Prompt your prospects’ referral passion: Part 2

Deliver referral features that inspire them to want you.

Lately, you’ve been singing the same old marketing song. Specifically:

I want you to want me

I need you to need me . . .

                                                                                                                  (Cheap Trick)

But I have to say, it’s starting to sound a little desperate. And if you keep carrying on this way you’re just going hear those six little word over and over again, “You’re not my type . . . of business.” It’s time to change tactics. Instead of having your referral program ask the prospect to want you, imbue your referral program with feature that inspire passion for your services and products and motivate them to become customers.

And while you already uncovered what advocates want in part 1, you must now ask the question, what do your prospects want from your referral program?

Well, that’s a good question. Luckily, Penny the prospect gave me the inside scoop at dinner one night.

“We want the buying process to be easy and simple,” said Penny. Your prospects don’t want hidden gimmicks or fine print, but a buying process that rewards them.

From that insight, 3 prospect referral desires were locked onto and 5 referral features were developed to elevate and ignite your prospects passion for your business.

3 prospect referral desires and the features that fulfill them

  1. A deal too good to pass up – What prompts a prospect’s passion is what prompts any customer, a good deal. Prospects want to feel like they have tricked the “system” or obtained a deal of an exclusive nature. By making sure that prospects as well as advocates are rewarded, you add another incentive besides that of their family, friend, acquaintance, or professional network endorsement of you.


A feature that fulfills this want: Double-Sided Rewards


  1. A personalized buying experience – While your prospect knows who referred them and has a pre-established relationship with them, most of the time they need more than just the referral to become a customer. Prospects want to be able to discuss with their advocate why they should buy from your business. The prospect might want this to happen over email, in person, verbally, through social media, or even through text. Your referral program needs to be equipped to handle every type of referral interaction. This keeps the dialogue going and builds up to the conversion from prospect to customer.


Features that fulfill this want: Empowerment Tools   Prospect Nurturing


  1. A simple and easy buying process – Prospects don’t want to have to make the extra effort to buy your product, and they won’t. Give your prospects the buying process they want by making it easy to complete and individualized to the prospects preferred method to purchase.


Features that fulfill this want: Supported Prospect Purchase via Brick-and-Mortar or Phone Call  Prospect Buy Flow   Prospect Lead Submission

These prospect prompting features will not only invigorate potential referrals, but as an added benefit, your advocates as well. By fashioning features that encourage prospects to become successful referrals it becomes easier for advocates to achieve a rewarding referral. But while prospects and advocates are very important to motivate and reward, don’t forget who builds those relationships and manages your referral program, your sales team and marketers.

Stay tuned for part 3 of this 4 part blog that will focus on what referral features your sales team craves and requires to enflame their closes rates.  And don’t miss part 1 to learn about the desires of your referral advocates.

Customer referrals



Best referral program

Interested in furthering the discussion? Email me at

Clear gaming smoke from your referral program

In running referral programs, you’ll want to assure that the referrals you receive are legitimate and honestly put forth.   While no software system can fully anticipate the vagaries of human behavior, there are many things a referral software system can do to minimize gaming.  Let’s look at the types of gaming and then take a three-pronged approach to address the problem.

Observed Gaming Behavior

Gaming of referral programs is generally driven by three different personas:  Sales Reps, Advocates, and Prospects.  Here are a few examples:

Sales Rep Referral Gaming

Sales reps have inside knowledge of deals, which gives them the opportunity to find ways to reap a referral reward in addition to their normal commission.  They may:

  • Ask a friend to refer a deal that they have already worked and is close to closing, then split the reward with the friend after the deal closes.
  • Pose as a customer to register themselves as advocates, thus setting themselves up to receive a reward for their own commissioned sale.

Advocate Referral Gaming

While loyal brand advocates tend to adhere to the intent of a referral program, less loyal advocates, or non-customers who sign up as advocates, may choose to maximize reward revenue via less-than-admirable means.  They may:

  • Attempt to do a self-referral to gain a reward for something they were already planning to buy.
  • Ask a friend to accept a referral for a service that has a trial period, suggesting that the friend cancel the service after reward payment but before the trial period expires.  
  • Do email blasts to a large, primarily non-qualified audience.  While not inherently fraudulent, this behavior can generate unhappy customers who find that the referred product is not a good fit. For product sales, this generates ill will; for service sales, this creates churn and unprofitable customers.

Prospect Referral Gaming

Prospect gaming is rare, but in some cases prospects who wish to game the system will look for loopholes in the referral offer.  For example, if the prospect receives a reward for signing up for a service, she may cancel the service after reward receipt but before service payment.

Amplifinity’ Answers to Gaming

The recommendations that follow are based upon Amplifinity’s experience in supporting millions of referrals that have driven nearly two billion dollars of new business.  We’ve learned that successful referral programs address gaming on three fronts to guide the user away from gaming opportunities, block gaming activity, and report on gaming activity that cannot be blocked.  Here are some guidelines, as embodied in our platform and our successful referral program configurations, to help you design a referral program that drives genuine referrals.

