Our favourite strategy quotes from experts on getting customer referrals and word of mouth for your brand

If you're focused on improving your referral marketing but need practical advice, you've come to the right place. At Viral Loops, we've gathered 31 quotes from top CMOs, CEOs, founders, and marketing experts to offer you actionable wisdom based on real-world experiences.

This collection provides advice on understanding customer needs before launching a product, building a minimal viable product, and iterating based on feedback. You'll learn about creating personalized customer experiences and building genuine connections to turn satisfied customers into advocates. The quotes also cover data-driven strategies for increasing engagement and driving referrals.

We highlight the importance of building trust and delivering good service to foster customer loyalty. You'll find insights on using referral-based waiting lists to gauge interest in your product, the mechanics of effective referral programs, and keeping potential customers engaged during pre-launch phases. There's also advice on using social proof and customer testimonials to boost your marketing efforts.

At Viral Loops, we apply this wisdom when consulting with our clients. We use these strategies to help businesses refine their approaches and achieve growth. Our team leverages these expert insights to create tailored solutions that drive customer engagement and turn satisfied customers into advocates.

This collection serves as a resource for practical tips and inspiration to improve your marketing efforts. By applying these expert perspectives, you can refine your strategies and fully realize the potential of your referral marketing with Viral Loops' guidance.

1. Talk to prospects before you start building, make sure they want it.
2. Build the smallest product that meets their needs to see if they use it.
3. Keep talking and iterating until they have something they are raving about.

In 2024, once you have word of mouth...

Everything else becomes 10x easier.

Before launching a product, you can use a referral-based waiting list to gauge interest and validate your idea.

Create a landing page that explains and promotes your value proposition through various channels like Facebook ads and LinkedIn ads.

Monitor the number of people joining the waitlist to determine if there’s enough interest to build your product or service.

For products that already have product-market fit, referral-based waiting lists can be used to create hype around the product launch.

Promoting the waitlist and tracking which marketing channels are most effective will give you valuable data on what works best for your target audience when the product is live.

Using waiting lists in both scenarios helps you de-risk your assumptions, prioritize investments, and adopt a growth marketing mindset that emphasizes experimentation and data-driven decision-making.

Figure out what's going on, and how to remove friction and improve the situation. From your customer's point of view.

BONUS: Word of mouth and referrals. Someone may not need your thing themselves right now, but they think others would benefit.

So they talk about you and what you do.

Great signal too.

4 principles to Sustainable Growth.

1. Viral factor ≠ static metric.

People share over time, not only when they join.

100 users invite 10 friends the first week, then 5, then 7 later, and so on.

The more sessions you have with a user (retention)— the more you build up the viral factor over time.

Viral factor is not static.

2. Asking people to invite 100 contacts is not realistic.

Scam scores will punish you for mass-inviting all your contacts and your domain might even get flagged.

To grow, one should have users invite small batches of other users in natural use cases over time.

AKA Retention focused Growth.

3. Sharing > invites.

Dropbox had a folder-sharing mechanism before their referral program.

Instagram pioneered cross-platform promotion with the ability to share on Facebook.

Then, if you embed a native sharing mechanism in your product, referral marketing programs will multiply your growth by rewarding your most loyal customers.

4. Virality amplifies other channels rather than being a core driver.

While >1.0 viral factors aren’t realistic, a 0.5 changes everything.

Thus, you should use virality to amplify other marketing activities that bring traffic like SEO, content, PR and more.

It also gives you social proof and reach.

Start caring what people think. And focus on delighting your customers.

In today's digital landscape, personalizing the customer journey and leveraging data-driven insights are key strategies for enhancing engagement and driving referrals.

By creating tailored experiences and fostering genuine connections, businesses can turn satisfied customers into enthusiastic advocates.

In today's digital landscape, personalizing the customer journey and leveraging data-driven insights are key strategies for enhancing engagement and driving referrals.

By creating tailored experiences and fostering genuine connections, businesses can turn satisfied customers into enthusiastic advocates.

Our marketing plan includes a free and express plan to send e-gifts easy, which has significantly boosted our product-led growth (PLG) by encouraging clients to get more used to sending.

Think of an ideal referral program to a great hotel, where everything you need is ready and set up for you before you even ask.

Applying this hotel concept to the perfect referral program involves several strategic actions.

