What is your sales team thankful for? Customer referrals. For sales professionals, a customer referral is the key that can unlock many doors. (And help them hit their quota!)

A referral from a happy customer is more powerful than any cold call, sales materials or data. According to LinkedIn, 84% of B2B decision makers start their buying process with a referral. Referred prospects are also 30% more likely to convert than other generated leads, and have a 16% higher life-time value.

In this post, I’ll take you through three important things referral marketing programs need to be successful.

find1. They find and nurture customer advocates

Most referral marketing programs don’t work because companies haven’t laid the groundwork for meaningful customer relationships. Before you can ask customers for referrals (which is kind of a big deal), you’ll need to consistently engage them, and turn them into brand advocates.

To do this, invite your best customers to join an exclusive online hub—known as an advocate marketing program—where they can get to know your product or service even better, and interact with you directly by sharing feedback and participating in fun or educational challenges.

By communicating regularly with your customers, educating them about your brand and offering them valuable resources (like networking opportunities, exclusive access to new product features, etc.) they’ll be excited to tell friends about their awesome experience.

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2. They ask for referrals at the right time

Asking for a referral out of the blue won’t be helpful to your team, or your advocates. Here are five great times to ask customers for referrals:

  1. When they sign and are excited about working with you
  2. Right after they give you a Net Promoter Score® of nine or above
  3. Just after they launch your program or implement your service, as they’re looking forward to seeing results
  4. When you learn that they got amazing results from your product or service
  5. When they say nice things about you

You should also have methods for continuously reminding customers to submit referrals. You can:

  • Include a link to your referral submission page in your email footer, blog posts, newsletters, login pages, etc.
  • Launch a referral contest to fuel their competitive streak, and keep them engaged
  • Integrate your referral process with your advocate marketing program to stay top of mind for your customers, and recognize them for referring their peers

transparent3. They clearly communicate the referral process

Advocates are more likely to give you referrals if they know you will treat their referred friends, family and colleagues like gold. That’s why it’s vital to give advocates transparency into your referral workflow.

We have a challenge in our advocate marketing program, Influitive VIP, that asks advocates to send us referrals. The challenge looks like this:


After an advocate submits a referral, they can log in at any time and see how the referral is progressing through our four-part sales process:

  1. Referral submitted
  2. A sales representative contacts the referred lead to schedule a demo
  3. Demo
  4. The referred lead becomes a customer

Advocates want to know how a referral is going and if they can do anything to help because they want to see the referred lead turn into a customer. Involve them at all stages and close the feedback loop so your advocates feel good about referring again and again.

moneyReferral marketing programs have a huge impact on pipeline

Although referrals represent just a small fraction (3%) of the overall leads generated by our marketing team, their impact on our sales pipeline and revenue is extraordinary.

Nearly one quarter of our opportunities in 2014 were created from referred leads, and 38% of our customers can be sourced from our referral marketing programs.

Furthermore, 42% of Influitive’s monthly recurring revenuealmost half!can be sourced back to referrals.

So, what are you waiting for? You probably have lots of advocates who love your service and are willing to give you referrals. When you put the word out, you may be surprised by how many referrals your advocates send your way.

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