Brands often forget the importance of proactively working on their “refer-ability”. With little to no cost involved and the prospect of larger sales, it makes sense to gear your marketing campaign towards attaining referrals. After all, people don’t want to hear what they should be buying from slick salesmen or loud advertisements – they want to hear from people they know and trust. That’s where smart customer reference management comes in.
So what makes customers refer your services to other people or organizations?
In the bid to gain referrals, these are your 12 weapons of influence:
People are programmed to follow the rule of “give and take”. A good customer reference program will make the mutual benefits to both parties clear. People are more likely to buy a product or use a service if they know the friend who referred them will also gain something.
2. Commitment and Consistency
When we make a decision, we like to believe that it was the right one. Similarly, when we do someone a favour, we tend to see that person more favourably after it- like a retrospective affirmation of our endorsement. By this logic, once a customer gives you a referral, they are likely to do so again. Don’t hesitate to ask for repeat referrals.
3. Social Proof
When people are unsure of how to behave, they take their cue from those around them. Reinforce peer-to-peer endorsement by the action of sharing your referral offer, seem like a societal norm.
People are likely to buy into a brand that is endorsed by familiar faces. Reminding potential customers of the relationship between your brand and their friend increases the likelihood of a purchase.
Ensure your branding is sharp, professional and hard-hitting to place you in a position of authority and help you build trust among potential customers.
When something is shown to be less available, people perceive it to be more desirable. For example, limiting the time for which an offer is valid is a great way to drive activity.
Now that you know the best customer reference program practices to convince people to give you referrals, here are a few tips to help you build an effective customer referral program.
7. Start Early
Set the expectation early on in your beta program, that you expect your adopters to act as references. An evaluation agreement of mutual expectations should be outlined.
8. Understand the Customer’s Motives
There’s always a way around a customer declining to be a reference. Make a mutually beneficial arrangement – find out if there is anything that you could offer them in exchange.
9. Let the Customer Choose
Customers might not always be aware of the best way to promote their success with your product. Case studies are a great place to start as they allow both you and the customer to control the message. Provide your customers with 2-3 options to choose from.
10. Address the Customer’s Fears
Customers often worry that being a reference will be time-consuming or could possibly end up making them look bad. Clearly state how little of their time and resources will be required and the amount of control they will be given.
11. Highlight the Customer Benefits
Publicising how your solutions helped a customer achieve certain business goals can go a long way towards garnering recognition. However, customers might not be open to sharing certain information. Be attentive and negotiate an arrangement that benefits both parties.
12. Don’t Outsource Your Customer Relationships
Handing over the process of customer promotion to your PR agency spells missed opportunity. When talking to the customer, you might find they have inputs on product improvement or perhaps a service complaint. This is a good chance for marketing to recognize and tackle these issues, while building a stronger relationship with the customer.
Word-of-mouth promotion is a great way to get your brand noticed by a large number of people. By incentivising referrals, you urge your customers to talk about the great experience they have with your brand, and get your brand more visibility and potentially, more clients.