Dear Rachel,

Can you tell me how to start a referral program? I want to get going, but don’t know where to begin.

-In A Referral Program Rush

Dear In A Rush,

I like your spirit! But before you get your referral program cooking, you need the right recipe.

Every great referral program has one special ingredient: people who love your product. (If you don’t have any of these, you have a whole other problem…)

So, let’s assume you have an awesome product and customer experience. This means you should have a number of satisfied customers willing to refer their friends to your brand. However, no matter how much they love you, they aren’t going to submit referrals unless you ask for them directly.

This doesn’t mean sending out e-blasts and calling all of your customers out of the blue. Instead, I encourage you to find a way to regularly connect with them and serve up valuable resources and opportunities first.

Why? Because it’s better to give than to receive. Before you can ask for a favor, you need to provide a 5-star experience that will inspire your customers to recommend you to others.

One way to do this is through an advocate marketing program—a special hub for your top customers that makes them feel loved and appreciated with special perks. Once they’re smitten, you’ll use this same program to continually remind them to submit referrals whenever they log in.

Once this prep work is done, you’ll be ready to gather your ingredients (err, referral tools…)! Here’s how to start a referral program:

  1. Create a submission page that outlines the referral process, and the kind of leads you want
  2. Integrate referral submissions with your CRM so they’re easy to track
  3. Design a workflow so your sales team knows exactly how to follow-up and involve your customer advocates

Whatever tools you choose, just make sure your process is clear and transparent. Your advocates’ professional reputations are on the line, so they aren’t going to hand over contact information if your program looks less than superb.

If you want to learn more about the secret sauce behind good referral programs, peruse some more resources here.

ask rachel: the referral relationship coachRachel-Headshot-icon





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