Let’s start this conversation with a whopper of a stat …
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So why don’t more companies make a focused effort on their referral program? Maybe because companies believe referral programs should build themselves – but that’s far from reality.

Consider these pillars to help create a program that identifies the momentum of your client relationships, while avoiding potential pitfalls that may trip you up.

Referral Program Pillars:

Employee Brand Alignment
Employees are at the center of the brand-experience equation.

  • Your entire organization is responsible for conveying the heart of your brand and building brand equity, which means that your internal culture is critical to your referral success.
  • Know your brand’s unique value and infuse it throughout all of your interactions.

This pillar is the backbone of every referral program.

  • Understand your brand’s promise and deliver it through every single interaction.
  • Gather feedback from previous client relationships to identify off-brand behavior. This will help ensure the highest level of client satisfaction.

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Consider your brand’s culture when constructing this pillar.

  • Start by defining your ideal client and make that clear within your organization.
  • Make client engagement your primary focus. Client satisfaction and loyalty aren’t enough, keeping an active conversation going with your clients is key to referral success.
  • Consider the programs you have in place to keep your potential referring customers engaged. If there are none, evaluate tools to help organize, track and structure your touch points. Your marketing automation system and CRM are great platforms to support your referral program.

Timing + Clarity
Finding the right time to ask for a referral is tough.

  • Instead of waiting until the final stage of the buying process (post-purchase evaluation) to request a referral, consider making the referral topic a part of every conversation, at all stages of engagement.
  • Coordinate with your sales team and provide guidance to help them activate their social networks [PDF]. Outreach and education through social channels are important tools to help your sales team find the right match for your company’s growth.

Referral Program Pitfalls: 

The Referral Gap3
Delivering an outstanding experience is just the beginning.

  • Clients need clear direction on how to identify the right referral-worthy opportunity that is best suited for your company’s services.
  • Help your clients understand the kinds of problems you can solve and keep them engaged with your brand and your growth.
  • Remember that clients are motivated to provide a referral based on the quality of the relationship, which means they are unlikely to refer you unless you have clearly stated a need.3

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The Motivation Gap
A referral is a reflection of a deeper client relationship.

  • In many cases the motivation to refer is more strongly connected to your client’s desire to “pay you back” for doing a good job than it is to provide a colleague with a referral to help solve his or her problem.3
  • Understand their motivations and risks. From our survey “What Makes Your Company Referral Worthy?” we learned the higher the stakes, the harder it is to gain a referral. People tend to be more cautious with high-dollar or high-consequence referrals.

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Client Engagement
If you don’t invest in your client relationships, they won’t invest in you.

  • Find ways to keep your clients engaged. A higher level of engagement will require a dedicated effort of more frequent communication.
  • Keep the conversation active and ask for feedback from your clients. Include them in your growth strategies to demonstrate a commitment to the relationship.

Key Takeaway

A referral program doesn’t build itself. It takes a focused effort and your entire company should play a role in its success. A valuable referral program is built with purpose; it motivates clients and encourages them to speak on your behalf. And this doesn’t happen without structure and attention.

Contact Me for More Referral Goodness: susan@rmagency | 919-677-9555 ext. 16

1. Spruik.com, which monitors referral behavior of consumers.
2. The Nielsen Company, 2009 survey of over 25,000 consumers of more than 50 markets across the globe.
3. Advisor Impact, Anatomy of the Referral, 2010.