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Are you looking to create a referral marketing strategy for your company?

If so, you’re not alone. Few things are more valuable for a business’s reputation than having its customers do their promotion for it. Even better, word-of-mouth marketing doesn’t have to cost anything.

Think about it: most of the marketing strategies you might come up with probably involve some sort of cost to get started. Advertising is an obvious example, but even organic marketing methods often demand a lot of work to set up.

When you encourage customers to refer a friend, you’re literally getting them to do your marketing for you. Even though there is some work involved in setting up an effective referral marketing program, it can still be a cost-effective way of gaining new customers.

However, that assumes your referral strategy ends up working as planned. And for most businesses, simply asking customers to share them with their friends may not cut it. So what does it take to make a successful referral marketing strategy?

You’re about to find out. To learn how to get your customers to actually refer a friend when you ask them to, keep reading.

Elevate Your Customer Experience

It goes without saying that unless your customers’ experiences are positive, they won’t recommend your business to others. If you know that your business isn’t as great at pleasing customers as it could be, you should focus on improving the experience for your customers. Asking them to share you with their friends while they’re dissatisfied with your services won’t result in the kind of promotion you want.

Even if your average customer experience is positive, it’s still a good idea to think about how you could elevate it even further. People recommend brands and products to their friends when they’ve been delighted by their experience. It’s one thing to satisfy your customers’ expectations, but going further and actually delighting them is better.

If you make your existing customers’ experiences your primary concern, the referrals will likely take care of themselves. And when you do ask your audience to share you with their friends, they’ll be more than happy to oblige.

Align Your Brand With Your Customers’ Values

It’s one thing to meet the basic expectations of your audience, and it’s another to exceed their expectations and intentionally delight them. One important way of delighting your customers is to ensure your business stands for something they consider important. Your customers should feel that they are making the world a better place by supporting your brand.

To align your brand’s values with those of your audience, you need to know what your audience’s values are. You can find out what values your audience holds by asking them directly, such as with a poll. Or you can make an educated guess by looking at their demographic data, such as age range and locations.

However, it’s important to make sure your brand represents your customers’ values authentically. You can’t make up a nice-sounding slogan about world peace and expect people to take you seriously. Instead, try to identify where your own values and those of your audience overlap and focus on those.

Incentivize Word-of-Mouth Promotion

Hopefully, your customers are so excited by their experience with you that they’ll jump at the chance to share your brand with others. But you should be wary of assuming they’ll all want to help out for nothing. No one likes to work for free, and your audience might respond better if you offer them an incentive.

Incentivizing referrals can take many forms. You could keep it simple and give your fans a valuable downloadable freebie in exchange for a Facebook share or tweet. Or you could set up an entire referral program where customers use a unique code or link to encourage others to sign up, then give them gift cards or free items in exchange.

To run an effective referral program, you need software to help you monitor and incentivize referrals.

Image source: Princess Polly

Make It Easy With a Template or Email Friends Directly

Let’s be honest: most people are pretty busy, and your customers are no exception. There are probably people in your audience who would love to share your brand with their friends but don’t feel they have the time. After all, describing to someone why they should use a service you like isn’t always easy. Solving this problem is simple – provide a place where customers can easily insert their friend’s email address, and you can do the rest. This will increase the amount of referrals you will get.

This email is a great example because it tells the user that they have been gifted $25 by a friend and then introduces the brand. They make it easy for the end user to click and claim their discount.

Image source: Brooklinen

Another option is to give passionate fans a template to use when approaching their friends, for example an email or text.

A simple, broadly appealing script can make it easy for your audience to share you with their friends.

Leverage Social Media Posts

No discussion of business referrals would be complete without mentioning social media shares. After all, social media is almost entirely based on sharing things people enjoy. If you aren’t using it to get the word out there about your brand, you could be missing out.

It isn’t enough to create posts at random linking to your website, however. You need to focus on making social media posts that people naturally want to share.

There are lots of strategies and secrets out there for making highly shareable social media posts. The most important thing is to ask yourself what your audience would feel good about sharing. Then challenge yourself to create posts like that.

Image source: Sephora Facebook page

Invite Various Kinds of Brand Advocacy

Brand advocacy takes many forms, and a customer needs to be pretty serious about your brand before they’re willing to talk about you with their friends. Instead of expecting all of your customers to be ready to share your brand with others, keep in mind that some of them might not have that kind of brand loyalty yet.

With this in mind, offer other ways for your customers to help support you. Ask them to leave reviews on your website or submit testimonials. You might even ask some of them to serve in a case study.

Set Up Your Referral Program

A referral program is a more elaborate way of incentivizing word-of-mouth promotion. It allows your audience to sign up and recommend your products or services using special links in return for a reward. This can sometimes be confused with affiliate marketing.

It’s best if you have a highly valuable, broadly appealing product or service and a large fan base that’s in love with your brand. From there, you can offer your audience the opportunity to promote your business and earn rewards on every sale made through their links. It’s one of the best ways to incentivize promotion because you’re allowing your audience to share in your success.

Supercharge Your Referral Marketing Strategy

By now, you’ve discovered some of the best tips and strategies for a successful referral marketing program. You’ve seen how running a business on referral marketing starts with providing an excellent customer experience. You’ve also discovered ways to incentivize word-of-mouth promotion. Every business is bound to find different things that work for it. But one of the best ways to leverage your audience for promotion is referral marketing.

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