New customer referrals are without a doubt one of the most effective ways to bring in new business. A recommendation from a familiar person to use a service can be much more effective, because of the social proof phenomenon, than approaching a warmed-up prospect.
The business publication Inc.com went as far as calling referral marketing the most powerful selling and marketing tool available already a decade ago. However, it can be hard to get a large volume of referrals if it's only sales asking for the referrals, so we'll discuss how marketing can create scalable B2B referral marketing programs.
Customer satisfaction: The unlock to added value in your existing customer base
The key to a successful referral campaign is to first satisfy your customers' needs. Otherwise asking them to recommend you to another person or business can be a waste of time.
You can easily measure your overall customer satisfaction with an NPS score, that tells you coincidentally how likely a customer is to recommend you to a friend or a colleague (why are not more businesses using this information like it seems intuitive to use?). If you save that data directly to your CRM software, you can later use it to create customer segments of people who are fans, happy, and less than happy with your product and service.
Once you have identified the satisfied customers, you should start thinking about the incentives of your referral campaign.
How to create referral campaign incentives
Not everyone will give you a referral out of the goodness of their heart, sadly 💔 This is where you need to start thinking: "How can I incentivize my customers to refer other businesses to me?".
It's been studied that money is not among the best incentives when you want to encourage people to take action unless the person being referred also receives a similar cash bonus or discount because people actually like giving.
As a B2B company, it's much better to start thinking about in terms of your product since your customers are already spending thousands of dollars with you. Great incentives for B2B companies are exclusive downloadable content or account/feature upgrades. The latter is a great way to try your hand at upselling at the same time if you unlock premium features for the customer for a limited time.
Now that you have your customer segment and incentives determined, it's time to talk tactics on how to actually implement your campaign.
How to create a referral campaign
A marketer has a couple of tools when it comes to reaching their existing customers: mainly website and email (and chatbot within the website). The common factor for all those channels is your CRM which holds all the information about your existing customers.
Although your product can be thought of as one more channel, it's probably not worthwhile to code changes into the product itself while it's easy enough to get your message in front of the customer with today's no-code technologies.
It's important to use both website and email so you can utilize inbound and outbound in your referral marketing strategy. One alone is not enough to reach all your satisfied customers in a thorough way.
Promoting your referral campaign using website personalization
Most B2B websites today are still optimized for generating business from new customers. This can be very wasteful as your existing customer see the same content as someone who is not yet a customer. The website is usually the most neglected part of a referral campaign, but you can use modern website personalization technologies to show different content to your existing customers and turn your website into a referral engine that runs all day long.
Your website is a referral engine that can run all day long. Campaigns on the website can stay on for 24/7 and are personalized to only be visible to your existing customers.
It's especially wasteful when you consider that it's likely your biggest fans and best customers looking for upgrades or insightful content that visit your website the most out of your existing customer base. These are the customers who are the most likely to give you a referral anyway.
To highlight your referral campaign, you can either (1.) use a banner or (2.) change the content of a whole section to promote your referral campaign directly on your website like in the below image. A banner might be good enough to catch someone's attention, but it might be subjected to what is known as banner blindness in the marketing world. To really catch someone's attention, you might want to consider changing the whole top-of-the-fold section you don't need anymore anyway now that you're not trying to have someone convert for the first time.
Make sure you create compelling copy which includes a mention of your incentive to the referrer (and perhaps to the person who is referred), and a CTA that encourages the customer to take action immediately. You can also include the customer account's name on the page to make sure you catch their attention.
Referral campaigns on the website can stay on 24/7, unlike emails which are one-off attempts to get the customer to refer you. However, it's still important to complement your referral campaign with email as well.
Promoting your referral campaign via email
Not all your existing customers go through your website as soon as you'd like which might be inconvenient if you have business goals to meet by a certain deadline or if your referral campaign runs for a limited time. This is why it's important to have a complementary email campaign, especially for people who have not visited your website by a certain time or if they have seen your referral offer on the website, but didn't take action.
We recommend using a personalized email, which includes a plain-looking email (you can also use an email template) with personalization variables such as the first name of the customer and other data points such as how long the customer has been your customer or mentioning "because you mentioned you were highly likely (8/10) to recommend us to a friend".
Here's a referral marketing template you can use in your outreach:
Hi John! Since you have been our customer for 11 months now and mentioned you were very likely to recommend us to a friend, we thought we'd try and grab that opportunity. We'll give you free feature upgrades for a year if you can refer a friend who would likely need our services too.
5 referral campaign tools for monitoring and tracking
To avoid providing a broken customer experience, it's important to keep track of which customers referred their friends or colleagues. This can happen easily if there is no record kept of the referrals.
You should also consider preventing the misuse of your campaign in cases where a user has already given a referral and tries to refer the same person again and again.
You can use referral marketing software such as EarlyParrot, ReferralCandy, GrowSurf, Referral Rock, or Referral Factory to manage your campaigns while a lot of the services also provide a link and email-based campaign creation and tracking.
Check out also these 7 examples of B2B referral programs to get more inspiration on what other companies are doing to get their referrals.