Is There a Way to do Referral Marketing…. Better?

A C[IQ] associate has been working to establish a hardy referral marketing program for a client. In her research, she came upon this report and the author company Extole. She was underwhelmed by 'best practices.' Most referral programs, appear to ...

--Blast on Social. Every brand, product or purchase can now be shared on social media channels. But is this actually used? Have you seen a friend promote a product to their followership? Why not? Because retailers aren't giving customers shareable content in context.

--Promote Me! Promote the Brand! Consumers have become discerning and hyper-aware of when they are being "used" to help sell product. Even if they heart your brand, it does not mean they will sell to their friends or prosthelytize on your behalf. Many marketers assume that if they offer a financial incentive it will galvanize customers to share. Nope. Most referral programs get lackluster results because 1) They don't offer valuable and shareable content or 2) They don't serve the brand community. Value, by the way, is not just dollars. Valuable content could be a coupon, but it could also be any information that saves a friend time or makes something more convenient.

For example, suppose a Holiday Card e-tailer that prints customized family pictures targets mothers who visit their site in December to refer a fiend. Instead of offering 25% off their next purchase for introducing to a friend, offer to typeset or print their address labels or a platform to email holiday greetings. Such services add value by saving time and complication.

A community is a group of people with shared interest or experience. Your customers -- by virtue of experiencing your products or brand -- have had a shared experience. Not to mention that they are psycho-graphically similar. Nurture them. Promote the community and its common bonds, rather than your product. It bonds the customer to the brand, and often produces content that is far more valuable than a coupon.

Even experts appear to get lured by tactics -- such as social blasts, incentives or 'gamification' -- when peer to peer sharing is all about the social bonds, not technologies.