When seeking a referral from a customer, it’s crucial to know the potential referrer well—typically, they are someone who has experienced a demo or engaged in a meaningful conversation. Establishing this connection with satisfied customers sets the stage for effective referrals.

Before the referral call, an attentive gesture can improve engagement.

For example, sending both parties a small e-gift, like a $5 gift card. This gesture acknowledges their time and effort, making the conversation more enjoyable and showing appreciation in advance.

After the referral call, it is essential to follow up with gratitude.

While there is no need to gift the prospective buyer, thanking the referring customer is crucial. Consider personalized gifts based on their interests or hobbies. Branded items like T-shirts or baseball caps work great in these cases.

For customers who are consistent with providing referrals, occasional unexpected gestures can strengthen the relationship.

Rather than sending a gift every time they refer someone, occasional surprise acknowledgments can build a strong base.  A handwritten note from the company founder expressing gratitude can be a classy and memorable touch. The surprise factor is what keeps clients coming back.

Ultimately, the perfect referral program requires so much more than just immediate rewards.

It’s about ongoing, positive gestures that foster true advocacy and long-term relationships. Many companies only send gifts after a referral call, but incorporating these additional steps grant a great strength to your referral program.

It all circles back to building a strong network through gifts.

Create surprises and delights to reward loyal customers and turn them into advocates.

Thoughtful surprises that demonstrate a brand's personal understanding can unlock marketing outcomes unattainable via mass promotional tactics.

Follow Up in a Timely Manner.

Even if you believe your offering is top notch and you’re delivering world-class customer service, you may find through the survey process that there are issues.

It’s vital that you respond to survey results—especially if the results are less than optimal.

For a customer rating of 9 or 10, a thank-you email that asks the customer to provide a referral is adequate.

Customers that score a 7 or 8 are often referred to as passive customers because while they like a product or service, they aren’t likely to refer anyone to your business.

Continuing to nurture the customer relationship with an email series that offers more assistance and educational resources related to your business could open the door to a future referral request.

Automation can help by enabling you to schedule timely communications to these customers.

Any customer scoring below 6 should be contacted to determine how you can improve their experience.

It may feel uncomfortable, but reaching out directly to these customers and genuinely listening to their feedback can enable you to improve your processes and may even turn a dissatisfied customer into a brand advocate.

We implement referral waitlists for early-stage products as soon as possible to create an initial audience and have a referral program in place after the product is released so growth can continue.

We create a customer journey map covering Awareness, Acquisition, Retention, and Referral, sticking every initiative, channel, and campaign into one of those silos.

The waitlist falls under the awareness stage, while a referral program belongs to retention and referral.

For startups in the prelaunch phase running waitlists, there is no tangible product yet, which makes a brand easier to forget. The key here is to keep people engaged while waiting, to avoid forgetfulness and to increase referrals.

We create a series of emails, resources, events, and content to develop a relationship with those people and support them on their journey. The goal is to keep the energy high and keep reminding people of what awesome thing they are waiting for while at the same time motivating them to refer friends—which in turn brings more waitlist participants.

People are faced with 100s of brands daily, so if you do not keep momentum, your waitlist will get lost in their minds.

During the waitlist, you must keep fuelling your campaign; it is not plug-and-play.

You have to give back to the people who promote your upcoming product, the top referrers on your waitlist. Daniel makes sure to care for and value them and does everything in his power to help them help the brand grow.

To accelerate the growth, even more, we invest in other channels to bring traffic to their waitlist, including Facebook Ads, Google Ads, SEO, Niche community engagement (a fancy way of saying identifying groups where people might be relevant and developing relationships with those groups, not spamming), Content marketing, Emails, and Newsletter.

You have the ability to control demand creation.

And I believe demand creation happens in networking.

I think it happens in cold emailing. I think it's cold calling. I think it's direct mail.

But by a country mile, the best way to create demand in today's world is to create as much social media content as you humanly can around what you know.

I think that people need to focus on demand creation, no matter how little sales are happening right now.

If you're creating 37 potential clients in 18 months because of your dinner parties, your barbecues in your backyard, you're knocking on doors, or you're making six pieces of social media content a day talking about the market and yourself and your family and whatever you've comfortable doing, your'e doing the work.

Seize the Right Moments to Request Referrals.

