because Reseller Partners don’t see your product as the primary way to achieve quota. They aren’t looking for opportunities for your product. Instead, your product is simply an afterthought until an obvious need is exposed by their Customer.

Also, consider the end Customer‘s perspective. Do they have to go through the Partner as a middleman to get support? Are they getting the same care and nurturing as your direct-sale Customers? When the time comes, will they be an Advocate for your business and provide the word-of-mouth recommendations that are so vital to the success of your business? The answer is probably not.

Referral partner programs have challenges too

Referral partnerships have existed for centuries. With this model, instead of a full reseller arrangement, you use Partners primarily as a way to extend lead generation. As Partners come across situations where a need for your product is identified, they refer the lead to you. Your team then engages in the relationship, takes the driver seat on the sales process and ultimately, makes the sale. This fixes a few key issues with the reseller model. You now have a much simpler contract (if any) and you don’t need to deeply train the Partner on how to sell your product or service

However, a few problems remain with referral partner programs and a few new ones arise as a result.

First, you still need to have a way to stay top of mind with your Partners. You also need to make sure you have a simple way to track, incentivize and manage this relationship. For example, how does the Partner stay informed of the status of the referral so they can help the opportunity progress?

And, relative to incentives, will you pay the Partner per lead or when a sale closes? If it is only when a sale closes, how do you trigger the event so that you can fulfill the reward and ensure the partner get’s compensated quickly and correctly?

The reality is that much of this is done manually and that limits the output of a Referral Partner.  While Referral Partners can produce great in-market leads they are difficult to scale.

Because both models have strengths and weaknesses, I see companies trying to do a bit of everything, with limited success.

The rise of referral partner programs managed at scale

The advent of software to manage referrals has tipped the scale strongly in favor of referral partnerships. With the ever increasing pressure to generate ROI from your partnership efforts, my advice is to get there and get there fast.

Here is my take on how automated referral partner programs can benefit all parties involved while being a consistent generator of high quality leads.

Benefits of automated referral partner programs to your company

  1. Quality leads: This one is pretty obvious. You already know that referrals from Partners are great leads, but with referral marketing software you get a consistent flow at a larger scale than ever before. In fact in a recent benchmark study 31% of referral leads from partners made a purchase. This number increased to 41% when sales was involved in the referral process.

referral partners, referral marketing, what are referral partners conversion rate?

 2. Shorter sales cycles: It’s a proven fact, referral deals move faster through the pipeline. It isn’t just that they are higher quality. Your sales team also has access to the Partner who made the referral so they can prequalify the opportunity and enlist their help in making the sale.

Improved customer experience: From first contact with your product through the entire customer journey, you are now in the driver’s seat to achieve customer success. This makes for a great customer experience, but it also means that your customers can be leveraged later to give you positive mentions in social media and refer your product to their peers. And that means more high quality leads.

4. Cost savings: With automation comes significant cost savings. In this model, you can scale the number of Referral Partners without adding headcount because everything from operational management, to nurturing communications, through to reward fulfillment is automated. Additionally, you no longer have the resource-intensive training nor the co-marketing costs from the Reseller Partner model.

5. Better data: With all of your referral partner programs activity managed with referral marketing software and integration into your sales CRM (e.g Salesforce), it is easy to see direct ROI from Referral Partners and prove the incredible value of the channel.

Benefits of automated referral partner programs to your Partners

  1. Added revenue/income: Depending upon whether you structure your program to reward the partner entity, the Partner Advocates (typically Sales Reps) or both, the outcome is the same. Your referral program provides an easy way to get rewarded for relationships they already have.
  2. No hassle: With nurture emails and a personal web page, Partners can see their referral activity and reward status. The result is that the Partner feels informed and views the relationship with your company as low friction. And when Partners have confidence in your system, they’ll refer more.
  3. Happy customers: Partners are able to easily extend their offering to your product or service to provide solutions that meet the Customer’s needs. And referral leads are the highest quality, so Partners know they will receive the proper attention and care during the buying process.

Benefits of automated referral partner programs to your sales team

  1. Fast leads: No one is more appreciative than Sales of referral leads. They can skip the emailing and calling to try to get a prospect. The Partner has all the information needed to get the opportunity generated and can even help Sales drive it through the pipe.
  2. No new systems: With all of the referral data in the sales CRM, Sales doesn’t have to learn a new system. With fast access to referral lead and Partner Advocate information in the system they use every day, they are more productive.
  3. Easy Partner management: What Sales doesn’t want is to have to track which Partner referred whom and fight for them to get paid. With all of this done for them, they can focus on what you want them to – selling!

Benefits of automated referral partner programs to your Customers

  1. Need resolved quickly: When a need is identified by the Partner, it can be resolved quickly with your product or solution without the Customer having to go through the hassle of blindly scouring the internet for the right product to buy. This saves them time and hassle.
  2. Work with a trusted advisor: Another reason referral leads move quickly through the pipeline is that the interest started with a recommendation from a trusted source (the Partner). Customers who get a recommendation from a trusted source are much more likely to buy.
  3. Great support: Since the entire customer relationship is managed by you, referred Customers get the same great support that you provide all of your Customers.

Turn your partner relationships into revenue

Because of the benefits to all parties, savvy Channel Managers are making a transition away from Resellers to referral partner programs managed with  software specifically made to handle these kinds of relationships. With a low cost automated system you can maintain or reduce  the cost of your channel team while simultaneously growing the direct revenue coming from the channel.

