Are you a parent? Have you planned your summer holiday family days out and activities? How did you discover and choose the best places to go with your kids?

Most parents will immediately recognize the challenge that is finding, choosing and booking activities for their families. Advertising plays a part, but the channels used by these services are rarely at the bleeding edge of marketing technology. Often the focus is on traditional media, local directory websites and on PR and message boards like Mumsnet.

Mother with Child

Personally, it can be quite tough pulling all these threads together to figure out the best way to spend my summer holiday budget and frequently I fall back on my friendly network of other mums for recommendations.

This dynamic is why a significant source of new business for family activities is likely to be recommendation and referral.

Anyone who is a parent can probably think of at least a few examples of swapping ideas for summer holiday fun with friends, whilst organising summer meet-ups – sometimes frantically in those last few days of school!

It’s often hard to measure how many new customers are driven by recommendation and word of mouth, but families have strong social networks and this Ad Week piece highlights within the social media context how strong those parenting networks are when compared to non-parents. This hints at why referral is potentially an underdeveloped source of new customers for many businesses in this sector.

So, with summer holidays in full swing we thought it was time to take a deeper look into how family activity marketers can best use refer-a-friend to attract new customers.

Takeaway #1: Mum’s the word

Over 90% of the top referrers at one of Mention Me’s family event clients are women. I came across this dramatic bit of data while doing the research for this post. According to Boston Consulting Group, women control as much as 70 per cent of household purchases, so perhaps that extremely high female bias should not have surprised me, but it did.

How can marketers target these Mums with referral?

The same Marketing Week article outlined some tips for marketing to mothers. Mothers, it said, don’t want to be stereotyped or see motherhood portrayed either as ‘having it all’ or alternatively a life of drudgery.’ They wanted marketing to reflect reality and feel authentic. 60% said they had most fun with their kids, a great emotion to invoke in messaging for family days and events.

Test your refer-a-friend messaging and copy on real mums using a tool like Mention Me’s AB testing platform to make sure you are hitting exactly the right note, and be real when talking to mums.

Or even better – let real mums do your talking for you… you can do this very easily by leveraging their friends and peers and being in the marketing channels they already use to make recommendations.

Takeaway #2: Face the power of social networks

There is one social network that still dominates communication by mothers: Facebook. Research done by the Pew Centre in 2015 found that 81% of mothers were on Facebook.

Facebook’s own insights blog said back in 2015 that:

‘mothers were significantly more active on Facebook than non-mothers, and possibly more influential too. On average they posted more photos and had more friends.’

In a separate study eMarketer found that on average US mothers checked their Facebook accounts 10 times per day in 2016.

Mention Me’s own data supports this:

  • The event company targeting families which I mentioned above has a whopping 48% of referred customers coming from Facebook sharing of their referral offer
  • Some of our other retail clients who are aimed squarely at the mother and/or child audience get between 15% and 25% of their newly referred customers from Facebook and Facebook Messenger, second only to those driven by email

Mother with Phone

So, if you are thinking about using referral marketing for events and days out make sure you perfect your Facebook execution – allow both Facebook and Facebook Messenger for sharing your brand and experiment with the photos and text of your referral offer as much as you can to find out what converts best.

You should also play on the Facebook audience’s propensity to interact with good-news stories by tailoring your creative accordingly.

Takeaway #3: Unlock word of mouth

Most refer-a-friend programmes rely on voucher codes or trackable links as the mechanism for matching a recommendation with a new customer and so they miss the portion of referrals that could come from real-life word of mouth.

Word of mouth is an extremely powerful way for mums to pass along a recommendation to friends and for Mention Me’s clients, who use our patent-pending name sharing technology, it is almost always in the top 3 most effective sharing methods.

Name sharing allows a loyal customer to say to a friend ‘just enter my name at the checkout and you’ll get an introductory discount’. Perfect for when your little ones distract you before you remember to send a link or email to a friend.

Referral marketing is a must-have for family activities

Here at Mention Me we deliver fascinating and invaluable insights to our clients by giving them the ability to see the messages which are sent between friends. Understanding how customers talk about the brand they are recommending gives marketers a totally unique insight and understanding into the engagement their customers have with their brand.

For family activities these messages reveal the viral potential of referral marketing. Not only do customers pass on friendly recommendations and helpful little incentives after they have seen shows and visited sites; they also use referral to encourage friends to join them at specific dates, times and venues.

Friends planning together as well as recommending after-the-fact can both be a great driver of increased ticket sales and means that refer-a-friend has double the potential for customer acquisition.

A big thank you to Hugh Gledhill at In The Night Garden Live who helped us put together some of the info in this post.

This post was previously published on the Mention Me Referral Blog.