As a demand generation marketer, I constantly feel the pressure to drive pipeline every month. And I don’t just care about the number of inquiries at the top of the funnel; I care about turning those inquiries into opportunities for our sales team.

That’s why I care about the quality of our leads—not the quantity.

So, what are the highest quality leads in the B2B world? Customer referrals. Recent research by Implisit found that referral leads from customers and employees convert at a rate of 3.63%. That’s twice as much as website leads, which convert at a rate of 1.55%, and social network leads, which convert at 1.47%. (All other lead types convert below the 1% mark.)

Similarly, at Influitive, we’ve seen the value of referrals firsthand. Even though referrals only made up 3% of the overall leads generated by our marketing team last year, their impact on our sales pipeline and revenue was extraordinary:

  • Nearly one quarter of opportunities created were sourced from referred leads
  • 38% of our customer base came from referrals
  • 42% of last year’s monthly recurring revenue was traced back to a referral

So why are so few demand gen marketers thinking about leveraging referrals to achieve their goals?

Well, referrals often seem like a distraction that takes away from our primary job: generating demand from prospects in our database.

However, demand gen marketers are missing a huge opportunity by not tapping into an incredibly valuable source of potential referrals that’s right at their fingertips: their customer base.

How to leverage your customer base to drive referrals

So, how does Influitive generate so many referrals? Well, it isn’t by magic. They happen because I get help from my BFF: our Senior Marketing Manager for Customer & Advocacy, Truman Tang.

referrals_demand_gen_customer_marketing_2Truman dedicates himself to creating a rewarding referral process for our customers and biggest fans—who we refer to as our advocates. Through our advocate marketing program, Influitive VIP, Truman consistently engages our advocates with relevant and informative content and fun challenges, and then recognizes them for their contributions. Through the program—which is built on our software—submitting referrals is an easy and transparent process.

Just like how demand gen folks design and execute campaigns targeted at prospects, customer marketers have to come up with creative campaigns for customers to generate more referrals. It doesn’t just happen organically. Truman is always cooking up incredible campaigns and competitions to inspire our customers to continuously give us referrals. (You can learn more about how he generated 20 referrals in one hour here.)

Through his efforts, he’s been able to generate 985 referrals since January 2014.

Demand gen and customer marketing: a match made in heaven

Every B2B marketing team needs to have someone who truly owns the referral process. And, demand gen needs to work hand in hand with that person to create more sales opportunities and jointly contribute to pipeline.

Just like I have a quota for marketing-sourced pipeline, Truman has a quota for generating inquiries and pipeline through referral marketing. This has driven him to take ownership of our referral program, and make it into the success that it is today. It also takes some of the pipeline pressure off of me. (Yay!)

If customer marketers can take the same principles demand gen marketers use to reach out to prospects, and apply it to their customer base, they’ll be able to drive referrals—and other kinds of customer advocacy (like references, reviews, and content shares)—to increase pipeline.

When demand gen and customer marketing work together, there’s potential to fuel exponential growth. It’s a huge part of the reason our recurring revenue has grown 37X since December 2012. 

So, to my demand gen colleagues: if you don’t yet have a BFF in customer marketing, I suggest that you hire one ASAP.

But don’t even think about poaching Truman…he’s taken!

The No Fuss Recipe for Hot Referral Leads
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