5 B2B Customer Referral Program Dos And Don’ts

Would you ask someone to marry you on your first date? Probably not. It’s not even good dating etiquette to mention marriage on a first date. It’s way too much, too soon.

It takes time to get to know each other, build trust, and determine whether or not you’re both ready to get more serious.

In the B2B marketing world, asking for a referral is kind of like the equivalent of a marriage proposal between you and your customer. It’s a pretty serious arrangement and, if you jump into it at the wrong time, things can go south pretty quickly.

customer referral program: You don't want to be this guy to your customers. Awkward, needy -- you get the picture.

You don’t want to be this guy to your customers. Awkward, needy…you get the picture.

And just as in dating, every customer is different. For some, there may be many steps between when they become your customer and when they feel ready to refer someone in their network to you. For others, not so many. It’s almost impossible to know.

On the other hand, if you never ask for any referrals, you’ll end up doing the professional equivalent of sitting at home, alone, eating a tub of ice cream and hoping that Mr. or Ms. Right magically appears in your living room. Sorry to break it to you, but it’s never going to happen.

So what’s a poor, referral-less marketer to do?

1. Don’t start by asking for a referral

Hey girlIt’s time to get romantic with your customers.

No, not with bouquets of flowers and boxes of chocolates. Instead, you need to warm them up through your advocate marketing program.

Just think of advocacy as an old-timey courtship that leads to lots and lots of referrals.

Start with smaller, easier asks, such as reading and commenting on a recent blog post, or rating your product on a review site.

Then, eventually, present your customers with the option to provide one or more referralswhen they’re ready.

This ensures that your customers won’t be scared off by premature referral requests, and you won’t come across cheap, desperate and needy. Yuck!

2. Do be transparent about your referral process

Many people refuse to submit their contacts’ names, companies and email addresses simply because they have no idea what you’ll do with the information. After all, their professional reputation is on the line.

Take away their uncertainty up front by telling them exactly what’s going to happen, from start to finish, once they submit the referral. Answer the following questions to put their minds at ease:

  • Who will receive the referral?
  • How will you contact the person they’ve referred?
  • How will they know how the lead is progressing?
  • What will they receive in exchange for providing the referral?

3. Do share feedback every step of the way

On that note, don’t just tell them what will happengive them status updates about what is happening in real time. It’s not unusual for B2B sales processes to take weeks or even months, so the occasional notification about what’s happened with recently will boost their confidence in you. Update them when:

  • Your sales rep emails their lead
  • The lead expresses interest
  • Their lead becomes your customer

Your customers will appreciate the feedback and they might even find the whole process exciting. Plus, this feedback will help them better understand who might be a better prospect for you in the future, improving the quality of the referral leads coming into your pipeline.

4. Don’t bombard referred leads with your sales pitch

A referral lead isn’t ice cold—their connection with your customer provides a bit of heat. But it’s entirely possible that they’ve never heard of your company or product before.

Take the chill off by introducing yourself with some educational or entertaining content first before jumping into your sales pitch.

5. Do give recognition as well as rewards

Don’t treat your advocates like professional “gold diggers.” Rewards such as gift cards and electronics might generate a flood of fast referrals, but non-monetary recognition is often better at helping you strengthen relationships with your customers.

Switch it up every once in a while by rewarding your referral rockstars in many different waysgiving points to push them up to the top of a leaderboard, a referral badge, special status at an event, a personal invitation from your CEO, a feature on your blog, etc.

Think of this kind of recognition as building professional intimacy that results in happier customers with higher lifetime values.

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