Marketing Tools — 16 Aug 2022
One thing has remained constant in the ever-changing world of marketing: word-of-mouth recommendations. Even with the advent of new tools and technologies, personal recommendations and online reviews remain two of the strongest ways of acquiring new customers.
Of course, just as technology evolved, so has how customers hear about brands. It’s not just their friends and family members they’re listening to – if you’re involved in performance based marketing, then you likely know how important influencers can be.
So, how do you use customer referrals to your advantage? How can you encourage your customer base to leave online reviews, post-user-generated content that will appeal to potential customers, and invite people to join them? Let’s look at the best ways to use customer referrals to boost those all-important metrics.
Word of mouth may be the oldest marketing tool in the book, but it’s changed dramatically with the advent of the digital marketing era. People’s opinions, ideally positive ones, can play a major role in spreading brand awareness and encouraging purchasing decisions through direct referrals.
Imagine for a moment that you ran a home goods shop pre-internet. Bob came into your shop and bought a butterfly valve. Now Bob would likely not have told family or friends how great that valve was, though he may have mentioned the range of products and how good the service was. The number of people who may have been directly referred by Bob would have been small.
In the digital era, however, that number will likely increase, through a combination of Bob’s own posts, replies to posts by friends and families, and direct referrals. But the importance of customer referrals goes further:
The first thing to note is that the use of customer referrals should go beyond the idea of online reviews. What you are aiming for is customers recommending you to their friends, family, and even colleagues.
For example, Bob has just bought a SaaS product with teams telephony that makes it easy for him to hold a secure conference call. He is so impressed with the product that he actively tells friends in business how good it is. He may even connect them with the sales agent he connected with.
Your ultimate goal when looking at customer referrals is to transform happy customers into reviewers and brand ambassadors who do not only post about your business, they actively refer people to you. This can be like having an extra person marketing on your behalf, something that can be crucial if you operate on a limited budget as many small businesses and startups do.
You probably already like the idea of extra marketing staff that doesn’t receive salaries (though we will look at reward schemes later). Referrals can also make things easier for your sales team. Your business may already be partnering with other brands or agencies and, in many ways, this is a version of that relationship marketing. But, what are the actual (and tangible) benefits of utilizing customer referrals or word-of-mouth marketing?
Using only traditional marketing methods, your CAC involves the money you spend on any sort of advertising and marketing. With customer referrals, you have substantially less outlay but you are acquiring customers who have a higher average lifetime value (LTV) than the usual customers you onboard.
Why would referred customers be better than traditionally acquired customers? You can think of referred customers as already having a relationship with your brand, albeit a proxy one through the person referring them. That relationship means that the customers that sign up with you via a referral represent an increased chance of conversion – they’re already invested.
Combined with higher LTV, this clearly shows that referred customers are of great value to your brand and should be a primary target when it comes to your strategy.
While the old concept of word of mouth marketing was good, the multiple platforms and marketing channels now available means that you need to go beyond that and have your loyal customers and brand advocates singing your praises from the rooftops (virtual rooftops of course). In order to get to that point, you need to find ways of standardizing and maximizing the sharing process.
There is also the question of incentivizing the process to encourage as much sharing as possible. You may already have a loyalty scheme in place to reward your current customers so why not extend that and offer additional incentives for them to share their experiences in as many places as possible?
Of course, offering incentives is not the only way to encourage your customers to refer their friends. But how do you decide on what referral incentives to offer?
It’s worth considering a tiered structure to your referral campaign where your best customers and brand advocates receive higher levels of rewards for every successful referral. Some incentives to think about include:
You do not need to choose one type of incentive; you can offer different rewards as a tiered structure or even offer a choice of rewards equating to the same value. For example, let’s say you offer a $25 reward when a customer refers someone and they make a purchase. That $25 could be given as cash, as a gift card, as a free product, and so on.
Before you start with the practicalities of creating a customer referral program, there are a number of preparatory steps you should consider. These can establish your readiness to move to a customer referral marketing strategy.
Once you have self-audited your business and established your readiness and ability to build a successful customer referral program, then you can move forward to creating one that meets your needs and goals as well as the needs of your customers. A great product combined with great customer service that enhances customer satisfaction is the foundation of any referral program.
It may sound strange prioritizing the design elements of your program but those elements can play a crucial part in how well it performs. Think about how much time and effort went into your website. You most likely went through A/B testing to establish what elements worked well together and resulted in the highest levels of engagement.
Any referral program should follow some of the same rules and include some of the design elements that work well on your main site. Make sure any program is clearly branded and contains messaging that is clear and that is clearly associated with your overall brand messaging.
If people don’t notice your referral program, then the results will be poor. To get those people to notice you and referring friends, you need to attract their attention with clear and catchy headlines that make them want to know more. Benefits should be immediately obvious when they look at any headline you use, so think carefully when writing them. You could use variations of the following:
The last thing you want is to create a program with an overly complex sign-up process. You want to make it as simple as possible for people both to join your program and to share all relevant content.
There are many customer referral software programs that can help with this stage. They can include a signup process as well as help to automate various functions that make it easier for people to share via social media platforms such as Facebook or LinkedIn or by email. It is also advisable to create a simple referral link that people can easily copy and paste as needed.
Just as you do with other forms of marketing, you want to maintain clear and consistent messaging across your referral program. You can use a template to help achieve this. It’s important to ensure that when an existing customer refers your business to a potential customer, everyone fully understands what is being said to them.
Even when you have established templates for referral messaging, it is worth making any message editable so that the referrer can edit or change the message to suit them and the person they are referring to. Make sure to:
It’s worth remembering that your referral program is just another form of marketing. That means that you may not get things exactly right the first time around. It also means that you should be using analytics to measure performance in line with the goals you have established. By ongoing and constant monitoring, you can see if there are any issues and adjust as necessary.
This is another area where dedicated software like data ingestion tools or any other cloud storage can be of enormous help. Not only does such software offer advanced and customizable analytics, but it can also help you distribute referral links, track all referrals, carry out A/B testing, and help you optimize your campaign. Whatever form your marketing takes, choosing a package that offers good business intelligence options and integrations with other apps is a must.
As with other areas of your business, technology can play a major part in how well your referral program works. Look how easy it is to do international calling nowadays, especially since companies have their business voip systems in place, all thanks to improvements in technology. Similar improvements in technology exist across the board and can play a major role in how your business grows and expands.
Technology offers a multitude of solutions, from automating tedious tasks such as email marketing to advanced data transfer for partner marketing. Recognizing how much technology can help you may be the first step in making progress with your referral program.
Customer loyalty is the basis of any good referral marketing program. You want those loyal customers to join your referral program and ideally graduate to being brand ambassadors and then referrers. It can really help to study some referral program examples, including current programs such as Uber.
Referral marketing is something that can bring huge benefits to your organization. This is true whether you consider relationship marketing with other brands or a customer referral program. Both types can produce cost-effective results across the board, leading to greater brand awareness, increased revenue and sales, as well as lower customer acquisition costs.
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