Your delighted customers are often willing to provide referrals. However, they might not remember to do so unless prompted.

Engage with them regularly, expressing gratitude for their loyalty.

Ideal times to solicit referrals include:

- When they give you a positive NPS (Net Promoter Score).

Nothing is better than a twice-a-year NPS survey that identifies which of your customers are happiest. If they give you a 10, then contact them immediately to give you a referral, or even just a testimonial quote.

- Immediately after a successful sale.

Customers are usually very happy right after they purchase your product.

- After a successful service delivery.
Approximately a year, post-implementation once all kinks are ironed out.

Take inspiration from a firm I'm associated with. Their emails conclude with a simple, yet effective line, "Who do you know that could benefit from our expertise?".

Incorporating this into your team's email signatures can be transformative.

To build connections that start conversations, focus your audience outreach.

People will spread the word if they feel a strong connection to your message.

Here's how to do it when launching in new retail centers.

1. Create the perception that everyone is buying.

This is as simple as using ads and showing the retail center, like the ad shown in the featured image.

The "secret sauce" is to concentrate all ad spend on geo targeted ads in the zip code of the new retail centers.

You're launching it, so it appears like everyone is seeing these ads.

2. Wildly exceed customer expectation

The easiest way to do this is with a try-before-you-buy offer.

This is simply an offer that is designed for limited use in zip codes where you are launching in new retail centers.

Create an offer that is designed to get first time trials in that zip code rather then max DTC profitability.

Something easy to keep in stock, lots of trial flavors and easy to ship.

You want people to try it at home before they are faced with a purchase decision on shelf.

After getting way more value then then expect via your DTC trial offer, they will be much more likely to make the right decision in stores.

3. Create the vision of "heavy users" outcomes

You want to create the connection to repeated use and a specific lifestyle the consumer is after.

Using the same geo targeting will "plaster" the internet with user testimonials and case studies about how your product fits into your customers idealized lifestyle.

There is no better way to promote the value of your product or service than by having your customers and clients do the selling for you.

That means collecting case studies, quotes, success stories and regularly sharing these in your marketing so that your results, speak for themselves.

One of the best things to do in the services business is to essentially just take everything you know and give it away one bite at a time.

People are really reluctant to do that, right?

But one of the ways you can become referable is to give away what you know, but you have to understand something really important: a list of ingredients doesn’t make somebody a chef.

When you tell them what you know and you give them what you know, it actually creates customers. It doesn’t take away from customers.

So then you take action: The first thing you do is create a customer journey map.

Document all the different touch points that you have with your clients. They can be a website. They call you. You call them back. There’s a proposal maybe. They investigate their proposal and then you get a monthly meeting and a statement. Or whatever. Like all the different touchpoints. Write all of those down in order.

Second step, you interview ideally 18 customers.

18 customers, in three categories, six of each: New customers, people who have not been with you very long; Longstanding clients, people who have been with you for a while; and Lost clients, people who are no longer with you. Ideally, you have six conversations of each.

In those conversations you ask them all the same thing, you kind of review the customer journey map with them, and you say at each of these points, “When I sent you a proposal, what did you expect would happen?”.

What you’re trying to do is collect customer expectations at each of these inflection points.

Because as I mentioned earlier, once you know what people expect, you know what they don’t expect.

Your talk trigger has to be what they don’t expect. Once you’ve done these interviews, you will have some insights.

You will have some understanding about expectations.

Then you brainstorm. Now at this point you will have a list of … we usually do 10 to 12 when we create talk triggers for clients, but we also do this for a living.

Realistically, you might come up with five.

So you’ve got five decent ideas that you know your clients don’t expect.

You know where in your touchpoint map you would deploy these talk triggers: Early in the relationship, monthly statement. Late in the relationship, portfolio review.

Then you take the one that you like the best and you test it. This is very important.

You come up with a way to deploy the talk trigger to only certain customers in a way that you can control it.

Time and again it has been proven that delivering a positive customer experience is the best, most efficient way of achieving customer engagement.

That being said, where most businesses fail is not delivering on their claims.

For example - if your marketing material says 30% off but at the point of sale it’s 30% off upto amount X, you have completely mislead the customer.

Even through you did everything right and have the best of products, a small error like this can make all the difference.

Be true to your customer.

Even if someone recommends a business, nowadays, I’ll turn to a search engine first.

