Going, Going, Gone! How We Auctioned Our Way to 26 Hot Customer Referrals

Truman Tang

You’ve probably heard marketers say that “business-to-business” really means “boring-to-boring”.

Unfortunately, people say this for a reason. Most B2B marketing is boring.

B2B companies tend to talk more about themselves than they do about their customers. Their content is often full of cheesy stock photos and dry sales copy.

Just because you’re engaging with business professionals doesn’t mean you can’t have some fun.

One way I keep things fun is by talking about things our customers like outside of work. For example, do your customers enjoy March Madness, nerd culture or game shows? Bringing these elements into your advocate marketing program can boost your engagement.

Each month, I try to think of new ways to keep our VIP program fresh, so we can stay top of mind with our advocates. Last month, I ran a challenge called the Influitive VIP Auction House.

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Gamifying customer referrals

In our VIP program, our advocates collect points when they complete a challenge—like sharing our content, or sending us a referral. Our advocates love collecting points and competing to stay at the top of the leaderboard. So naturally, over time, they tend to amass tons of points.

Our VIP Auction House gave our advocates a fun way to use these points. To enter the Auction House—which was a private forum in our VIP community—advocates first had to send us a referral. Then, they could bid on all of the rewards that we had up for auction.

Screen Shot 2015-09-22 at 5.22.56 PMWe wanted to make these rewards extra special, so we included items such as skydiving vouchers and Influitive swag. (We find that experiential and branded prizes generate more interest than gift cards.)

Our advocates could only place bids for a week before we closed the Auction House. At the end of the auction, the highest bidder for each item would win. We kept the time frame short to create scarcity and drive activity.

The beginning of the auction was quiet, and I started to wonder if this challenge was a good idea after all.

Then, as the final minutes of the auction approached, the bidding really picked up. Some of it got intense!

At the end of the Auction House challenge, we had:

  • 26 participants
  • 26 referrals
  • 104 bids across six items

The VIP Auction House was a win-win for everyone. Our advocates got an adrenaline kick from the bidding, and some of them got a great deal on the items they won. We got to do something fun for our advocates while we collected customer referrals. The VIP Auction House was such a success, we plan to run it again in the future.

Would you like to run a similar event? If so, here are three keys to making it successful:

1. Scarcity

The less there is of something, the more people will want it. You can use this to your advantage by playing off inventory scarcity.

You can also make people act now through time scarcity. For example, we only ran the Auction House for a week to make the experience feel rushed. (This explains why so many bids came in last minute.)

Remind your advocates of the scarcity if you want them to take action. Make the time sensitivity prominent and clear in your calls to action.

2. Competition

Humans are driven by competition. The more your advocates compete with each other, the more you’ll boost your engagement.

To encourage a little friendly competition, you can reward your advocates with points when they do something for you. Then, you can create leaderboards that show them how they rank against each other. Trust us: your advocates will compete to get to the top of the leaderboard.

3. New environments

You could run an auction on your website. But the novelty of a new environment can make things more interesting for your advocates. We ran the VIP Auction House in our new Communities platform, which was the first time we had used the forum for a competition instead of just discussions.

This also had a side benefit: as advocates hung around to check the status of their bids, they also completed other challenges in the program and joined other discussions. Getting users into a new platform also helps with engagement, and encourages them to look at your other content or products.

When you tap into these motivators, you can give your advocates fun and fresh experiences. This will make them excited about advocating for you.

Check out our community to learn how you can build a successful advocate marketing program from some of the best advocate marketers out there.

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4 Responses to Going, Going, Gone! How We Auctioned Our Way to 26 Hot Customer Referrals

  1. […] referral contests can fuel your customers’ competitive streak. Give away a special prize to the advocate who […]

  2. […] advocates won’t send you referrals unless you ask for them. I ran a few referral campaigns in 2015 to keep referrals top of mind and make it fun for our advocates to give us referrals. For […]

  3. […] can also run a contest where the advocate who submits the most referrals within a certain time frame wins one high-quality […]

  4. […] friendly competition helped boost employee morale, increase overall engagement in the advocate marketing program and […]

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