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    8 Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Referral Program

    13 minute read

    A referral program is no longer just a "nice to have;" it's now a must have for most high-growth businesses. In almost every industry, referrals are the gold standard of customer acquisition. Research has repeatedly shown that leads coming from a referral marketing program close faster, buy more, and stay longer — all with significantly less effort and at a much lower CPA than non-referred prospects. 

    But you probably already know that.

    You’re in the right place, whether you’re ready to launch your first customer referral program, or looking to take your existing program up a notch. We're true believers that your happy customers are the most direct partners in growing your success. Their authentic advocacy is worth its weight in gold...and ROI. Our success coaches are experts at creating and maintaining a successful (and revenue generating) referral program, so they’ve compiled these best practices that can ultimately make or break the success of your referral program.

    3 Essential Steps to Promote Your Newly Launched Program

    These first steps are crucial to the success of any referral program. This is the first time that anyone is hearing about your program. Make sure the excitement rings loud and clear with your audience and be sure to spell out all the details. 

    You’ll want to be consistent with your efforts to ensure your program stays top of mind with your customers and within your company. To get started, here are a few ways you can promote your newly launched program:

    1. Internal Announcement

      Share the details of your referral program with your entire company. Consider a channel like email and/or Slack, where the details can be saved for their future reference. Include details about the programsuch as the who, what, and howto make sure all employees understand the program and can promote it. The more your team understands the program, the better chance you have of them spreading the word (and bringing in the referrals!)

      Let’s break down the who, what, and how.

      • Who is going to be a part of the program? Is it your top customers, or is it everyone that has made a purchase from you? You’ll want to make sure you have this identified so that your employees know exactly who qualifies and who they should speak to about it.

      • What event qualifies for a reward?, Such as, 'once a product is purchased' as shown in the example below.

      Essential Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Referral Program 1

      • How will your ambassadors be rewarded? Which let’s be honest, is the most exciting part, the reward itself. Cash is king but you’ll want to consider what works best for your company goals and resources available. Once you have this foundation for your program,  you can then tell everyone how to get started!

    2. Program Visibility

      One of the best ways to bring attention to your program is to create a call-to-action on your website that drives visitors to become ambassadors, and reminds existing ambassadors to share again. The most popular place is a homepage with a call-to-action in the header and/or footer menu that links out to a dedicated page about the program. That said, consider promoting the program in multiple high-traffic places, such as a main account space behind a logged in area, or even a post-purchase thank you page.

      One of the most utilized features of the Ambassador software is a Refer-A-Friend (RAF) module, which is very customizable. It serves as a great way to quickly enroll someone, and prompt them to share right away. You can place multiple RAFs on your website, such as embedded on the dedicated program page or a floating button tab that glides along the side of a webpage. Once you identify the perfect locations for your RAF modules to live, be sure to include a clear message within it that entices the visitor to take action right away. Our favorite call-to-action gives a sneak peak of the reward they can earn for referring. For example, a button that says, “Join now!” may not garner as much excitement as, “Earn $25!” or “Earn up to $500!.” Leading with a reward driven call-to-action approach can really boost your enrollment.

      If you need to vet those who join your referral program first, such as an affiliate or influencer program, you can link to a custom enrollment form embedded on your program page or use our Portal Registration Page in place of the RAF. Whatever method you choose to enroll, just make sure that you’re promoting it on your website and other channels where you communicate with your intended ambassador audience.

    3. Program Ownership

    In addition to clearly communicating the details of your program internally, it’s also important to appoint an internal champion. While it might seem like you can simply put your program on auto-pilot, we’ve seen the most successful programs have a dedicated point-person managing it. This person will implement a plan for success, carry out initiatives to optimize and drive growth, and manage the day-to-day of the program. All of which are factors that will positively impact referral revenue for your company.

    Some of the point-person’s responsibilities would include regularly checking to ensure the program is running as expected, supporting your ambassador’s questions and providing them resources to be successful, as well as strategizing with your dedicated success coach on opportunities to optimize.