I want to see their website, check if other people trust them, see if their content has appeared in familiar publications, and find out if they’ve gotten results for businesses like mine.

We’re all busy, so we first need to ensure a business is trustworthy before diving deeper.

You can’t persuade someone to leave a positive review with incentives if their experience was negative.

However, many businesses with happy customers fail to gather reviews simply because the process can be inconvenient.

Making it easier for people to share their experiences can result in more positive feedback.

In order to generate client referrals, you have to turn customers into raving fans.

Go above and beyond your SLAs and be their partner by solving their business challenges.

Roll up your sleeves and never stop identifying gaps where you can help them.

That is how you can differentiate yourself from their other vendors.

From a tactical standpoint, give financial incentives for referrals, i.e. give services credits for each client they refer.

One of the best ways to maximize client engagement is by creating and curating a culture of responsiveness.

I built my agency on this very premise, being the first to respond to prospects and building responsiveness into customer service and support and I believe it was a key differentiator that helped maximize valuation when I sold my business in March 2022.

- Higher Retention Rate = ++ Referrals.
- People like Money > free stuff.
- Decide if people care about "credits".
- Keep referral programs stupid simple.

WOM is a third party view which is perceived as unbiased and more trustworthy.

Brands should strive for building group of customers who can be influencers and recommend others to use the product/services.

I recommend to have strategically planned WOM recommendation to customers at the relevant touch point in customer journey.

Example, if someone is searching for the right hospital for a certain procedure, engage them either through any channel wherein they can get connected to the influencer customer base of hospital.

From my experience, creating a brand experience that generates buzz and Word-of-Mouth starts with offering something remarkable.

This could be an innovative product, exceptional customer service, or an unforgettable marketing campaign.

Personalization is key; tailor experiences to resonate deeply with your target audience, making them feel special and understood.

Leverage social media to engage with your audience.

Events, whether online or offline, can also play a significant role in fostering community and excitement around your brand.

Remember, authenticity and emotional connections are crucial.

Lastly, surprise elements or delighting customers in unexpected ways can create memorable experiences that people want to talk about.

Creating case studies is a simple and effective way for B2B SaaS companies and tech companies to generate word-of-mouth referrals.

Despite its ease, many companies still need to take advantage of this strategy.

Case studies allow companies to showcase their best customers and their achievements with their service.

By conducting an honest interview with one of their best customers and putting them on a podium, they can highlight their success and provide insight into how their service helped them.

Customers who are featured in case studies are often willing to co-promote the case study since it’s an interview about them. They can share it with their network and even feature it in their newsletter.

As a result, the case study can stimulate network effects, word-of-mouth referrals, and more.

The ideal customer profile (ICP) of the company’s best customers often consists of people who are also an ICP for the company.

As a result, the case study can help the company reach new customers who are likely to be interested in their service.

We keep it pretty simple.

Our product has managers and members, and we find some managers are really strong and some members are power users.

We're always sure to connect with them on LinkedIn and engage with them often. And, if they leave their company for another opportunity, we touch base after so many weeks into their new position.

It reaffirms the relationship and that we're here if we need them.

These relationships and reach outs have resulted in many managers/members bringing us into their new company and they have become some of our largest vocal advocates.

My favorite marketing strategy still to this date is giving away something for free. Not “freemium”… not a “trial”, but really, fully free.

The key to this strategy is to think about the cost of marketing.

If the cost of marketing is extremely low, you would be better off charging for your product or service.

But as you know, marketing keeps getting more expensive over time.

When you look at Google’s ad revenue over time, from 2013 to 2023, there hasn’t been one down year.

So when ad costs are expensive, and it costs so much to acquire a customer… and much more than just giving away the software or product for free… you typically are better off just giving it away for free and considering it a marketing cost.

You then monetize by selling something more expensive on the backend that is in a bigger TAM.

We’ve done this at NP Digital. We give away many different software tools for free, and it’s how we generate more than 30,000 leads every month.

When I say 30,000 plus leads, I am talking about full leads with a person's name, email, phone number, budget, revenue size, job title, and basic company information.

Try giving away something for free. Many times, it is cheaper than spending money on marketing.

Are you making marketing to grow your business more difficult than it needs to be?

Are you connecting with your audiences and serving them as humans?

Your top focus should be to INSPIRE - CONNECT - ACHIEVE!

