After being in this industry for almost a decade now, one of the most common questions we get is, "what is referral marketing?" While most people inherently understand the concept, the strategy goes by many different aliases and it can get confusing.
The marketing industry is filled with more strategies and tactics to consider than you can count, and a host of strategic solutions positioned to address challenging pain points. Nowadays, online shoppers are tired of banner ads and pop-up ads and buyers want to listen to the people they know and trust. That’s family, friends, peers, and colleagues.
In fact, 82% of Americans seek recommendations from their networks when considering a purchase.
It's clear that consumers want more information before buying products and services. With online conversations about brands ramping up at an unprecedented pace, there is the potential of scaling and tracking referrals and recommendations through unique personal sharing. That's where referral marketing comes in.
So, what is referral marketing?
Referral marketing is a strategy to encourage passionate customers and advocates to directly refer their network to your business.
Studies have continuously shown that customers not only seek referrals, they act on them. Referral marketing takes the inherent organic and altruistic nature of referrals and gives brands the tools to incentivize and manage them at scale.
You've probably seen, most likely even participated in, a referral program. And while most companies are anecdotally excited and realize that referrals are a significant driver of new customers and value, there is still some confusion on how to scale this strategy.
We’ve seen companies build a referral program in-house and others who try to manage it manually through email and other basic systems. But the most successful companies automate the process by using one platform to enroll, track, manage and reward their ambassadors.
The goal of referral marketing is simple: To harness the power of authentic word-of-mouth to drive a steady stream of high-quality referrals to your business (and grow revenue as a result).
Which leads us to use cases for referral marketing.
What types of companies should look into referral marketing?
Large customer bases. Engaged social followings. High customer lifetime values. All of that adds up to organic word-of-mouth, an interest in referrals, and plenty of room to get creative with incentive structures (more on that later).
Gmail, Evernote, Dropbox, and Trello all drove exponential growth early on by harnessing the power of referrals. With these businesses, brand ambassadors can be rewarded for referrals with premium features or a cut of the referred customer’s recurring revenue.
Big Ticket Items
Because margins and customer value tend to be higher with big ticket items - such as TVs, furniture, even cars - brands that sell them can offer larger referral incentives that are more appealing to both parties.
Referral marketing is a natural fit in an industry where your biggest fans, customers, partners, and influencers are already talking about your brand (or your competitors).
No matter the industry, there is one major takeaway: Successful referral programs generate a natural network effect. As you acquire more referred customers, an abnormally high proportion of them will convert into new ambassadors. Those ambassadors will then draw in new customers, and the cycle will start all over again.