3 New Ways to Get More Bang for Your Referral Marketing Dollars

This article originally appeared on Business 2 Community Referrals are the marketing lifeblood for many companies. According to the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA), 90 percent of small businesses rely on word-of-mouth referrals. And Nielsen reports that people are four times more likely to buy when referred by a friend.

>>Webinar: How to Generate Thousands of Referral Leads via Brand Advocates<<

Are you looking to get more ROI from your refer-a-friend program? Here are three new ways to get more bang for your refer-a-friend bucks:

1. Get Advocates to rate and review your products

Your Advocates will do more than refer friends to you. They’ll also create valuable content like glowing testimonials and highly positive reviews that boost your online ratings and rankings on shopping sites.

Consumer electronics company TiVo recently ran a highly successful refer-a-friend campaign. The company generated over 100,000 referrals and millions of social media impressions.

A whopping 54 percent of TiVo Advocates who referred friends also have recommended TiVo by writing and publishing positive reviews on shopping sites or advocating TiVo in other ways. This has helped TiVo increase its star ratings on Amazon.com, Best Buy.com and other sites.

To get referrals and content, you’re going to need an Advocate marketing platform that enables Advocates to recommend your brand and products in both these ways and more. This platform should provide you with a single view of each Advocate so you don’t create separate silos of data about Advocates.

2. Use refer-a-friend promotions to amplify your brand message

A well-known Las Vegas hotel that has spent millions on a major renovation is launching a refer-a-friend campaign that encourages happy guests to tell friends about the hotel’s facelift.

Advocates will create and share stories about their experiences at the newly-renovated hotel. Advocates  can earn up to ten nights’ free stays for referring friends who stay at the hotel. Plus, Advocates and their friends are entered into a drawing for a Grand Prize: an all-expenses weekend at the hotel including a free room in the hotel’s celebrity suite.

Refer-a-friend campaigns and programs should be managed by demand generation specialists in your company. But you should be involving branding and social media teams in the process of creating refer-a-friend promotions.

3. Support a worthy social cause

Most refer-a-friend campaigns are little more than bounty-hunting: you bring us a new customer, we’ll pay you a fee. While this can and does work in many cases, why not create a refer-a-friend incentive that people feel good about and increases brand engagement?

Norton, the consumer brand of Symantec, generated thousands of recommendations and referrals when it provided donations to Computers for Youth on behalf of Norton Advocates. The companies generated over 10,000 referrals and, at the same time, helped needy kids get computers.

Chances are, your company already has a favorite cause or charity it supports. If not, pick a worthy non-profit or other cause that matters to your Advocates. Then, make donations on behalf of Advocates who refer friends. Everyone wins.

>>Webinar: How to Generate Thousands of Referral Leads via Brand Advocates<<

Marketing Problems? Advocates Have Answers

Energizing your Advocates to answer prospects' questions provides compelling benefits.

  1. Increase conversions. HomeAway, a popular online vacation rental marketplace, got a whopping 13% conversion rate among prospects who had received answers to their questions fromAdvocates. Average sales conversion rates are 1-2%.
  2. Reduce shopping cart abandonment. The average shopping cart abandonment rate is about 90%. In other words, about 9 out of 10 shoppers bail out of the purchase process at the final step--the purchase. Enabling prospects to ask Advocates questions during the final purchase process can help cut shopping cart abandonment rates. For some companies, even a 1% reduction in shopping cart abandonment rate can mean millions of dollars in sales.
  3. Generate highly qualified referral leads and clicks. Prospects must enter their email addresses to ask questions. this  generates qualified leads. Additionally, the questions prospects ask can help you understand them better. By providing prospects with a promotional offer or coupon, you can also generate clicks to your website or landing pages.

There's another powerful benefit of activating Advocates to answer prospects' questions. By analyzing the questions prospects are asking (and the answers Advocates are providing), you can capture valuable insights. These insights can be used to improve your product,s enhance customer experiences, and understand unmet needs.

Getting Advocates to answer prospects' questions is ideal for companies that:

  • Have a large Advocate Army. The general rule of thumb is that you need at least 1,000 Advocates for this approach to work well. You don't want to burn out your Advocates by peppering them constantly with questions.
  • Sell products or services where prospects often seek others' advice before buying. Some examples of this include cars, travel, and hospitality, health and fitness, consumer electronics, and technology. Just about every B2B company can benefit from Advocate Answers because people usually ask questions before plunking down a few hundred or thousand dollars for a new business computer or another business tool.
  • Sell new or innovative products or services. Most people aren't early adopters. getting advocates to answer prospects'' questions is a great way to help prospects understand benefits, overcome objections and increase sales.

Are you ready to identify and energize your Advocates? Let's chat. 


