If your business is slowly wading into a sea of referral program software, you may want some help navigating all of your options.
The type of referral program software you choose will rely on the resources and strategies you have on hand. That’s why we’ve created this model to help you determine the level of investment that your company needs to make in referral program software.
Stage 1: Informal & manual process
The first stage of referral marketing relies on manually capturing and tracking referrals via emails, cold calls and spreadsheets. As a result, sales reps have no clear process for requesting, tracking or following up with customers on referrals. Closing the feedback loop and rewarding customers appropriately for their help is likely inconsistent (which won’t inspire customers to refer again). Collecting high-quality referrals is also difficult to do consistently due to a lack of transparency and customer nurturing before the referral request is made.
=A referral marketing strategy that incorporates all of these elements should be created first so referral program software can be properly evaluated.
Stage 2: Landing page system
When a referral submission landing page system is in place, (usually by way of a simple web form), tracking incoming referrals and standardizing a workflow for sales becomes easier. The referral data the form collects is transferred to a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform (like Salesforce) so it is accessible to sales and marketing for outreach and tracking, and/or collected and exported to a spreadsheet.
A properly laid-out landing page system can allow for answers to frequently asked questions customers may have about the referral process, including:
At this stage, reward fulfillment is likely still a manual process, but standardized rewards should be in place when referral leads become closed deals.
Any customer relationship building or nurturing is handled directly by sales or marketing via phone calls and emails. This lack of scalable engagement before and after customers are sent to the referral submission page may cause low-quality submissions and eventual boredom or burnout.
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Like Stage 2, this phase includes a landing page where customers can submit referrals online. However, it has a fully-automated referral and reward system that is integrated smoothly with a company’s CRM database to allow for automatic referral collection, tracking and attribution that’s visible to the sales and marketing teams. Because of this functionality, it’s possible to send automated email updates to customers as the referrals move through the pipeline.
Once a referral becomes a closed deal, a standard reward will automatically be sent the customer who submitted the referral (usually a monetary gift of the business’ choosing, or product-related perks).
While the referral process is now more efficient and easy to follow from an internal standpoint, there still aren’t a lot of ways to personally engage customers at every stage of the referral process. Without a way to build better customer relationships and create more opportunities for interaction and feedback, it’s difficult to generate a constant flow of high-quality customer referrals.
Stage 4: Advocate nurturing & referral automation
At this stage, the referral submission and rewards process is fully-automated and integrated with tools (like an advocate marketing program or platform) that allow for the identification and development of customer advocates before referrals are requested. This includes engaging and educating customers about the ideal customer profile so high-quality referrals are submitted.
The referral requesting process in this stage has two facets: direct asks and on-going reminders.
Direct asks may be sent to top customers once they reach a certain stage in the customer lifecycle that indicates they would be happy to refer others. These requests may be automatically triggered by an act of customer advocacy (such as writing a positive online review), or done pro-actively by a customer marketer.
On-going reminders subtly nudge customers to refer any time they have a positive interaction with a brand. They are present wherever a customer engages with a brand—like an advocate marketing program, customer community, login page, newsletters/content and NPS surveys—making manual outreach efforts a less obsolete referral request method.
Customer advocates may also have visibility into the referral’s progress via a login function. Frequent automated updates and feedback is provided to the customer as the referral moves through the pipeline by the sales team.
Reward fulfillment is also automated, but is more personalized with a system that awards advocates points as their referral moves through the sales pipeline (with smaller amounts being given when a referral is submitted, and higher amounts when the referred prospect becomes a customer). Then, they may cash in their points for prizes of their choosing.
This increased engagement before, during and after the referral request and submission process is the best strategy encouraging customer advocates to continually submit the highest-quality referrals.
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