How To Create An Effective Referral Program

A Step-By-Step Guide
Updated on:

Referrals are your greatest untapped resource for new and lasting business. They allow you to tap into your customer’s selling potential and connect with more quality leads. For more information on the power of referrals, check out the following articles on our blog:

By creating a referral program, you can take all the awkwardness out of asking for a referral and make it a part of your everyday business plan. What’s more, customers will feel less awkward about referring their friends and family if they can pass on extra benefits, aside from just good advice.

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Create Your Strategy

Your referral program is going to take some planning. You’re going to need to involve multiple members of your team to figure out what resources you can afford to offer and which customers you should contact for referrals.

1. Compile your current contacts.

And not just your customers, but anyone you’ve made a positive connection with over the past few years. Search for contacts you’ve updated within the past year in your database or CRM, and create a new group for potential referrers.

2. List your inner circle.

Who would refer your business without any incentives? Your inner circle should be your go-to for referrals. Pull these contacts manually, but keep them handy in your database or a special file.

3. Figure out what motivates your customer to refer.

The answer isn’t always incentives. According to John Jantsch, author of The Referral Engine, referrals come from customers trying to impress their friends. In other words, people want to seem trustworthy, smart and cool to their friends -- and it’s your job to make your customers look good when referring your company. It might help to give a gift to both the referrer and the referred. This will make your incentive seem more like a “Thank You” and less like commission. Check out this list of awesome incentive ideas if you’re stuck.

4. Create your referral materials.

Emails to send out to your contact list detailing your referral program and how to make a referral, a button on your website linking customers to an easy referral page, a workflow that sends referred contacts and their referrers into your system, a pipeline for referred leads, scripts for your sales team explaining your program, a referral kit for your customers to pass onto their friends and family--I could go on. This is the most work-intensive and important part of creating a referral program. Your referral materials could be the first thing that a newly referred lead sees from your business.

5. Create a master document explaining your referral program.

This is for your sales and marketing team to make sure that they’re on the same page. Explain who is being sent emails, what everyone should be responsible for explaining and how the incentives work.

Tips And Tricks To Incite Your Customers To Refer

Now that you have a referral program, it’s time to put it into motion! A program alone won’t get you referrals; you have to make sure that your current customers are aware of the program and are regularly reminded of the benefits of giving a referral.

  • Make your referral program easy to find on your website or within your marketing materials. Announce your program loud and proud through email and social media. Make sure your program is visible in banner displays and from the navigation tools. Include your referral program in your email signature, right next to links to social media. Remind customers on their invoices that they could save money by participating in your referral program!
  • Reduce work for customers. Autofill emails, tweets or text messages referring your company. Make sure customers can refer your product or business within a single step; they shouldn’t have to log into a separate website or create a new account.
  • Incorporate “happy moments” into your referral strategy. Customers are most likely to refer you when your product or services have helped them accomplish something. This could even be when your support team has helped them solve a problem. Don’t let these moments slip by!
  • Test what works best. Referral programs shouldn’t be static. You should figure out which incentives motivate your customers best and which business resources you can afford to give away.
  • Consider using a CRM. A customer relationship manager can help you keep track of the customers in your referral program, who they’ve referred, and the impact of these referrals on your business. This will not only give you better oversight for your referral program, but will help you identify your top referrers.


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