Top 5 must-dos for a successful referral program

Organizations looking to develop a referral program have a lot to consider.  Everything from finding the appropriate technology to determining the best date for launch to figuring out their reward structure, it all takes deliberate thought to make sure the right decisions are made. Of all the moving parts to consider, following these top five must-dos will ensure your program is a success:

1)  Devote the time, money and resources needed to set the program up right the first time.

Companies sometimes think launching their referral programs as pilot studies and then growing them into more robust programs later is the way to go.  Typically this is because they either don’t have the IT resources available to create important integrations, or they don’t have complete buy-in from corporate. This is a mistake. Referral programs need to be designed and implemented from the get-go to be full-fledge functional and efficient tools for the audiences they serve.  Approaching a referral program with “one toe in the water” will net potentially inconclusive and often mediocre results.  If the referral program is going to be an integral part of the enterprise, then find a way to incorporate all the parts of the enterprise necessary to ensure program adoption and success right from the start.

2) Understand IN PRACTICE how leads are currently making it into the sales funnel.

A potential customer came in with an existing referral program that needed improving.  Their executives explained how the sales process worked: sales reps were currently using a home-grown referral database to enter leads and then managing those leads using their CRM.  But the home-grown referral database was unsophisticated and the data proved hard to track referral marketing success; they needed a more streamlined approach whereby the sales reps could simply enter leads into the referral program and have them sync to the CRM, updating automatically as the sale progressed.  After much hard work, the customer launched a cool new referral platform that met their requirements.  The result? Their sales leads decreased by half.  Why? Because the business did not understand how their sales team actually used their CRM.  As it turned out, reps had never utilized the home-grown referral database at all; instead, they were entering the leads directly into the CRM. By developing a new process to “streamline” things, they had inadvertently introduced a whole new step in the sales process.  This is not an uncommon discovery for companies when they start to dig into the details of how their sales processes work.  Before considering a referral program, companies need to truly understand how their sales team interacts with the tools they are provided when it comes to current customers and potential leads.  There are ways to successfully integrate referral programs into CRM systems that can streamline the work being done and increase ROI without introducing a change in the organizational culture or sales process.

3) Make the call-to-action for customers crystal clear.

Drop-offs in referral program participation often occur in two spots:  the registration point for customers, and the call-to-action point for leads.  Why?  Because customers may be drawn to look at what the referral program is offering, but at the point they need to make a decision to join, if the message is vague or cumbersome, they are less likely to complete their registration.  Similarly, leads may click through the emails or social posts from their friends, but if they can’t tell what they get for providing their personal information, the drop-off rate will increase.

A company with a successful referral program used the following headline in their recruitment emails to customers: “Get a $20 card and 1000 reward points when you get your friends to buy our product.”  In the body of the email, there were three steps to achieving the reward.  That’s it.

The message is simple: 1) Tell your customers what you want them to do. 2) Tell them how to do it. 3) Tell them what they will get for doing it.

4) Promote the referral program everywhere customers go, and promote it constantly.

Research on referral program success rates shows that broad promotion of a company’s referral program is a significant step in getting customers to refer multiple times.  On average, twenty percent of customers will register for the referral program.  A significant proportion of those who register for the program will only make one successful referral during the lifetime of the program.  Customers who have a positive experience with the referral program are twice as likely to successfully refer again, and one-fifth of any company’s customers who register for their referral program will refer successfully multiple times.  One of the key values customers who refer successfully over and over bring to a company’s sales process is their knowledge of others who are in the market for a particular product. However, timing is critical. If a current customer gets a referral program invitation email from a company but has no referral in mind, the email will be ignored.  However, weeks later, the same customer may identify a referral and will need to be able to easily find a link to the company’s referral program, preferably on the website or through the online account pages.

On average, the number of days between successful referrals for customers who will refer more than once is sixty-three.  Companies must advertise their referral program everywhere their customers go, and promote it constantly through as many channels as possible.  Without frequent and continued promotion, referral program success is left completely to chance.

