Don’t take this the wrong way, but if your company is like most B2B organizations, it’s taking a haphazard approach to referral marketing.
The majority of customer referral programs boil down to everyone keeping their fingers crossed and hoping that their customers will recommend the company, out of the blue, to someone in their networks.
You wouldn’t treat any other critical area of your business this way, so why take such a passive approach to referrals?
You may suddenly feel compelled to email every last one of your customers and ask them to refer you to everyone in their contact list. But don’t do it! Customers are used to asking you for favors, not the other way around. And requesting a referral is a big thing to ask for.
Just as you would prep your kitchen before cooking up a culinary delight, you’ll need to do some work before you serve up your request to your customers.
The essential customer referral program ingredients
With any recipe, if you don’t have the right ingredients from the outset, your concoction won’t satisfy the tastebuds. The same is true of your customer referral program.
Here are the five essential ingredients to a smokin’ hot customer referral program. While some ingredients are more important than others, you really need all five of these to get cooking.
(Note that strong relationships are #1 on the list and raving fans are a “key ingredient.”)
1. Warm customer relationships
Referrals are all about relationships. People give us referrals because they like and trust us. That’s why the most successful customer referral programs are based on strong relationships—particularly with current and former clients. After all, your customers know firsthand the value your company can deliver.
So how do you get your hands on this ingredient? Joanne Black, referral sales expert and founder of No More Cold Calling advises doing the following: “Start by reaching out to current clients, especially if you haven’t talked to them in a while. It’s amazing what happens when you start to have those conversations.”
Once you establish a more personal relationship with your customers, they’ll be primed to help you out. (But you still aren’t ready to ask for a referral yet.)
2. An easy as pie way to ask for referrals
Next, you need to find an easy and enjoyable way for customers to submit referrals (and to consistently remind them to refer without barraging them with email requests).
The best way to do this is by creating an exclusive hub for your happiest customers—known as an advocate marketing program. Through the program, you’ll provide your customers with access to useful resources, fun content and challenges, and opportunities to advocate for your brand (like submitting referrals). Every time customers are drawn into your program, they’ll be delighted—and subtly reminded to refer their peers to your awesome brand.
Bo Bandy, Director of Marketing at ReadyTalk, created an advocate marketing program where the brand’s best customers could share their experiences and receive rewards for doing so. In just the first 10 weeks of launching, the program generated 183 referrals. “All we had to do to get customer referrals was (1) ask customers and (2) make it easy for them,” says Bo. “They want to share the awesome experience that they’ve had with ReadyTalk.”