You never know what you’ll get when you ask your customers for referrals.

Your advocates could send you amazing leads…or a slew of low-quality referrals that you’ll waste time following up with.

referral_program_gamification_jasonAs the Customer Advocate Marketing Manager for Verafin, Jason Oakley believes that quality trumps quantity when it comes to your referral marketing strategy.

Jason knew that many of Verafin’s customers would be happy to recommend the fraud detection and anti-money laundering software to their peers. However, he didn’t have a program in place to drive referrals.

“We wanted to build a community of loyal customers, reward them for helping us and generate new business,” said Jason. “To do this, we launched a customer advocacy community—Verafans.” The program challenged Verafin’s best customers to advocate and engage with the brand for recognition and perks.

One of Verafin’s top goals was to get new referrals. So, Jason posted a challenge asking advocates for referrals. For inviting their peers to learn more about fraud detection, advocates received points— which could be redeemed for prizes—as a token of appreciation.

However, he didn’t want to receive a long list of unqualified names.

So, Jason decided to educate advocates to get the right kind of referrals.

Improving the quality of referrals

Jason launched a Referral Certification program. The program was a series of advocacy challenges that taught customers how to submit a good referral.

When advocates completed all the challenges in the certification, they would receive a special badge. So far, Verafin has certified almost 100 advocates.


“The Referral Certification Program keeps us top of mind,” said Jason. “When people complete the certification, many of them come back later to give us a referral.”

Creating a rush of referrals

Verafin ran a “Referral Rally” experience in February to get advocates excited about submitting referrals. Each week, the top referrer would receive 1,000 points. At the end of the month, the top three referrers would receive a choice of points or prizes.


By using a fun theme, sleek visuals and a time limit, the contest was well received by the Verafans. Jason hoped to collect 40 referrals during the rally, but instead received 117. He plans to run the referral rally again.

“Our Verafans referral program has been a great success,” said Jason. “Influitive has allowed us to build a community that engages our customers and helps us drive new business.”

Trophy, hands holding winner cupHere are Jason’s recommendations for improving the quality of your customer referrals:

1. Create a referral persona.

Your advocates won’t send you the right referrals if they don’t know who you’re looking for. It’s important to put together a description of your ideal referral. For example:

  • What type of company do they work for?
  • What is their role?
  • What are their top challenges?
  • What things would they say if they were struggling with an issue you can help with?

Jason calls this a “Perfect Referral Persona”. He shared Verafin’s persona in all of the referral challenges.

2. Tell advocates what to expect.

People might not share names with you if they’re unsure what you’ll do with them. Clearly state how you plan to follow up with each new referral.

You can also keep your advocates in the loop as the referral progresses through your sales cycle. Many advocates want to find out if their referrals turned into customers.

3. Give your advocates options.

Verafin provided advocates with three ways to give referrals—via a form in the AdvocateHub, email or social media. When advocates logged into the Referral Certification Program, they saw all three options. This allowed them to pick the one that worked best for them. They could also get more points by learning about all three options.

4. Prepare your advocates to talk about you.

Jason asked advocates to submit their “Verafin elevator pitch”. This challenge was a fun way for Verafin’s customers to decide how they would promote the company. The better you prepare advocates to talk about you, the more referrals you will get.

5. Don’t let your program get stale.

When your main goal is to get referrals, it can be easy to forget to give your advocates other options. Jason posts new challenges each week—and removes old challenges after two weeks—to keep things fresh. He recommends posting a mix of educational challenges and fun activities to keep advocates engaged. The more they return to your program, the more likely they are to give you a steady stream of referrals.

If you’re running low on ideas for new challenges, you can:

  • Create challenges based on the season, such as a holiday or major sporting event.
  • Focus on topics that your customers care about. For example, Verafin had a “debit card fraud” theme, where their monthly challenges focused on educating advocates about this trending topic.
  • Tell other departments what you are doing. They may share ideas with you.
  • Set up recurring challenges – such as “Monday Funday”. This makes it easy to fill your calendar with fun challenges.
  • Use Influitive’s challenge templates or visit Influitive’s VIP hub for inspiration.  
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