Guide Behavior

Start by constructing your referral program to minimize the opportunity for fraud:

  • Use Single Sign-On (SSO) to assure that advocates are legitimate customers, employees, or partners.  This helps to eliminate sales rep gaming that relies on a friend to make referrals for deals already in the works.
  • Similarly, if the customer does not use SSO, validate new advocate registrations against a list of known legitimate customers, employees, or partners.
  • Use a validation upon registration to gain assurance that an advocate is using his or her own email address.
  • For concern about sales reps that pose as customers to make referrals, consider registration of advocates by invitation only.  For example, the Amplifinity platform will import your list of eligible customers, employees, or partners and then invite them into the program.  In this scenario, only invited individuals can become advocates, preventing sales reps from posing as customers.
  • Select reward types that balance strong incentive value with discouraging fraud.  As an example, sales reps will not ask their friends to refer accounts already in the sales cycle if the reward is a bill credit, which the sales rep will never see.
  • Use reward retention periods.  To prevent advocate and prospect gaming by service cancellation, configure the retention period to be longer that the service cancellation period.
  • Amplifinity also recommends that brands make rewards revocable (in terms and conditions) to allow brand to take action if fraud determined after reward payment.

Block Behavior

Prevent actions that make it easy for users to game the system:

  • Prevent self-referrals by blocking referrals to an advocate’s own name and email address.
  • Prevent multiple rewards for the same referral by blocking an advocate’s duplicate email referrals to a prospect.
  • Prevent multiple rewards for duplicate referrals to a single prospect from multiple advocates.
  • Do not reward referrals that are entered after the sale is closed.
  • Block mass emails by limiting the number of referral emails an advocate can send in a single day.  Valuable referrals are made by advocates who thoughtfully select their advocates.

Flag Behavior

Even with programs that guide advocates well and block gaming behaviors, it is important to be vigilant for other types of gaming. Comprehensive reporting helps identify referral actions that don’t fit expected or historical usage and uncovers potential fraudulent activity, such as:

  • Shorter-than-usual referral-to-close cycles
  • High number of referrals in a short period of time
  • High number of successful referrals in a short period of time
  • If the brand is observing and of these potential bad activities, withhold reward payment for a brand-defined number of days to enable time for investigation of the flagged activities.


No More Referal Program GamingIn working with our customers, we’ve found that our referral platform capabilities and operational recommendations described above dovetail cleanly into the referral experience of advocates making genuine, legitimate referrals.  At the same time, this approach frustrates the efforts of would-be referral gamers.  This enables our customers to maximize referral success while minimizing the impact of gaming.

Questions? Email me at

SaaS referral automation



Fight back against the drop in higher ed enrollment

I’ve recently learned a lot about the challenges facing higher education. While I’m certain the big universities with great sports programs aren’t feeling it yet, I know that the mid-sized and small universities are already at the start of an enrollment crisis.

The stats out of Moody’s and WICHE tell a grim story:

  • There was only a 5% increase in high school graduates 2003-2014
  • 2015 to 2020 there will be a 0% increase in high school graduates
  • And way out in 2021-2027 there will be a measly 2% increase

It is clear that there won’t be more bodies to naturally fill fall classes. But the weird thing is, universities are getting more applications than ever before. So what is going on? The answer is the wonderful efficiency of the digital age. It is easier for students to apply to universities so they are casting a wider net to keep their options open. What a crazy time to be in enrollment. You’re getting more applications than ever before, but you are having a frighteningly low conversion rate. In fact, Moody’s states that 20% of higher ed institutions now admit less than 20% of their applicants.

So, do you have a plan in place to fill your classes despite the decline in serious applicants?

If not, I highly suggest you watch this short 20 min presentation from Steve Neiheisel, VP of Enrollment Management and Student Services at Northern Michigan University. In this presentation that took place at Dreamforce 2015, Steve outlines NMU’s plan to leverage their alumni and current student body to find the right students and provide them with the right, personalized message at the right time. A must watch if you are seeing higher ed enrollment challenges in your future.



What is brand advocacy?

Why offline referrals are still important to brands

These days, with the explosion of social media and email, it is important to remember that a lot of word-of-mouth referrals happen the old fashioned way—as words literally coming out of someone’s mouth. There are sometimes good reasons why… The following example is absolutely true. ..

A few years ago, I lived in Oklahoma, and I knew these two guys.  I’ll call them Mick and Jimmy.  Mick was young clean-cut dad who had played basketball in college. Jimmy was a good ‘ol boy from rural Kansas, an older, hardened fellow.  So, one time we’re on a road trip, driving through nowhere, across the plains on a highway, late at night, and I’m in the backseat.  Mick and Jimmy are in the front seat, and they think I’m asleep.

Mick starts telling Jimmy a story.  Mick’s house had just been robbed, and he knows who did it, a contractor who had just come through to do some work in his home. All of Mick’s wife’s jewelry is missing. Vanished. Police don’t care. No evidence.  Mick went to the contractor’s shop. Confronted him.  The contractor had just laughed.

Jimmy listens to this story, and the car is quiet for a few minutes.  Then, Jimmy swivels the toothpick in his mouth and says, “You need… a referral… I know a guy.”

