Beyond Happy Customers: A Guide to Expanding Your Customer Referral Program
According to LinkedIn, 84% of B2B decision makers start the buying process off with a referral. So it’s no wonder many brands have developed a customer referral program.
But your happy customers aren’t the only people who can source referrals for your company. Your business partners, employees and client prospects can help you win new business and generate more sales.
Here’s a handy guide on how to identify, approach and reward these individuals so you can expand your customer referral program and make it more effective.
The benefits of expanding your customer referral program
First, I want to tell you why each of these channels can contribute to the success of your referral program.
Partners understand your product and your customer base. Just like your best customer advocates, partners have networks full of people who can submit quality referrals. In my experience, partner referrals typically close at higher rates than customer referrals. That’s because partners are aware of what our sales reps need to qualify a lead and understand our customer profile. hey also vet the opportunity for us through an initial conversation with the prospective customer before a rep reaches out.
Your employees may have worked for ideal customers in the past. Certain industries like HR or B2B software are well suited to employee referral programs because people tend to move around between similar companies. New employees may also have a network full of old colleagues who would make ideal customers.
Prospects have a strong relationship with your sales reps. Just like customers, your prospects likely know peers that fit your criteria. Certain circumstances beyond your prospect’s control—like budget constraints or a lack of an executive sponsor—can kill a sale. Rather than walking away after working so hard to establish a relationship, reps should ask prospects for the names of other people you could be having conversations with.
1. How to identify, approach and reward partners
Identifying the right partners: If you already have a partner marketing program, then it’s easy to ask for referrals. Otherwise, you need to find potential partners and determine if you have common business goals. If they sound like a good fit, then you can start building a relationship.
Approaching partners for help: It’s important to establish reciprocal goals with partners early on. For example, you might say to your new partner organization, “For Q4, let’s get two accounts together.” Then, make a short list of your target accounts. Look at their client base and LinkedIn connections to identify people you’d like to be introduced to.
Once you have your partnership ground rules established, you can begin with some soft asks and relationship-building activities, such as co-writing marketing pieces (like ebooks or blog posts).
Next, start introducing sales reps or business development leads at both companies—so they can teach each other how to integrate your product story into their pitches.
It may take some time to get your partners consistently deliver higher quality leads. I’ve have found that the more we educate our partners, the higher the close rate on the leads they refer.
Rewarding partners: When it comes to partnership referral programs, you have to give to get. In other words, if you’re receiving lots of referrals from a partner, you’ll have to return the favor. The more you help your partners grow, the better off you’ll both be.
2. Engaging and incentivizing employee referrals
Identifying the right employees: Ideally, you want to identify the employees who are most likely to have a network similar to your ideal customer profile. So if you’re selling to people in finance, your finance team is going to be your best source for referrals.
Approaching employees for referrals: Your employees are already invested in the success of your company, so your approach doesn’t have to be as formal as it would be with customers. However, you should still establish executive buy-in and kick things off with an education program to encourage participation.
Referrals don’t always have to come from a lead form. For example, you can provide UTM tracking parameters for individual social media posts to see which employees generate the most opportunities on a monthly basis. You can start by asking employees to amplify messages that you publish about your company (e.g. blogs, case studies) via social media. This concept is often referred to as “social selling” and helps attract new prospects via LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.
You should be asking for referrals throughout their tenure with your organization. In order to keep your referral program top of mind, make it fun by creating regular contests or challenges.
Rewarding employee referrals: Often, businesses offer financial rewards to employees (such as gift cards) to encourage participation. However, professional development opportunities and special perks (like taking the CEO’s parking spot for a day) will also get them referring.
3. Perfecting your prospect referral program
Identifying the right prospects: Sales reps can ask prospects for referrals whenever they expresses gratitude for the rep’s time and effort (whether they intend to buy or not).
Approaching prospects for referrals: It’s best to take a less formal approach to recruiting prospects. Most of the time, you will need to leave this to your reps’ discretion.
Reps can make the referral process easier by searching the prospect’s social media networks and asking for an introduction to a specific contact the prospect knows.
Your reps can also provide a customized link in their email signatures requesting referrals so prospects can easily submit them at any point in the relationship via a submission page.
The bonus of having a prospect send referrals is that it validates whether they are really interested in buying your product or not.
Rewarding prospects: Rewarding a prospect can be awkward since they haven’t made a purchase (yet), but your sales rep can help you determine a personalized reward that they will appreciate.
Although small monetary rewards are fine, consider giving prospects access to things that will help them professionally—like training, conferences or people in your professional network.
A sincere, hand-written ‘thank you’ card can also work wonders.