How Verbal Referrals Can Increase Advocate Referrals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Learn How To Build A Referral Channel In 8 Easy Steps

So you are convinced of the value of referrals and you’re ready to take the first steps towards building a referral channel, but where do you start? In eight simple steps, you can build out and scale a referral channel for your enterprise company. And with the help of software like Amplifinity, you can bring referrals into your sales workflow to increase both partner activity and revenue.

Step 1: Identify Potential Partners

To start building your channel, you need to figure out your referral target market. To do this, you need to have your marketing and sales teams answer these questions:

  • What companies sell complimentary products to your same targets? These companies can include integration partners or companies selling into the same buying group. You can also identify the typical technology stacks and services that are used by your target buying group.
  • Who has influence over your target buyers? If you are selling to small or mid-sized businesses, there’s a lot of providers you can consider including people like their accountants and bankers.
  • What associations do your target buyers join or follow? Whether they are chambers or local business association, these types of groups are a great way to break into the small business network.
  • Are there purchases that typically happen in coordination with yours? For example, when someone buys marketing automation they might also purchase a content platform.
  • Are there consultant groups or agencies that advise on purchase decisions in your industry that are complementary to your product? From niche consultants to product sites, there are likely a number of different consultants and review sites that are influencing your target buyers.
  • Are your target buyers part of a franchise model? If the answer to this one is yes, it’s good to note that the franchisers have direct access and influence you can tap into.
  • Are there under-performing re-sellers in an existing partner channel? If you have an existing partner network made up of re-sellers, you can consider transitioning your under-performing re-sellers into referral partners.  

Step 2: Engage and Recruit Partners

Now that you’ve identified your potential referral partners, you need to get their attention and explain to them the value of becoming a referral partner with your business. To do this you can consider the following value props:

  • Does recommending your product or service put the partner in a positive light with their customers and network?
  • Does it help them become a trusted advisor?
  • Does your product or service add value to their other offerings?
  • Does it make their current offering more sticky for potential customers by increasing usage or value?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you now know how to sell participation in your program as a win-win. Just add to that an equitable incentive model with a commission or some other form of revenue sharing. The key is to drive partner action by outlining the benefits of your referral program on their business.

Next, you need to get your sales team on-board to send your value prop, and to recruit referral partners. Direct sales has an organic incentive to recruit partners for referrals because they reap the benefit of the resulting leads. So, arm your sales team with the right materials and a simple registration process. You can even get your marketing team involved in delivering recruitment campaigns.

Step 3: Enable Referral Partners

The next step in building out your referral channel is enabling your referral partners by giving them everything they need to be successful. The best way to do this is through a personal referral portal. Here are the six things you need in a portal in order to properly engage your referral partners:

  1. Multiple ways to make referrals
  2. Product content to educate and share
  3. Information on the target buyers, including personas
  4. Clear rules that state how a partner earns incentives
  5. Transparency into the referral activities and reward statuses
  6. Training materials about the program and how to make referrals

Once you have all the pieces in place on the portal, you’ll want to make sure you have a motivating incentive structure in place.

Step 4: Incentivize Referral Partners

There are all sorts of ways to incentives referral partners, but how do you know what’s right for your company? When trying to choose the appropriate reward amount, you should consider the following factors:

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

The best way to checkpoint your reward amount strategy is to work with marketing to determine their cost per acquisition (CPA) of a customer coming from inbound efforts. Your referral fee should always come in much lower than the marketing CPA.

Next, you want to consider the following when structuring your reward to meet your business needs:

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

No matter how you incentivize, it’s important that this is all manageable for you. The more you can automate your referral system, the easier it will be to handle. Partners that are paid quickly tend to be happy and more successful.

