Marketing via referral programs is nothing new.
In fact, before referral marketing had a name it was simply called word-of-mouth marketing. If someone liked a product, service, film, or piece of music, typically they would tell their friends who in turn would tell their friends and… well, you get the picture.
The same holds true today; the only difference is that digital marketing has opened up the possibilities to allow people more channels than ever in which to disseminate their recommendations, reviews, gripes, etc.
Basically what this means is that if you give your customers a valuable experience, many will turn into brand ambassadors and that enthusiasm will gain momentum as they rave to their friends.
Take this stat from Market Force, for example. The purchase decisions of 81% of U.S. online consumers are influenced by their friends’ social media posts. This is a new reality—it’s how Millennials prefer to shop in the digital age.
So how do you take advantage of this and maximize the potential of your customers doing the heavy lifting of spreading the word for you?
Implement a referral program, of course. Incentivize your potential customers to put the word out. Here we list a few examples of brands that successfully incorporated referral programs into their marketing scheme.
Hopefully, they will inspire you.
G Suite is a comprehensive collection of productivity, collaboration, and cloud computing tools designed and released by Google in 2006.
This suite consists of a number of tools that are now all but indispensable in this day and age. They include Google Drive, Docs, Hangouts, Calendar, Google+, sheets, slides, forms, and of course Gmail.
But despite G Suite enjoying the branding of the most popular search engine in the world, they still had to market these tools back in 2006.
In order to get people talking about the suite, they implemented a referral program that incentivized new users with cash for each person that signed up using the program participant’s link.
The program worked thusly: those who wanted to spread the word were given a referral link and coupon codes to share to help folks get started with G Suite. And for each new user that signed up and met the referral terms, those who spread the word got $15.
So, just like in the B2C world, making monetary rewards/discounts the cornerstone of your referral marketing strategy is always going to bear fruit. Just ask Google—as of 2017 that referral program helped grow the suite to include three million paying businesses and 70 million G Suite for Education users.
The number two example on the list is/was Carpathia, a Virginia-based business that focused on cloud services.
They decided to go all out for their referral program and recruit third parties as referral partners. In their referral marketing ad, they used bold type, engaging color schemes and an easy signup process (just three steps).
The first step was to join the referral program online. Then participants received access to tools and materials like white papers and case studies, to help identify more potential customers. Upon referring new customers, the participants were then given a commission.
This tactic worked like a dream, as Carpathia added hundreds of new major clients, which in turn got the attention of QTS Realty Trust. The result is that QTS, another data services provider, merged with Carpathia in a $326 million deal.
IT Solutions, Inc.
This is a full-service IT company that focuses primarily on small and medium-sized business throughout Philadelphia and the surrounding region. They not only invested in referral marketing but they made it the lynchpin of their marketing strategy.
Like the above businesses, IT Solutions, Inc. also makes the signup process a quick and easy one (just a few info fields on a single page).
Their program works because it is straightforward, simple, and highly enticing. The company is upfront about wanting recommendations, and they flat-out state they’ll reward any referral partner $1,000 in IT Solutions, Inc.’s services for any new signup.
Likewise, the company that referral company signs up will also get $1,000 worth of services.
As an added personal incentive, the referral partner also gets an Amazon gift card worth $100. The signup process is simple, too. All the participant needs to do is enter his or her contact info as well as the contact info of the referred company.
As a result, the IT Solutions Inc. has been growing like crazy and racking up the awards.
They’re in the top 1% of all Microsoft partners and were one of Inc. 5000’s fastest growing companies for nine straight years running.
Blackbaud is a seller of software and services provider that made their mark in the fundraising field and working with non-profit organizations. Their brand is all about “giving back” and they’ve carried this message over to their referral program as well.
To become a Blackbaud Champion involves making connections via their Champions Hub network at which time you’ll earn rewards points.
They incentivize users with a deep rewards catalog for making these connections, and points can be redeemed for everything from product discounts to event invites to iPads to gift cards and more.
BlackBaud is a great example of offering diverse rewards to all of their participants. Like with IT Solutions, Inc., all that’s required to sign up is to fill out two simple text fields on their referral webpage.
It’s paying off well for Blackbaud, too. Not only are they partners with Microsoft, but the two are expanding that partnership with the express goal of transforming the non-profit sector. Seems it pays dividends to spread the word.
Who doesn’t like free hosted email? Zoho, the email hosting service, was keenly aware of this when they started their referral program back in 2013.
For simply signing up new customers, existing ones could get up to 20 free users in their hosted email plan. Moreover, the business they referred could also get up to 20 new users.
To do this, they set up a referral webpage and participants were welcome to sign up. They made the process as easy as possible, adding clickable buttons that could invite participants to “send an invite to a friend,” and then simply requesting a contact email and name. Nothing more.
The strategy was simple but effective: appeal to small and medium-sized business who may not want to spend extra cash each time they hire a new employee.
Zoho made their hosted mail service attractive to these businesses for exactly that reason—now they could add up to 20 new employees on their email accounts without spending another dime.
The strategy seems to have paid off, because as of 2017, Zoho has signed up over 10 million business accounts.
Before you go.
Hopefully, the above examples serve to illustrate how the momentum of signups to a B2B company can increase with an enticing referral program. Do it right, and you’ll eliminate the need for superfluous sales and marketing tactics and save money on advertising.
Just remember the fundamentals: always aspire to provide the best customer service possible.
That is the key to getting customers eager to spread the word about your company and make your referral initiative a success.
Scott is the CEO of Elevation Marketing. He is a balanced risk-taker with nearly three decades of experience starting and growing advertising and marketing agencies.
He remains dedicated to helping his talented teams develop unique and effective integrated marketing programs that help employees realize their full potential while serving up impressive business wins for clients.
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