My framework has four key elements.

So, the first key point is the prize.

What is the product or what is the incentive that you are going to give your persona so he’s going to be interested in referring you.

I think a big mistake people make here is they try to bribe their clients. They try to buy their clients, to bribe their clients.

Your clients, they are not making a living out of your referral marketing program.

Most of the times, what works the best is something that enhances their experience with your own product, with your own service; an upgrade or credit in the platform.

That’s the first point of the framework, incentives.

The second point is the mechanics.

What is going to be the mechanics of your referral marketing program?

An e-commerce business is not going to have the same mechanics than a sales company and it’s not going to have the same mechanics as a consultancy company.

So that’s the second point of the framework.

The third point is channels.

Referring your company should be easy, and should be everywhere. Your clients should be reminded everywhere that you have a referral marketing program.

Most referral marketing programs I know that failed, they failed because they are don’t activate the program.

It stays in a corner in the footer of the website and clients don’t even know you have a referral marketing program.

The fourth key point is the key moment, as I mentioned above.

So that’s the framework: Incentive, mechanics, channels, and key moments.

We prefer to use the Tempting Giveaway template—a referral strategy where participants increase their chances of winning a prize by referring their friends to take part in the giveaway.

In our campaigns about 20-40% of signups come from referrals and in some cases 80% of participants have shared their referral link at least once.

Testimonials, case studies, and customer stories are an absolute WEAPON for your business.

This is where you can show off your array of happy customers, talking about your products and services in their own words and proving that you're just as bloody good as you say you are.

Word of mouth marketing requires 2 parts.

1) Brand Presence, and 2) Brand Follow-Through.

Companies must be able to share their brand vision in such a way that inspires and creates community, and then the product and customer experience must deliver on that vision.

While there are a lot of varying marketing activities that are responsible for helping this along, community marketing is the best way to connect all these dots.

I believe that getting referrals depends on providing an excellent customer experience.

By personalizing interactions and delivering exceptional service, customer satisfaction and loyalty are increased, leading to natural referrals.

Creating a well-structured referral program with incentives such as discounts and freebies can further motivate customers to promote the business.

Making the referral process simple with user-friendly interfaces and clear instructions makes it easy for customers to refer others.

Furthermore, nurturing offline and online communities and organizing appreciation events create positive experiences and increase referrals.

Continuously monitoring sources and collecting feedback ensures ongoing improvement of referral strategies.

To get more people on the signup campaign, our team develops various strategies, which includes using the referral competition template of Viral Loops to grow through word of mouth (combining a prize with access to the pre-sale).

We then further fuel the growth of a signup campaign using our year-long expertise with paid media to get the event in front of more people on Meta and Google.

1. Build Relationships First, Then Revenue: Help your sales team understand buyer personas and their pain points.

Prioritize creating materials that showcase your expertise and highlight your people, demonstrating how you bring value to life through blogs, stories, and case studies. This approach enables sales teams to engage and draw in their contacts on a more personal basis, building trust, loyalty and ultimately advocacy.

2. It's Not a Sales Pitch: Relevance matters—avoid using your content as a glorified sales deck.

Effective content should focus on the buyer's world and foster dialogue based on value, creating stickiness. Make your content easily accessible, simple, and shareable to make it appealing on social media platforms (think podcasts over webinars).

3. Personalize for the Buyer Journey: As buyers move through the funnel, reinforce their momentum by delivering more information-rich materials that highlight best practices for implementation and adoption.

Once implemented, adjust content to emphasize portfolio value, deepen and expand your footprint, and retain clients.

4. Think Beyond the Sale: To drive sustainability, capitalize on the value of word-of-mouth (WOM) in the B2B world.

Create programs that engage clients at a higher level, such as Voice of the Customer (VOC) initiatives and Customer Advisory Boards (CABs). These programs foster a win-win relationship, building customers for life through stronger portfolios, compelling stories, enhanced customer experiences, and solid customer relationships and referrals.

Make sure the product or the service is good and people are actually getting value out of it.

As you transition into building a referral program, do the customer discovery, and understand what your customer actually wants.
Don’t just choose pens and T-shirts cause they’re cheap and easy, but like for Dropbox for example, if your customers are coming for storage, maybe you should offer them storage.

I think that’s probably a pretty good place to start with referral programs.