Step 5: Onboarding Referral Partners

Now that you have your recruitment, enablement and incentives all figured out, you need to create a smooth onboarding process. Here are the six key things you need to do during the onboarding process for referral partners:

  1. Collect necessary information – Things like tax form information, banking information (if needed) and basic contact information.
  2. Educate on the target buyer using personas – Referral partners need to know what types of companies, and titles within those companies, are a fit for your solution.
  3. Train on how to make a one-to-one referral ask – Have a conversation with your partners about the best times to introduce your product/service to a target buyer, and the best way to introduce your product/service.
  4. Train on various ways to input referrals into your tracking systemFocus your training on the use case and value for using each referral method, with special attention on how to make one-to-one referrals versus one-to-many referral blasts. Referral types include lead forms, verbal referrals, email, shareable URLs, social media and print cards.
  5. Discuss what happens to a referral lead once they provide it – Your referral partners need to understand your referral process and how you will be communicating with their prospect.
  6. Educate on referral success criteria, data access and any service level agreements – There’s a lot to consider when trying to determine success criteria and incentives for your program. It’s important that you have clearly defined key performance indicators (KPIs) by which you measure success, and that you are clear in your communications about those KPIs to your referral partners.

Step 6: Keep Referral Partners Engaged

You’ve done the hard work of setting up your program, and recruiting and on-boarding partners. Now you need to figure out how to keep the referrals flowing in. The key here is to make it easy for partners to make referrals, and to give them full transparency into their progress. Here are 7 things you can do to keep your referral partners engaged:

  1. Give regular status updates
  2. Give regular program and success story communications
  3. Involve your sales team to help drive referral activity
  4. Have special promotions (internal and external)
  5. Offer a coaching program to help improve the performance of struggling partners
  6. Offer escalating incentives to help encourage repeat referrals
  7. In addition to money, give non-monetary recognition

Step 7: Establish Key Metrics For Your Referral Partner Program

There are 5 key categories you want to measure in order to get the data you need to optimize and grow the output from your referral partners. Those categories are:

  • The referral pipeline – For this one, look at the number of partners, the number of referrals, the number of successful referrals and revenue.
  • Partner activity – Here, you want to look at the percent of partners that made referrals within a time period, the percent of partners that made multiple referrals within that time period, the percent of partners with successful referrals within that time period, the average number of referrals per partner and the average number of successful referrals per partner.
  • Top performers – Look at top partners by number of referrals, top partners by number of successful referrals and top partners by revenue.
  • Under-performers – To figure out your under-performers look at your lowest partners by number of referrals, lowest partners by number of successful referrals and lowest partners by revenue.

It’s important to note that you don’t want to take action on the data you collect on a daily basis. Instead, you should check it often and keep an eye out for trends or anything that falls outside of your expectations.

Step 8: Scale Your Referral Partner Program

Now that you know how to measure the success of your program and partners, it’s time to grow! To kick off growing your referral channel, it’s important to consider your goals and identify opportunities. Here are some key areas to think about when driving program growth:

  • Do I have great partners, but need more?
  • Am I limiting my growth by making my program too complex?
  • Am I incentivizing my partners enough to keep them motivated?
  • Are my partners becoming disengaged with the program?

If you do find that your partners are becoming disengaged as you try to grow your program, consider automating it (if you haven’t already). Referral program software can remove the operational hassle of tracking, attributing and rewarding referrals. Don’t let this powerful channel go underutilized because you’re still using spreadsheets!

To learn more about building and automating successful referral channels, visit our resource library.

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

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

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

Key areas to consider to drive program growth:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Is the incentive not motivating enough activity?

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

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

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

4. Are my partners becoming disengaged with the program?

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

Previous articles in this series:

Step 1 – How to identify potential partners

Step 2 – How to engage and recruit partners  

Step 3 – How to enable referral partners

Step 4 – How to incentivize referral partners 

Step 5 – How to onboard referral partners 

Step 6 – How to keep referral partners engaged

Step 7 – Key metrics for referral partner programs

Building a Referral Partner Channel: Step 7 – Key metrics for a referral partner program

Once you’ve got your referral partner program running, you’ll want to collect data that will help you to optimize and grow the output from your referral partners. To do this I will outline a number of metrics that aren’t merely to measure against but actionable as well.