Discover how powerful referral marketing software could be for you with the ROI calculator (Warning: May cause your referral partner program to drive revenue at an extreme speed).

referral partner programs, referral network,

How FinTech lenders can disrupt the banking disruptors with referral marketing

Why are FinTech companies turning to a scalable referral marketing program? It’s no secret that business in general is changing fast for the financial industry and FinTech (financial technology) is no exception.  While FinTech companies (like Lending Club, CommonBond and Kabbage) originally focused on stealing small and medium sized businesses (SMB) away from big bank lending, the amount of underwriting big banks require for each loan does not give SMB loans the appealing return on equity (ROE) it once did. Therefore, it’s no surprise that many have decided to step back from smaller SMB loans.

So what does this mean?

It means that while FinTech lenders are out running some of the traditional financial institutions they now need a newer and better way to disrupt the alternative lending world. That’s right. They need to disrupt the disruptor.

After all, even though some of the competition is being reduced in the big bank world, it doesn’t mean that the large number of FinTech lenders have stopped growing or getting any less determined.

But how do you disrupt the disruptors?

FinTech lenders need a highly charged customer acquisition channel. But even though many of the big banks may not be FinTech lenders’ biggest competition any more they have had years to establish SEO keywords and PPC. Which means that it will be very hard if not nearly impossible to surpass them in organic search or PPC. In fact many of the traditional channels have such a high volume of traffic already and have been mined so thoroughly that it is very difficult to make a real mark with them.

Instead, when trying to create a powerful channel for customer acquisition focus on 3 keys in order to break through the noise of your competitors.

  1. Establish a proprietary channel
  2. Ensure your channel is data-rich
  3. Confirm that your channel integrates with your current technology

One such channel that covers these 3 bases and empowers customer acquisitions is referral marketing.  Automated referral marketing software gives FinTech lenders the ability to optimize customer acquisition along with taking on other challenges in addition to finding new lenders and borrowers. This includes conquering 2 main obstacles that face FinTech lenders.

  1. Become more efficient through automation, to scale the business and increase revenue
  2. Delivering a superior customer experience

Automated referral marketing programs do this by incentivizing Advocates to make a trusted introduction to their peers and have therefore been proven to:

  • Convert leads 4X better than traditional marketing (emarketer)
  • Decrease churn by 18% compared to non-referred customers (Harvard Business Review)
  • Increase LTV by 16% compared to non-referred customers (Harvard Business Review)
  • Have a conversion rate of 36% from referral to new customer for a financial service company (Amplifinity Financial Service case study)

And for FinTech lenders, there is more than one way to take advantage of referral marketing programs. Along with the traditional customer referral marketing program, a partner referral marketing program can prove to be very advantageous for FinTech lenders. Since as previously stated, many big banks no longer find it worthwhile to pursue SMB loans and small personal loans, they are primed to become a partner. A scalable automated partner referral marketing program enables FinTech lenders to take advantage and leverage financial institutions to refer lenders and borrowers that don’t meet their qualification but would fit securely into a FinTech marketplace lender’s preferred demographic.

But what would motivate bigger financial institutions to refer? Bigger banks and finance companies have long been trying to improve customer engagement and experience. Referring leads to a FinTech lender would appeal to a financial institutions since it would provide them with a way to give customers and prospects a more full service offering that improves their image and meets a wider group of customer and prospect needs. In addition, FinTech marketplace lenders can provide referrals back to partners and offer an incentive if a bank or financial institution’s referral becomes new business.

With the right channel, a FinTech marketplace lender can be a disruptor among the disruptors. Discover what your ROI could be from both a customer and partner referral marketing program with the ROI calculator today!

ROI Calculator

Why you should break lead assignment rules for a referral program and certain laws for fun

Let’s be honest, you take a little pleasure in breaking the rules, mostly because there are so many rules that ought to be broken, like laws such as:

  • If you have a mustache it is illegal to kiss a women (Nevada)
  • It’s illegal to sing off-key (North Carolina)
  • If you harass Bigfoot you can be arrested or fined (Washington)

Personally, if I see Bigfoot I plan on getting a selfie with him, and I take great pleasure in singing off-key. But one of most important rules I highly suggest you break is your lead assignment rules for you referral program.

Don’t get me wrong, lead assignment rules are important for your sales team. But for every rule there’s always an exception and your referral program is that exception. And while lead assignment rules might not be the most fun to break, I can tell you it’s certainly much more rewarding than breaking any of the laws above.

3 Reasons why rules were meant to be broken . . . for your referral program

There are 3 marvelous benefits to breaking your leads assignment rules for your referral program.

  1. Motivate sales to recruit advocates– When you opt to break lead assignment rules in your referral program you add increased motivations for salespeople to recruit advocates. This is done through advocate ownership, or in other words any referrals a salesperson’s advocate makes aren’t distributed by the lead assignment rules you’re traditionally using but given directly to the salesperson who owns the advocate. The salesperson then gets the credit and benefits of closing the referrals sale, motivating them to increase their recruitment and nurturing of advocates.
  2. Prompt sales to take better care of the referrals – Along with motivating salespeople to recruit advocates, breaking lead assignment rules also prompts sales to take better care of referrals because they get attributed the sale of the referrals. This can include qualifying referrals by contacting the advocate who referred them before contacting the referral so as to learn everything they need about the referral from one of the people who knows them best.
  3. Increase an advocate’s willingness to refer – Half the battle of obtaining new prospects is getting them to trust you brand. But by breaking lead assignment rules your advocate’s willingness to refer is drastically increased because of the understanding that their referral will be interacting with the same salesperson they already trust and not someone new.

These 3 benefits galvanize your advocates and salespeople to accelerate the success of your referral program and increase your amount of successful referrals. Your sales team plays a large role in making your referral program a success. By providing them with the tools to leverage your program you increase your ROI substantially. But don’t take my word for it. Try out this free ROI calculator and discover how including your salespeople as an interracial part of referral program increases you revenue growth.

 

launching a referral program

Originally published the Salesforce blog

Questions? Tweet me @TrishaWinter