“A guy?” asks Mike.

“Big son-a-gun.”


“A thousand dollars, he’ll throw anyone in a van, drive ‘em down to Florida, and throw ‘em in a ditch.”

“What… whoa… Does he kill them?” asks Mick.

“No. Just the van and ditch. He ties ‘em up. They don’t know they’re in Florida when their tossed out of van, you understand. Runnin’ cross a swamp with your hands tied behind your back? That’s scary. And that’s his deal.” Jimmy nods his head in the darkness as he says these words… “It sets ‘em straight.”

Mike was quiet.

“I’ll… get you in touch with him,” says Jimmy.

“I don’t know, Jimmy… Email me his number and maybe…” says Mick.

“Email? Hell no. But I’ll tell you a number if you want to write it down.”


Why Offline Referrals Are So Important

At Amplifinity, some of our most successful clients, giant household name brands, have built powerful referral programs around our platform’s remarkable capability to handle and reward offline referrals. Amplifinity’s platform gives advocates a referral code that they can pass on to prospects. Advocates can give these codes out verbally or they can print them out on referral cards on their computer. Marketers can even mass-laser print referral code cards in advance to give to their advocates to hand out to their friends. The prospect can use the referral code wherever they buy the goods in question—whether it is calling into a call center or walking the code into a retail store.


  • Leave no trace, but still earn a reward: In our story above, Jimmy is going to recommend a hitman to Mick. Jimmy is not going to put the hitman’s number in an email or post it on Facebook because he doesn’t want it public. This example is extreme, but it proves a point. The truth is that many successful referrals are made to friends and colleagues that are best unknown to employers, spouses, etc. (Don’t tell my old boss, but at my previous job, I once referred a good vendor to a competitor, just because the vendor was so awesome.) And yet, even if a company or personal email account is not used to transmit the referral from the advocate to the prospect, a referral automation solution is still needed, behind the scenes, to listen for these referrals, to close the loop on successful referrals, and to reward advocates for making them.


  • Believe it or not, not everyone is digital: Jimmy is not going to put the hitman’s number in an email or post it on Facebook or text it because Jimmy doesn’t use email or Facebook, and he owns a flip phone. It’s hard to believe, but many people, even if they are on the net or own cell phones, don’t rely on these things for digitally communicating with the people they care about. Marketers must make referrals easy to share.


  • Printed referral codes may actually have higher response rates: At Amplifinity, one of our most successful client referral programs ever, winner of a WOMMY award, ran primarily on pre-printed referral cards. Their referrals made offline eclipsed the performance of modern digital methods. The client was a chain of laser beauty clinics, the type of sale that requires a high level of emotional trust and discussion between advocate and prospect. Much like referring the hitman in our story, it’s the kind of referral that requires a conversation. Accordingly, a printed card physically handed between friends goes well with a face-to-face conversation.


I don’t know if Mick ever got his wife’s jewelry back, but digital marketers can still learn a few old tricks from Jimmy.


Want to further the discussion? Tweet me @EJJake.

What is brand advocacy?

Referral tracking software and untapped lead generation

So we have this client here at Amplifinity, a big business-to-business services company, that until a few years ago, used no referral tracking software and thus had no means to efficiently and automatically reward customers, employees and partners who referred new customers. Without tracking and rewards, management didn’t care, customers didn’t care, and referrals made up only a small fraction of their total leads.

What a difference a few years can make. Today, as shown in the graph below, powered by Amplifinity’s software, referrals now comprise over half of all of the leads flowing into our client’s sales organization.

Referrals generate highest revenue by lead source

The evolution we saw in our example client shows the untapped potential that referrals have for lead generation. Let us break it down…


  • Rewards generate leads. We’ve seen this again and again. No matter how much customers love brands, they will refer a lot more once you give them an incentive. It works. It catches fire. Earning rewards for making referrals makes them love the brand even more. Amplifinity’s referral tracking software has the capability to automatically nurture advocate to refer again and again with escalating rewards.


  • Leads generate happy sales reps, who’ll hunt for more referrals. Our client experienced such rapid evolution in the sourcing of its revenue because referral marketing snowballs. Once your sales reps see leads coming to them from your referral automation solution, they will find faith in your referral program— they will see how easy it is to get leads from referrals instead of cold calling. Accordingly, they will turn their attention to working their existing book of business to give them more referrals. The assurance of rewards for existing customers gives them a reason to do this with friendly confidence.


  • Successful referral programs breed additional successful referral programs. Automated referral programs are contagious. As soon as you get a referral program cooking for one of your brands, its performance will build a fully-quantified business case for referral programs for your other brands. As soon as you have referral programs to reward your customers, you will see a business case for employee referral programs and affiliate referral programs. (Amplifinity’s platform can handle programs for as many brands and advocate types as is optimal for your organization.)


With fully-automated customer, employee and affiliate programs deployed you will soon realize the full lead generation potential for referrals. In all of our clients, we have seen it transform the way they market, the way they sell. Referral marketing is the future of B2B lead generation, and referral automation makes the world your sales team.

Interested in continuing the conversation? Tweet me @EJJake.


What is brand advocacy?