    While this doesn’t require you to hire a new person specifically for this role (although some companies have done this because of how wildly successful their referral programs are), you will want to make sure you have a person that can effectively take on this responsibility. You wouldn’t have the rest of your revenue-driving programs become a “free for all“ internally, so why leave your referral program unattended?

    Once you’ve established how you’re going to promote your program, where you will make your program visible to increase your audience, and have an internal champion to ensure the success of your program, you can then focus on how to optimize the program for growth.

    Advanced Tips to Optimize the Referral Program for Growth

    Now that you’ve got a feel for the basics on a successful launch, your next step is to find your groove and figure out how to keep those referrals (and revenue) coming in the door. The most exciting time of the program is often the day it launches, but with the right strategy, you can continue to find excitement in new growth! 

    Below are a few best practices to extend your reach, build your ambassador count, and increase your referral numbers.

    1. Expand Your Audience

      By now, you’ve established who your audience is, however, don’t shy away from inviting more people to join. The wider net you can cast for ambassadors will ultimately lead to more referral opportunities. Capitalize on the excitement of a new purchase, by auto-enrolling new customers as they come in. If auto-enrolling isn’t for you, consider inviting anyone who has purchased in the last 6 months or has returned a high NPS or other survey score. Don’t just utilize email for an invite, consider other channels such as a print-out in their mailed package, social media, customer support surveys, and even in-app notification tools.

      We’re a big fan of leveraging and auto-enrolling your customer base.

      By enrolling customers as brand ambassadors in your referral program, you’re eliminating a barrier of entry and empowering them to start sharing right away. Just make sure that when you inform them of the program, you use wording that is exciting, clearly defines the details, and entices them with just how sweet the reward is for each referral. 

      With a referral program, your brand can connect with those customers that have a personal connection to your company and aren’t afraid to tell everyone about it. Since birds of feather tend to flock together, your customers most likely have a network of friends and family that match your ideal buying persona. Once they start sharing your brand, you will have insight into data and real-time activity gathered to guide future campaigns.

    2. Spread the Word

      Before you skip this section and think, “Yes, I know, post it on social media” you may want to consider taking your efforts just a couple steps further. It’s long been known that social media has catapulted companies both small and large just by creating a social following while being consistent in their posting efforts. However, your messaging doesn’t always need to be front and center to be effective.

      For example, you may find value in announcing the program across your internal chat platform (we 💙 Slack). Who said that the best ambassadors are only those who visit your website and/or make a purchase? Sometimes, you can find ambassadors in the most unconventional (or is it?) way, and that is through your employee's family, friends, or clients.

      Essential Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Referral Program 2

      You can also draw attention from those who are already in contact with you and want to hear from you through marketing channels such as a monthly newsletter or a call-to-action graphic in employee signatures as shown below.

      Essential Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Referral Program 3

      Lastly, take a look at your current social media efforts and find valuable ambassadors by creating a private Facebook group or responding to positive reviews and comments across your social accounts. For example, a simple response to a positive review could say “Thank you so much for sharing your great experience! Did you know that we have a referral program where you can earn $25 for every referral? Here is a link to more information - (insert link)! 

      Whatever your main initiatives become, one thing remains clear: constantly assess where your referral program can be incorporated into existing marketing efforts and channels. The more visibility you give your program the better!

    3. Create a Program Overview Page

    What better way to make your program that much more official than dedicating some virtual real estate on your site for a program overview page. Having a home for all things related to your referral program can have a dual effect. 

    Essential Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Referral Program 4

    On one hand, your current ambassadors feel official and can have a place to go if they have questions or are searching where to find specific resources. On the other hand, you’ll likely gain some organic traffic along the way from those who stumble across the page that will typically convert into ambassadors and life-long customers!

    Expert Tips to Kick Your Program Up a Notch

    At this point, you’re probably thinking you’ve got all your bases covered. And we’d agree, you’ve come a long way. Those incremental changes have probably provided, or are on their way to providing, improvements to your program. Once you’ve reached ‘expert mode’, we recommend putting the information into the hands of the ambassadors, so everyone feels confident in spreading the word. Even if they don’t, you should have a plan to re-engage them, while giving them tools to be successful.

