Trying to understand what referral marketing program messaging will prompt your advocates into action can be frustrating, confusing, and even contradictory. But optimizing your message for your audience is important. Look at the great American novelist, William Faulkner. Faulkner never wrote for his audience. In fact, in one of his most well-known novels, The Sound and the Fury, he took on the first person persona of a mentally disabled man who had no sense of time. The first sentence was three pages long and gives the reader an instant headache trying to understand it. Now, it’s mostly only read by professors and their ill-fated students.
But the reason behind Faulkner’s foolish, frustrating and frazzling writing still applies to referral marketing messaging today. Faulkner was trying to have his writing structure communicate the feeling of the character. And trust me when I say by the end of the novel I did feel confused, unable to understand anything, and convinced that years have passed since starting the novel. But for a brand this means communicating enthusiasm and excitement.
So how can Faulkner’s many lessons be applied to optimizing your referral marketing program? In four ways.
4 referral marketing program messaging lessons from William Faulkner
1. Make your message unique but not too unique
Faulkner reason for his outrageous writing style was based on his determination to breakaway from tradition and deliver a new kind of novel. Breaking away from tradition and providing a fresh message is something we all strive to do. For the last decade the digital world has been in constant flux. This has resulted in a continual redefining of the status-quo and how we communicate with customers and buyers . But everything has its limits.
I have seen referral emails and registration pages make a message too unique to the point where it becomes confusing. As we learned from Faulkner, that won’t get you engagement. Always choose clarity over trendiness and uncommon word play.
But if you still crave a one-of-a-kind display, try creating unique graphics and images to add in. An example of this is ADP. ADP did a great job at creating unique but specific images that communicated what they wanted advocates to do.
2. Testing referral marketing program messaging might be your best friend
Obviously, focus groups and message testing weren’t exactly around in Faulkners day, otherwise he might have gone in a different direction with his writing. But like how the scientific method is a necessary part of discovery for science, testing your messaging is prudent for anyone with a referral marketing program. The message testing process is similar to the process of the scientific method:
- Research your customer or partner personas
- Construct two different messages
- Display one version for specific period of time and then display the other
- Analyze data
- Ask if either message resonates with the majority of customers or partners
- If the answer is no start again
- If the answer is yes apply that one to your referral marketing program
This process allows you to figure out what prompts the most engagement from customers, partners, and current advocates. There are many different parts of referral marketing program messaging that you can test, but if you need to narrow the list down I would suggest focusing on:
- Advocate invitation email
- Referral program promotional email
- Registration page
Once those emails and that page are optimized you can move onto other pages and emails. Also be clear about measuring your email results. While opening an email is all well and good, if they don’t click through to the registration page and actually register for the program than your messaging needs to be optimized further. At that point try switching out the email and registration page with different versions to see if performance picks up.
3. Knowing your audience is necessary
Faulkner never thought about what his readers wanted, only what he wanted them to get from his novel. That was a big mistake. Who you are targeting is a main definer of your messaging. For instance, targeting a business customer is very different than targeting a consumer. While targeting a referral partner is different than targeting a business customer. For optimal results no program should combine these three but instead have different referral marketing programs and messages that speaks to the specific demographic.
When looking deeper into business customers, make sure you use similar language to what they are used to. For one, they need to feel like this program is for them. Business customers have less time than consumers and so a pointed message with familiar language is key. The faster you get the value and process across to them and the easier it looks, the more likely they will be to register and refer.
As for referral partners, the partner ecosystem is large and there are a lot of different terms that describe referral partners. Make sure that you use your partners’ industry term to describe them. For instance, telecoms use the term agent program more frequently than referral partner program even though it describes an identical relationships.
The same go for rewards. Don’t feel like you need to communicate the fine print of your rewards to advocates at first. Just make sure that the rewards you’re communicating to advocates are based off what they find valuable.
Business customers have a lot more involvement in helping sell the referral compared to consumers. This means a higher reward is often necessary. While referral partners are putting their relationship with customers on the line so there incentives are often based off a percentage of the sale. Make sure you emphasize the value you are offering by putting it at the forefront of your messaging to customers and partners.
4. Short and sweet is better than long and descriptive
Like the readers of The Sound and the Fury, customers are impatient. Tony Haile, CEO of Chartbeat, found that visitors stay on a page for only 15 seconds while a recent psychological study found that after eight seconds their full attention dimensions significantly. Keeping your first referral program promotional email and the registration page short and sweet with a clear value proposition is necessary to capture their interest in such a short period of time.
After a customer registers for the referral program you can go into more detail about the types of referrals that payoff and the reward fine print.
Another strategy is relying more heavily on images and graphics. A customized image can be worth 1,000 words without overwhelming your customers or partners. People process images much faster than words.
RingCentral took that idea and applied it to their referral marketing program to create a great message.
They also wanted to be very clear about what type referral led to each reward. But instead of writing long chunky paragraphs they created a graphic with minimal text and with a layout that is easy to scan and understand.
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