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.

The art of referral emails

If you’ve been around this blog long enough, you probably know that communication is one of the best ways to keep your referral sources engaged. But for all the talk about the importance of communication, there’s less understanding about how to do it effectively.

There are many ways you can keep in contact with referral partners and others in your channel, but email is one of the more convenient ways to fit it into your schedule and theirs. While some things may benefit from an in-person or video meeting, a lot of day-to-day communication ultimately works as an email.

Here are the steps to creating an effective email to channel partners.

Step 1: The Hook

This is the part that catches the reader’s attention. When crafting this, there are a few simple questions to ask yourself: why should the reader care? Why should they want to click on this email to open it? How do I make them feel glad that they did? The subject line is certainly part of the hook, but make sure to include one or two sentences max at the beginning of the email to keep them there, as well.

Step 2: The Message

Once you’ve got your reader’s attention, it’s time to cut to the chase. Do you have an update about channel performance? A challenge? A success story to share? Whatever it is, give it to your email list in a way that is easy to understand — now isn’t the time for industry jargon. Don’t be afraid to get a little personal, but don’t ramble, either.

Step 3: The CTA

What do you want your readers to do once they finish reading this email? Is there a contest you want them to enter, a certain number of leads you want from them before a certain date? Or do you simply want them to keep up the good work? No matter what it is, try to end the email on an action — something that your readers can get up and do once they’re done reading.

Bonus: Tips and Tricks

The above steps are the broad strokes of creating a good referral email. However, here are some other things to keep in mind.

Keep the message short and sweet. Channel partners have limited time. Don’t waste it with long, rambling messages that take paragraphs to get to the point.

Keep things aligned with your brand. If your brand voice is cool and casual, an overly formal email will feel out of place. Likewise, if you’re a more formal or professional brand, suddenly switching to a casual voice will throw readers off.

Include special offers or incentives. Nothing keeps partners clicking and opening messages like offering them special deals or prizes for bringing in more leads.

Automated doesn’t mean impersonal. Automated emails can help save time and also make it easier to track open and click through rates. Automating this and other parts of your referral channel can ultimately make it more effective.

#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.

Why a Referral Channel Isn’t the Same as Brand Advocacy

If you’ve just started to research a referral channel, you might be asking yourself, “Do I really need to automate a referral program? Our business already has fans that promote it on social media.” And while social media promotion from fans of the business are important to a business’s growth, this isn’t a referral channel. This is brand advocacy.

Now, brand advocacy is a great tool! This is organic, unexpected promotion, and it can be great for bringing in new leads. But it comes with its own set of challenges, and isn’t always the most sustainable way to bring in leads and grow revenue.

And that’s where a referral channel comes in.

Here are some of the key ways that a referral channel differs from brand advocacy, and why businesses should consider including an automated referral program into their lead generation strategy.

A Referral Channel is a Long-term Commitment.

While brand advocacy can encompass a fan who only tweets about your brand once, a referral partner or customer is someone who regularly interacts with your brand to give referrals.

That said, some referral partners are more active than others, and this is okay! Unlike other channel methods, a referral channel can be a great way to nurture your long tail partners and get the most out of their limited interaction.

How do you keep referral partners and customers active? Communication is a big part of it. Involving sales and special promotions are other ways to ensure maximum participation. Also, calculating the right incentives is an important part of keeping those in your referral channel engaged.

All of this can be very time-consuming, which is why automating your referral program is such a good option for so many businesses.

A Referral Channel is Scalable.

While brand advocacy is hard to grow past a small number of customers, a referral channel isn’t.

Referral channels can be scaled based on the needs of your business and referral partners. By keeping an eye on the right metrics, you can make sure that your business is growing at the rate that it needs to.

Scalability is another thing that automated referral channels can help with. By scaling your channel appropriately, you can make sure that your referral channel benefits your business, your partners, and your customers. This level of control simply doesn’t exist in brand advocacy.

A Referral Channel is “Always On.”

When managed right, a referral channel is a consistent source of leadgen and revenue. This is very different from brand advocacy, which can stop and start. A referral channel is managed by your business, which means you can keep track of how often referral partners and customers are generating leads and act accordingly.

Referral leads are, on average, more likely to convert to deals than other leads. This means that a referral channel can always be generating revenue for you on a consistent, trackable basis.
This is the main reason that businesses turn to a referral channel over other forms of lead generation, such as brand advocacy. And with software like Amplifinity, tracking the success of a referral channel is easier than ever.

The Small Business Web 2017 – Connecting with SMB

Working at a startup, we are always looking for new ways to learn and grow. Therefore, when a customer of ours told us about a boutique conference called the Small Business Web Summit we decided to explore what it could offer. Arriving in San Francisco last week, we found a collection of SaaS companies from startups to goliaths all focused on selling to SMB. The result was a exceptional salon where we could exchange information on marketing, sales and partner development.

Taking on the challenging SMB market

There are many different ways for companies to go to market – outbound, inbound, partners, app exchanges, etc. And companies have many different models – freemium, free trial, direct sales, etc. The one common theme I heard at Small Business Web was that businesses need to find better ways to reach the SMB market, as traditional approaches aren’t working well enough.

Common questions/challenges I heard were:

  • What is the right channel to focus on for growth?
  • How do I find the right partners to work with?
  • How can I enable my partners to drive business for me?
  • Which ecosystems and integrations should I focus on?
  • How do I break through the noise and get the attention of SMBs?

Mike McDerment, CEO of FreshBooks stated that “SMB is the hardest market to go after, and yet the one with the best opportunity”. It is so difficult because it is hard to pick a target (so many industries), there is lots of churn and a small wallet share. For FreshBooks, their success has been about being micro-focused on a narrow target and connecting with that persona via marketing acts and product innovation that’s fixated on their needs.

It wasn’t just FreshBooks that gave sage advice on how to go-to-market:

  • Andrus Purde, CMO of Pipeline discussed how they entered the US market and stated that “the only 2 things to focus on are getting referrals and being findable.”
  • Dropbox, who is famous for growing via referrals, was represented by Thomas Hansen, Global VP of Revenue, who discussed how their next layer of growth will come from developing a multi-channel approach with MSP Ingram Micro.
  • Kevin O’Brien, VP of Strategic Alliances for JazzHR discussed how he developed a network of partners to drive referral business first at Constant Contact, then Hootsuite and now at JazzHR.
  • Eric Groves, CEO of Alignable, told us about the Constant Contact vs MailChimp story. His advice was, “Embrace and enable customers and they will help you sell.”
  • Our own CEO, Larry Angeli, got on stage with Randy Fahrbach, Sr. Channel Mgr at LogMeIn and discussed how to leverage referral partners for scaling SMB growth.
  • Lars Helgeson, CEO of GreenRope discussed how they grew by going direct and using niche resellers.
  • Stéphane Donze, CEO of AODocs discussed how they grew via the Google ecosystem.
  • And many more SaaS executives told their stories on winning, losing and the battle to grow.

My takeaway – everyone is looking for better ways to connect to SMB and grow revenue. It is no wonder that the conference is seeing tremendous growth, as it is the only conference dedicated to this space. The President of Small Business Web, Sunir Shah, also announced that they will be rebranding the group to be more in line with the problems they are trying to solve. My vote is to have “connect” in the name, because fundamentally you can’t force your way in to SMBs, you need to connect your way in.

If you share that challenge and would like to be part of this incredible networking event you can check it out here: https://www.thesmallbusinessweb.com/