According to Nielsen, the market survey and ratings firm, some 77% of consumers say they would be more likely to purchase a new product or service if their friend or relative recommended it. The survey reported that a whopping 84% trust these recommendations. There lies the potential of referral marketing using key customers as brand advocates
The goal of public relations professionals should be to nurture the goodwill of customers and leverage it into referrals that result in sales of goods or services. Before social media burst onto the scene, word of mouth was fairly successful. The problem is that it took longer because a pleased consumer might not see or talk with their friend or relative for a week or two. Social media changed all that.
Today, word of mouth via social media is still powerful except it now necessitates focusing on those brand advocates who have the ability and capacity to share a good experience or product with a large number of people almost instantly. PR professionals need to identify these brand advocates, then create and nurture a relationship that rewards them.
What kind of rewards might appeal to a brand advocate? Social recognition is important as is a small reward. What’s also popular is free access to an exclusive loyalty program. The good news is that most people who referral market don’t expect large paydays or rewards.
So what differentiates referral marketing from word of mouth? Not much, except referral marketing steps it up a notch by acknowledging the referral marketer. Properly nurtured and managed, referral marketing also has the potential of ascending a lot faster.
Building Your Referral Marketing Program
Start with those clients who are elated about your services or products. A simple thank you and call or email to introduce you and your company to this person is sufficient to kick things off.
After introducing yourself, follow up with a phone call. It’s always a good rule to inquire if your customer can spare a few minutes to answer a few questions. If it‘s not a good time, ask when it might be convenient. If the customer doesn’t care to talk, thank them and, if you’re able, either send him/her a small gift or coupon along with a thank you note for their time.
If and when you do connect, ask the following questions: 1. What is it about your product or service that they like, 2. How long they’ve been loyal to you, and 3. Whether they’d consider recommending your service or product to their friends and relatives while also being recognized and/or rewarded.
If it’s possible to offer customers a choice of recognition or a reward, empowering them with that decision would be ideal. Of course, you would need to identify how you would recognize your referral marketers and the kind of reward or exclusive loyalty program you establish beforehand. If possible, test the latter with a focus group, preferably your loyal customers.
Leverage all the social media at your disposal to connect with your brand advocates in the best way they elect. Discovering this is essential and will ensure that you reach them on platforms they use regularly. Last but not least, track and measure the results of your referral marketing program and adjust it as necessary.