5) Follow FTC compliance and IRS tax laws.

Companies with referral programs need to be aware of the various laws and regulations around solicitations (CAN SPAM), promotions, and rewarding.  In an earlier blog post I talk about CAN SPAM, but there are two other regulatory considerations companies need to keep in mind:

First, the Federal Trade Commission recently passed a law under its 16 CFR Part 255, “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”   The regulation states if a person makes a post on any social network (such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, or LinkedIn) and stands to gain a profit from the endorsement or testimonial, he or she must at a minimum include a statement such as, “This is a paid endorsement,” or “#paidad.”  Your referral program Terms and Conditions should include this language so you can be certain your program is compliant with the most current statutes and you are protected against legal action.

Second, depending on the amount of the referral reward and the rigor it takes to achieve it, companies need to consider how much money any one customer could potentially earn in a calendar year.  The reason for this is simply the IRS. If a customer receives over $599.00 per year in rewards, to be compliant with US tax laws the company who paid those rewards must collect a W-9 from that person and submit a 1099 to the IRS on the customer’s behalf.  There are referral program vendors that will track 1099 information and disseminate the paperwork as needed to be certain you stay compliant with US tax laws. Be sure to ask if these are features of their platform when talking with a potential referral program vendor.

Questions? Email me at Kmcmurphy@amplifinity.com

Photo Credit: Freedigitalphotos.net

What is brand advocacy?

 

There’s no cheat sheet for referral selling

Originally published in Sales and Marketing Management

Referral selling seems pretty simple, right? All you need to do is tell your salespeople to ask for referrals. Why wouldn’t they latch onto their most powerful sales strategy? After all, referred salespeople:

 

  • Score every meeting at the level that counts
  • Arrive pre-sold, with trust and credibility already earned
  • Fill their sales funnels with people who actually want to talk to them
  • Shorten their sales process without incurring any hard costs
  • Engage gatekeepers as their allies
  • Convert prospects into clients more than 50 percent of the time(usually more than 70 percent)

 

No other sales or marketing strategy promises the same close rates or business-development opportunities as referral selling. So why aren’t more salespeople doing it? Because referral selling might be a simple concept, but it’s not a simple process.

Even though most sales organizations recognize the impact of referral selling, 95 percent of companies don’t make referral selling a priority and don’t have a proven referral system to hardwire referral selling into the way their teams work.

Simply put, if you want to sell more, change your game. It’s time to put referral selling into action.

Here are some basic DOs and DON’Ts to consider:

 

1. DON’T point and tell.

 

Referral selling is a shift in behavior that informs the way we work every day. It’s a skill that must be learned, practiced, coached, and reinforced, and it starts at the top—with leaders who prioritize referral selling. Simply ”telling” your team to ask for referrals doesn’t work. Without the proper skills, most people feel a bit awkward and even uncomfortable asking for referrals. They say:

 

  • “I’m not comfortable asking for help or a favor.”
  • “I won’t ask a busy person to take on even more work.”
  • “What if they say ‘no’?” (fear of rejection)

 

Referrals aren’t favors; they’re connections between two people who could help each other. Many salespeople hesitate to ask for referrals because they haven’t had any luck doing so in the past. They thought it was enough to tell people, “Hey, if you know anyone who could benefit from my services, please refer me.” But even the best-intentioned friends and clients will think no more of this generic request after the conversation is over.

To commit to referral selling, salespeople need leaders who teach them how and then hold them accountable for referral results. Without accountability, a referral initiative becomes just another “program du jour.”

 

2. DO know the definition of a referral.

 

What constitutes a referral? Salespeople receive introductions from people their prospects know and trust. Just getting names and phone numbers doesn’t cut it. Sure, sometimes that works. But if making every call or email count is important, introductions matter. Then prospects know all about your company and the reason for the meeting, and they welcome a conversation. Save time? You bet. Speak with your target clients? You bet.