This post is an excerpt from Brand Advocates: Turning Enthusiastic Customers into a Powerful Marketing Force  (Wiley; ISBN: 978-1-1183-3603-8; July 2012; Hardcover & E-book)

Extreme Brand Advocate Story: "Starbucks Melody" Goes La La for Lattes

Melody Overton of Seattle is such a passionate Starbucks Advocate that her moniker is “Starbucks Melody.”

“I’ve been called Starbucks Melody even when I’m in the courtroom,” laughs Overton, an attorney who works in downtown Seattle, not far from where Starbucks was founded at Pike Place Market in March 1971.

Starbucks has more than 24 million fans on Facebook and 1.6 million Twitter followers, as of August 2011. But it’s hard to imagine any Starbucks customer more knowledgeable or passionate about Starbucks than Starbucks Melody.

Overton probably knows more about Starbucks than most Starbucks employees including their baristas (not unusual for Advocates of Starbucks and other brands.) When Overton talks about Starbucks, you can hear the excitement in her voice, like she’s had a few too many lattes.

Overton is the author of a popular blog all about Starbucks entitled “StarbucksMelody.com.” She also tweets about Starbucks (@SbuxMel), where she has about 4,000 followers. Overton is not a Starbucks employee or paid consultant. “I’m not on Starbucks’ payroll. They’ve never even given me a gift card,” she points out. Instead, like millions of other Advocates of other brands, Overton recommends Starbucks because she wants to share her authentic enthusiasm for Starbucks with others.

A Passion for Coffee

“I have a passion for coffee,” says Overton, who visits her local Starbucks “ritualistically twice a day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon.” Her favorite Starbucks coffees are the reserve blends prepared in Starbucks Clover® brewing system, found in some Starbucks stores. On those rare warm summer afternoons in Seattle – for Seattle, that means anything over 70 degrees – Overton likes drinking Starbucks iced passion tea or iced green tea.

“I like the way it (coffee) really has the ability to bring people together,” writes Overton in her blog. “I like the conversations around it. I like being able to have a common ground to connect with people about. Most of all, I fall in love with those moments when you can see some deep joy in a person’s eyes over discovering a new coffee, learning about coffee, or just hanging around the coffee – even if not drinking it.”

Her favorite Starbucks store? “Oooh, that’s a tough question. But like I’ve said on my blog, very high up there would be the store at First & Pike in Seattle, at the entrance to the Pike Place Market. It has beautiful design. The customer service is good. And it was the first Starbucks store to get two Clovers,” Overton says.

Melody Gets “Totally Sucked In”

Overton’s love affair with Starbucks began when she moved to Seattle in 1989 from nearby Tacoma, Washington, where she was in the air force. Overton’s attraction to Starbucks was as strong as Starbuck’s Italian roast.

Overton’s passion for Starbucks kicked into high gear in 2008, when Howard Shultz came out of retirement to the revive the faltering company, which he said had lost some of its “romance” and “soul” as it became a global behemoth. In a highly unusual move, Starbucks actually closed down all of its stores on February 26, 2008 for one evening to train its baristas.

“2008 just rattled me. What an insane year that was for me, as a Starbucks lover. I said to myself: ‘Wow, this is really cool.’ I just got totally sucked in. I became so excited about Starbucks,” says Overton. She was particularly impressed by the launch in April 2008 of MyStarbucksidea.com, Starbucks’s first online community. “I loved it! I felt like I really had a voice; that I could connect with Starbucks and with other people like me and make a difference,” she says.

Melody’s Most Memorable Starbucks Moment

Overton’s most memorable Starbucks moment occurred three years later in January 2011, when she attended the official unveiling of Starbucks’s updated logo. “That was amazing,” says Overton, one of only three consumers Starbucks invited to the event, held at the company’s headquarters in Seattle. “Oh my God, I even got my picture taken with (Starbucks CEO) Howard Shultz. When I walked out of there I was on cloud nine. I felt like I had died and gone to heaven,” she gushes.

Rampant Starbucks Advocacy

Overton continues advocating Starbucks today to readers of her blog, Twitter followers, family, friends, colleagues, and just about anyone who’ll listen. “I’ve been known to randomly bring up Starbucks in all sorts of places, even when I’m sitting in a hair salon,” laughs Overton.

“The hardest people to sell Starbucks to aren’t in Seattle,” says Overton. “People here are hugely over-caffeinated,” she states. “My biggest accomplishment was when I got my sister-in-law, who lives in southern California, to drink a Starbucks pumpkin spice latte,” says Overton.

Exactly how many people has Overton converted to the Starbucks religion as a result of her rampant advocacy? “Hmmm, I’m not sure. It’s probably in the hundreds, or more.”

“I’ll have to ponder that over a French press,” she chuckles.

Read more: Extreme Brand Advocate Stories

-Rob Fuggetta, Founder/CEO, Zuberance