5 Key categories of metrics for a referral partner program:

  1. The referral pipeline:
    1. # of partners
    2. # of referrals
    3. #  of successful referrals
    4. revenue
  2. Partner activity:
    1. % of partners that have made referrals that period
    2. % of partners that have made multiple referrals that period
    3. % of partners that have had successful referrals that period
    4. Avg # of referrals per partners
    5. Avg # of successful referrals per partner
  3. Top performers:
    1. Top partners by # of referrals
    2. Top partners by # of successful referrals
    3. Top partners by revenue
  4. Under performers:
    1. Lowest partners by # of referrals
    2. Lowest partners by # of successful referrals
    3. Lowest partners by revenue
  5. For those running a to and through partner program – you’ll want to look at the referral pipeline by partner entity as well.

1. The referral pipeline

Understanding the flow of referrals from partners and their employees to closed won revenue is important for seeing trends. Additionally, this is your direct ROI to demonstrate the clear value of the program to executive leadership. You’ll want to have this data and manipulate it by the current time period as well as chart it over time to see trends.

You won’t take action on this data on a daily basis, but it is important to watch if something falls outside of your expectations or is under performing relative to business objectives. If so, start diving into the metrics below to diagnose possible issues.

referral partner, partner referral program, channel partners, referral partner software, referral partner program

 

2. Partner activity

Continuous engagement and promotion is important to keeping partners referring. Monitoring their activity levels is key to knowing when an additional nudge is needed or a full out calling campaign from channel sales to encourage repeat referrals. Keeping tabs on both percentage of partner activity as well as monitoring averages will help you to identify overall performance problems that you can address holistically.

3. Top performers

It’s great to know the overall trends for your program, but there is incredible value to identifying top performing referral partners. This is an opportunity for personalized recognition or expansion of the relationship. As with any marketing activity, it pays to focus on the best performers and give them additional resources to get even more out of them.

referral partners, referral activity, partner referral program, referral partner software, referral partner program

4. Under performers

While it is great to spend time with top performers, there are some very basic course corrections that can be made with under performers that can keep them engaged and get them successful. My favorite report is partners who have made a lot of referrals, but haven’t had any make a purchase. Chances are these partners don’t understand your target buyer or they aren’t positioning your product value correctly. A simple email and follow up calling campaign to have this discussion can go a long way to save these partners from getting frustrated and churning.

partner referrals, referral partners, partner referral program, referral partner program

5. Referral pipeline by partner companies

If you’re running a referral partner program where you have a relationship at the corporate level to enable their sales team to make referrals to you, of course you will want to look at performance by each partner entity. Understanding how many employees they have enrolled, the activity level and success rates is key to encouraging that partner to help you internally promote. Certainly, if this is a managed relationship with SLAs, you’ll want to play close attention to their progress so you can make a call as needed to bring their attention to lackluster results or to call and recognize them for going above and beyond expectations.

What about referral partner program incentives?

There are a long list of additional metrics that we see on partner referral program dashboards. They all have a place in understanding the details of what’s working and what’s not in your program. But, if you’ve got limited time and resources (don’t we all) just focus on those five areas I mentioned above and you’ll be able to do great things!

Now many of you may be wondering why I haven’t mentioned incentives as a key metric. After all, this is a huge part of operating a referral partner program. If you are doing this manually, by all means you’ll want lots of reports and data to manage that function. Ideally, you are working with a software vendor that automates incentive calculation and fulfillment. If so, this isn’t something you need to worry about as a key metric.

In the final article of this series I’ll go into even more depth on how you can use this data to optimize your program.  

Previous articles in this series:

Step 1 – How to identify potential partners 

Step 2 – How to engage and recruit partners

Step 3 – How to enable referral partners

Step 4 – How to incentivize referral partners

Step 5 – How to onboard referral partners

Step 6 – How to engage referral partners 

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.

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

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

Here are 7 activities to keep referral partners engaged:

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

1. Regular status update communications

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

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

2. Regular program and success story communications

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

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

3. Involvement of sales to drive referral activity

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

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

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

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

4. Special promotions – both internal and external

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

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

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

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

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

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

6. Escalating incentives to encourage repeat referrals

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

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

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

7. Non-monetary recognition

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

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

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

Previous articles in this series:

Step 1 – How to identify potential partners 

Step 2 – How to engage and recruit partners 

Step 3 – How to enable referral partners

Step 4 – How to incentivize referral partners

Step 5 – How to onboard referral partners