Referral Program

When a Customer Referral Program Saves Lives, Everyone Wins

Most of the time, a customer referral program generates revenue, but sometimes it save lives. Read more to find out how.


There are many reasons to adopt a customer referral program for your business. It’s cost effective, builds trust between customers and your brand, provides a strong ROI…you get the idea.

But in some cases, an effective customer referral program can also save lives.

Businesses around the world are realizing that there shouldn’t have to be a choice between profits and making a difference. Rather, the principles of social entrepreneurship begin on the foundation of a double bottom line, meaning that a company’s success should not be judged solely on the merits of sales but also by its ability to affect positive change.

Obviously this business model does not work for everyone, nor should it. But adopting these principles in conjunction with a customer referral program is not just an amazingly productive way to mobilize passionate fans into brand ambassadors, but also a way to create a meaningful difference in impoverished communities.

TOMS Shoes is probably the most well known example of a successful social-entrepreneurial venture. The premise of the business is simple: for every pair of shoes sold they will donate one additional pair to a child in need. Not only to people get cool looking shoes, but they also get to feel good about their purchase.

Take a moment to imagine how much more successful TOMS could be if they implemented a strong customer referral program. Rather than marketing only based on the merits of their product, they could expand their customer base exponentially through social media word of mouth. The more people learn about TOMS’ mission, the more shoes they sell and the more good they contribute to the world.

TOMS may not have chosen to implement a customer referral program, but many other like-minded businesses have recognized the effectiveness of incentives to refer and have seen real impacts from taking their message online.

Take People Water for example. For every bottle of water purchased through People Water, an equal amount of water is given to a person afflicted by fresh water scarcity and a lack of adequate sanitation, or what they call their Drop-for-Drop Initiative.

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People Water has implemented an online customer referral program to help spread their message and brand across social media platforms. The reach and expansiveness of the Internet is unmatched and allows them to promote their business’ mission to millions of more people.

This has two benefits. One, it gets your community of shoppers passionate about your product and as a result incentivizes them to enlist others to participate. But more importantly, it increases the effectiveness of your brand’s purpose.

Offering incentives is one side of a two-pronged marketing approach. As with any referral program you can build a strong base of brand ambassadors with a simple click of a button. But in this case you’re also helping solve a gravely important issue, making the necessity of ambassadors more pressing and meaningful from a societal perspective.

So why do you want a customer referral program? To drive revenue, build brand awareness and grow your fan base of course. But for some businesses the answer is deeper than margins. For some businesses, implementing a customer referral program can ultimately save lives.

What are your thoughts on social entrepreneurship as a business model?

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