    1. Create an Ambassador Program Guide/FAQ

      Creating guides on how your referral program works is not only important for the success of your program, but it will significantly reduce the questions that you may receive, especially if it’s a commonly asked one. The quicker you can help an ambassador solve a problem or answer a question, the more likely they are to keep referring. No one wants to spend hours waiting for a response from someone if it is something that is deterring them from being able to get rewarded. This process should be easy and ambassador friendly, which is exactly where guides and FAQ pages can help.

      While you may have outlined the process in your New Ambassador Email, it’s great to have a go-to resource that reminds them and offers tips on how and what to share. One resource we’ve seen perform well, is to create a visual step-by-step on how to refer and where they can spread the word, and extra bonus points if you can make it into a video! 

      In addition to showing how the program works, consider a section of your guide or FAQ on how-to access their referral stats. For customer programs, we recommend utilizing the 'Stats' feature within the Refer-A-Friend module, and for Affiliate, Influencer, or Partner programs with a much higher volume of referrals, we recommend utilizing The Ambassador portal.

      The resources you can give your ambassador are seemingly endless. However, if you only have time or resources for a few, we recommend a general FAQ, tips for sharing, and talk tracks they can easily copy/paste to share with their referral link.

      Whether you provide the information via email, newsletter, a program overview page, or even through a custom tab in your Ambassador portal, program guides and FAQs are paramount to the long-term success of your program (and the sanity of the person managing the program.) The more information to educate and empower your ambassadors, the better. Ultimately, your goal is for ambassadors to be self-sufficient and most importantly, stay eager to continue spreading the word.

    2. Engage Your Audience

      You’ve launched this awesome referral program, you’ve created all the tools necessary for your ambassadors to be successful - so now what? Please give yourself a pat on the back! But then get back to work, because keeping your ambassadors motivated and eager is a continuous effort. You’ll likely have ambassadors who are excited to start sharing and then slowly fall off, or even ambassadors who enroll and never share. While both of these groups of Ambassadors create more work for you, you can still work smarter and not harder, trust us.

    Essential Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Referral Program 5

    Keep your ambassadors engaged by deploying an Engagement email just 7 days after their enrollment. You don’t want to be one of those companies that has to say, “Sorry to see you go!” because you’ve sent too many emails, however, you want to make sure your program stays top of mind. (Be sure to time these engagement emails appropriately within the schedule of any other emails you may be sending to these individuals.)

    As we mentioned, keeping your ambassadors eager and educated is super important and sending an engagement email is the perfect way to accomplish both. You can target certain groups of individuals, such as ambassadors with limited or no activity in the last 30 or 60-days (this information can be found in Ambassador), and be sure to provide some of the tips we shared above, as shown in the engagement email example below.

    Essential Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Referral Program 6

    In essence, a successful referral program can make your business more profitable, but it’s only as good as the work you put into it. When done right, having a referral program in place can be a real game changer. 


    We understand that time is money and we want to make sure that when you’re looking for a referral program, you’ve got both of those aspects covered. As with any investment, you want to make sure that it fits the needs of your company, otherwise, why spend the money? We get it. 

    We mean it when we say we want you to “work smarter, not harder.” This is where referral software comes in. 

    Developing measurement, management, and analytics functionality in-house for an automated referral marketing program is certainly possible but it requires a laborious process. By leveraging technology to automate the activities that would otherwise drag a manual program down, your referral programs are able to drive high quantities of qualified leads, new customers, and revenue.

    Couple that with our dedicated success team that helps each client through onboarding and making the most of their programs. Your success coach can help you strategize how to leverage referral software that makes it easy to significantly scale and track new leads and sales - to best meet your goals. We just became your best friend, didn’t we?

    When you’re ready to prioritize and manage a truly scalable referral marketing program, let’s chat - and don’t let the anticipation of your referral program go to waste. We know you’re excited about it, now it’s time to get your ambassadors excited too!

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    Posted in Referral Marketing

    Lindsey Rydquist

    Written by Lindsey Rydquist

    Lindsey Rydquist heads up everything marketing automation and operations at Ambassador - now part of Intrado. When she's not automating nurture campaigns or optimizing processes, you can find her tending to her houseplants or learning how to cook.

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