Without an introduction, any outreach is ice cold. The person doesn’t know you and doesn’t expect to hear from you. That’s the definition of a cold call—whether you reach out by phone, email, social media, or knocking on doors.

 

3. DO ask all of your clients for referrals.

 

There are only two ways to get more business: Do more business with existing customers or find new customers. Referrals work both ways. It’s not just who you know; it’s who your clients know.

Your current and former clients are your best source of referrals, because they know firsthand the value your solution delivers. They choose to do business with your company, so why wouldn’t they recommend their friends and colleagues do the same?

Many sales teams miss the boat on client referrals, because their roles and responsibilities are out of whack. After a deal is done, reps hand clients off to an implementation team or account manager. The salesperson moves on to search for more qualified prospects. This methodology is totally out of sync with the way the buyer—now the client—wants to be treated. And if salespeople lose touch with clients, they also lose opportunities to turn those relationships into referrals.

 

4. DO know the right time to ask clients for referrals.

 

It’s never too soon, and it’s only too late if you’ve waited months or years and haven’t stayed in touch.

 Salespeople can ask for referrals anytime during the sales process when they’ve created value. How will they know? Prospects will thank them—for an idea, an insight, or a strategy they hadn’t considered. Don’t wait until you ink the deal, deliver your solution, or provide metrics for results. By that time, reps are far away from the people with whom they developed relationships during the sales process.

It’s also OK to ask prospects for referrals when your company has lost a deal. This sounds crazy, I know, but think about it. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Your prospect is probably feeling awkward about delivering bad news and might be relieved to help you out. Besides, your company wouldn’t have gotten this far in the process unless you had the correct solution and built trust with your buyers. Ask yourself: “What do I have to lose?” If you’re OK with the answer, go for it.

 

5. DON’T neglect your relationships.

 

Salespeople know when they’ve earned a buyer’s trust. We have instincts that inform us whether we’ve connected with someone or missed the mark.

Once you’ve built trust with prospects, technology through advocacy programs can help continue to enhance the salesperson/client relationship. Marketing plays an important role in the trust equation by reaching out to prospects with personalized communications, posting on social media, and using advocate referral programs to connect salespeople with customers. But that doesn’t mean sales reps should be removed from the equation. After all, relationships are a salesperson’s most valuable asset, so don’t let your team give them up.

 

6. DO align with marketing and seek supporting technology.

 

The sibling rivalry between marketing and sales has raged for decades, but it’s time we grow up and start playing nice. In this tech-driven, social-media-obsessed environment, companies depend on both sales and marketing to find and nurture customers. Without alignment and teamwork, the customer experience suffers … and so does the bottom line.

A referral program is the perfect opportunity for sales to engage with marketing and work together to provide a top-notch referral experience for customers. As the velocity of your referrals increases, so will your sales. While your reps are in meetings with key decision makers, your competition will still be trying to figure out how to get in.

As referral programs gain traction, many organizations find that a referral automation platform helps to organize the process. No more figuring out who referred whom. A referral automation platform tracks referrals from the time they are made until business closes, and then attributes that success back to the referring customer.

Referrals are the highest quality leads, yet management is stymied about why salespeople fail to follow up on so many of their referrals (some say 35 percent). A top-notch referral platform integrates with your CRM, which ensures referred prospects are front and center, and get contacted immediately. Then the system automatically reminds reps to get back in touch with their referral sources, thank them for the introductions, and congratulate them when referrals result in closed business. This is not just a nice way to do business; it’s also an opportunity for reps to reconnect with people who might provide even more referrals. Companies also have the option to automate referral incentive programs—either for referral sources or for team members who bring in referrals.

Equally important, both management and sales can see the number of referrals reps receive, how many referred leads convert to clients, and the increases in revenue. Some systems provide sales hot lists, call lists, and leader-boards to keep reps on their toes, and the referral competition keeps reps motivated.

