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Getting referrals isn’t really about you; it’s about your customer

When customers refer your product or service to their friends, what is this really about? They’ve put on line their credibility, they’ve made an effort to help save their friends time and money, and they are helping someone else make a better choice. All this for a coupon? Not really.

Customers don’t make referrals to help a business, or for coupons or freebies; they make it because they want to bring value to their friends and be useful to their social connections. The “$10 off” is nothing more than a token of gratitude they graciously accept for the benefit they brought you in this entire process.

If your social marketing program centers around the $ value of your coupon and how many are sold, think again? At SocialTwist we’ve enabled social referral marketing campaigns for hundreds of leading brands including Kimberly Clark, Truvia, Windex, Barnes & Noble, Metlife, Sara Lee, Western Union, Capital One and Walmart.

The most successful referral marketing campaigns were about sustained engagement with customers where the brand took the focus away from just “incentivizing” to “enabling” the customer to share what is already a good experience.

For many marketers it meant a resetting of expectations and tactics. Consider these basic tips and some effective approaches.

Engage, Don’t Sell. The way you word and present your request is critical. A food and beverages company was smart enough to touch base with their customers and ask why they were not referring friends. They conducted a simple multiple choice survey and the response was clear – the customers felt the referral campaign was a marketing gimmick and felt odd about sharing something for a coupon. The company re-launched the campaign showcasing their product as recognized by a leading pediatric association for meeting the 10 top nutritional requirements for growing children. Tell a friend about it! The campaign was a raging success and the company thanked each customer with an incentive against a future purchase. They spread the word and they established loyalty.

Seed, Seed, Seed. They’re not sharing if you’re not asking. Request the referral via email, Facebook, Twitter, your website, all other channels where your customers interact with you. Make it easy to spot the offer and send polite reminders when needed. With over 300 campaigns reaching millions of consumers, we never undermine the value of a simple nudge or a cleverly placed offer.

There is no such thing as too much thanks. A mom juggling two kids does not have the time to make five clicks and spend 10 minutes thinking how to make the referral. If it is anything more than a few minutes, she won’t make that referral, no matter how much she likes that brand of diapers. Make sure you have the tools that make her user experience as easy as possible, recognize her effort, and more importantly, let her know when a friend takes up the offer. Some of our best campaigns focus on sustained outreach …thanking, motivating and getting repeat referrals.

Find out your influencers. Given your customers can be your advocates, you want find out who pulls you the most business, and why. Nothing tells you more about your customers than their actions. Every click is a decision with underlying intent. With the help of SocialTwist analytics tools, a client found out that their most influential customers on Facebook ignored the “Refer” button on their offer and instead used the Facebook share button to post. The customers never realized they could have also emailed their friends, which they often prefer and often is more effective in driving conversions.

Generating referrals is as much art as it is science but the key is to enable yourself and your customers to spread the value. Referrals are money, use them wisely.

Nandita Verma. Connect with me at nandita@socialtwist.com

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