But a word of warning: While a referral automation platform can help you organize the process, track results, and better nurture referral sources, actually asking for referrals requires relationships, which means it’s something salespeople should be doing.

People buy from us because they trust us. That’s it. You gain that trust with referral introductions. Then it’s yours to nurture and develop. Lose it, and you lose the deal.

 

What is brand advocacy?

Referral advocacy is the new demand generation

As a marketer, I understand your brand has a lot of choices when it comes to diversifying your marketing mix and creating demand generation. There are a lot of tech companies vying for your attention, promising their methods are the best. So, I thank you humbly for your undivided attention and promise to use your time wisely!

Our marketing team came up with an infographic featuring a few stats from analysts and third-party organizations who you trust. The following statistics get right to the heart of what we do, and you can determine the value for yourself.  A common theme we hear from salespeople is it is hard to get past the gatekeeper when prospecting for leads, why not help out your sales team by using referral software to keep their leads hot?Referrals and demand generation

 

If you are like me and love stats like this, be sure to follow us on Twitter @Amplifinity. Questions for me? Tweet me at @Krysiahepatica

 

What is brand advocacy?

 

Amplifinity’s blog provides best practices in advocacy and referral marketing

ANN ARBOR, Mich. May 29, 2015 — Amplifinity today announced it is relaunching its popular blog to focus solely on best practices in referral and advocacy marketing. The goal of the relaunched blog is to provide original content that will help demand generation, customer and partner marketers to find new ways to create value for their companies.  Content draws from experiences of large, fast-growing enterprises in industries like software, telecommunications, financial services, consumer products, B2B, insurance, education, healthcare, energy, and utilities.

 

Because Amplifinity provides automated referral software that powers advocacy programs for some of the world’s biggest companies, Amplifinity experts are among the most experienced in the industry. Recent posts written by Amplifinity experts cover a diverse but pertinent range of topics like how the CAN SPAM Act affects referral marketing, why banks struggle with referrals, the perils of pixel tracking, the challenges of in-house referral programs. Amplifinity has also partnered with referral selling expert Joanne Black  to create content that is exclusive to Amplifinity’s blog, and Amplifinity plans to continue to publish posts by internal and external experts.

 

“We have very engaged customers who are hungry to learn what they can to maximize the value of their referral channel,” said Trisha Winter, CMO at Amplifinity who spearheaded the relaunch of the blog. “Referrals are clearly the best demand gen strategy out there, but there isn’t a lot of new and engaging thought leadership on the subject. We hope to bridge that gap and inspire marketers with new ideas for meeting their demand generation challenges.”

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.

Promoting your B2B referral program: Don’t forget the SPICE!

A B2B referral program will be a highly successful as a source of new business if you promote it with success in mind.

Marketers generally like acronyms, so in the interest of the K.I.S.S. principle, I offer my fellow marketers an acronym to emphasize the key principles of referral program promotion:

S marketing

P ainless

I nnovate often

C reate trust

E mpower your advocates

 

SMARKETING

Smarketing is a cool term that denotes the mutually beneficial and strategic alignment of sales and marketing teams.

Make it your top priority to involve sales at every point in your planning from concept to benefits to how the program is promoted and optimized.

A successful B2B referral program is dependent on smarketing to bring home the ROI, so the more you work with and prove the benefits of your program to your sales team, the more successful and visible your program will be.

 

PAINLESS

A basic marketing principle, keeping your program simple and painless from registration to making referrals to earning rewards will ensure that your advocates stay engaged, excited and empowered.

 

INNOVATE OFTEN

You’ve geared up for a killer program launch and taken every step to drive your customer or partner advocates to refer and refer often. And it works! You’re a marketing star! Everyone is lavishing praise on you and your team and asking how they can create their very own referral program thanks to your super powered marketing ingenuity!

Don’t get too comfortable, Mister and Missus Marketer.

Just like you wouldn’t run the same TV spot for years on end, you can’t just let your referral program go. It’s like any other marketing or promotional best practice: keep it fresh and innovate often. Change it up. Offer a “double your rewards” promotion. Spice up the creative. Stay on your toes!

 

CREATE TRUST

A referral program requires the same marketing discipline as any other strategic initiative. We mentioned that a lack of planning for your referral program can result in a flop.

The same goes for creating trust with your advocates and the prospects they refer to you; if you fail to create it, your program won’t work.  We’ve seen it happen and we don’t want it to happen to you.

But you can still easily lose all that hard-earned trust if you:

 

  • Try to run your referral program manually, which more often than not, leads to missed or dropped referrals, forgotten rewards, or a lack of appreciation for every advocate’s referral and closed deal that results from that referral.

 

  • Make the program clunky, cumbersome, difficult-to-understand or too much work to implement.

 

EMPOWER YOUR ADVOCATES

There are numerous ways to empower your advocates but the three most important are:

 

  1. Give your advocates many ways to refer – email, social, printed cards, SMS, and any other way they communicate with your brand.

 

  1. Offer advocates a pre-written suggestion for social sharing, but also allow them to change your suggestion and personalize it.

 

  1. Make registering for the program as quick and easy as possible so that they can advocate for you without too much effort.

 

Remember that a B2B referral program can easily become your demand-gen bread and butter. Your bacon when you bring home the bacon. Your referral program will take the cake. But when you’re shakin’ and bakin’ up your program, don’t forget the SPICE!

What is brand advocacy?

Mosquito Squad chooses Amplifinity to grow and automate customer referral program

ANN ARBOR, Mich. April 21, 2015 — Mosquito Squad, North America’s largest and most trusted mosquito elimination and tick control company, has selected Amplifinity to build, automate, and manage their customer referral program, Share the Squad in order to increase customer and prospect engagement while also increasing demand generation quality and quantity.

Mosquito Squad, an Outdoor Living Brands company, recognizes the importance of fully automating referrals in a way that allows full participation at the franchise level while maintaining corporate-level support and sponsorship. Their customer-driven advocacy program allows Mosquito Squad customers to refer friends, neighbors, and family members. For every referred friend who becomes a client, the customer earns $25 as a thank you, and the friend saves $25 off their first Mosquito Squad treatment.

Amplifinity’s referral amplification software will allow Mosquito Squad to accurately manage rewards, remarket to their advocate base, close the sales loop, drive testimonials, share new products and quantify the full value of referrals to their business. These programs result in measurable increases in leads, customer loyalty and new customer acquisition, creating a powerful sales and marketing channel. In fact, extensive academic research shows that referred customers are more profitable, more loyal, and have a lower acquisition cost paired with higher lifetime value.

“Our clients are already a great referral source, but it’s been tough to scale the program in a way that works for our customers and our franchisees” said Karin Harrison, marketing manager for Mosquito Squad. “With the Amplifinity platform, we can add real convenience and value to customers by offering multiple referral channels including social media. Amplifinity’s fully trackable and automated reward system also removes the burden from our franchisees and makes referrals easier than ever to manage.”

“Mosquito Squad has already won numerous awards for its business strategy and franchise model,” said Trisha Winter, CMO at Amplifinity. “A fully automated and successful customer referral program will be another jewel in Mosquito Squad’s crown, and we’re really looking forward to helping make customer referrals a critical part of a wildly successful 2015 spring and summer season.”

About Amplifinity

Amplifinity’s referral amplification software turns customer, employee and partner 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 Mosquito Squad

Founded in 2005, Mosquito Squad has grown to more than 160 franchise locations nationwide. “The Squad” specializes in eliminating mosquitoes and ticks from outdoor livingspaces, allowing Americans to enjoy their yards, outdoor living spaces, special events and green spaces. For more information, visit www.MosquitoSquad.com and www.OutdoorLivingBrands.com.