How to Convert Customers into Referral Sources

by Trevor

Would you like to turn your customers into referral sources? Wait, that sounds too boring. Not just referral sources, but evangelists who market your brand for you (and for free).

That’s the goal.

But is it a realistic and attainable goal? Can you truly get your customers to advertise your product to their own circles of influence?

Absolutely! In fact, word of mouth marketing is the most important type of marketing you can get, and you can get it. Let’s discuss how to convert your average customer into an effective marketer for your brand.

Need help asking for referrals? Check out this list of resources.

Focus on Your Customer Service

First things first, you need to develop a strong customer service policy. There’s no use doing any of the other things on this list if you don’t have a friendly, helpful, accessible, and responsive customer service team at the helm.

By ensuring your customers’ success with your product, you’ll groom them into excellent referral sources.

A lot of businesses pour so much effort into marketing and pulling in new customers that they neglect the ongoing and essential work of keeping customers happy. Happy customers engage with your product and are more likely to tell their friends about you. But it doesn’t happen without an intentional customer service and success strategy.

Simple strategies, such as following up on help desk requests or sending educational emails on new features, can strengthen your business/ customer relationship. Prompt responses, especially when delivered via live on-site chat, can show your customers that you care and are worthy of their endorsement.

For more strategies on how to improve your customer service, check out these posts:

Develop a Referral Rewards Program

Once you have rock solid customer service and success teams in place, you’ve got to ask yourself this question:

How will we reward our customers for their (free) marketing?

Although some of your customers will refer your brand without any incentive from you, that’s not something you can depend on. If referrals happen organically, that’s great. But, more than likely, any major referral marketing will need a push from you, the brand, to get it started.

When you incentivize referrals, you motivate customers to act. They know that by sharing your product with their social circles, they’re not only providing valuable information, they’re also getting paid for their efforts.

Referral programs are used in every type of business, from Google to your local gym.

But remember that incentive doesn’t necessarily mean cash. While cash may be the quickest way to your customers’ hearts, there are other, equally successful ways to incentivize your referral program.

For example, you can offer discounts on future purchases, thereby increasing the lifetime value of your referring customer. You can also offer free swag, such as branded t-shirts, pens, baseball hats, or coffee mugs. Swag has the added bonus of marketing for your brand whenever in use.

Ask Early

Ask for referrals when your customers are the most satisfied with your brand. Customers are usually the happiest and most engaged immediately after doing business with you. You’ve convinced them, they’ve bought in, they’re optimistic. It’s your chance to seize the moment.

So, after the customer purchases from you, jump into action and ask your customer for a referral. If you have a referral rewards program in place, be sure to invite them to join it.

You can ask simply in an automated email. It doesn’t have to be a big, lengthy production. It can be a few sentences along with a link to your set-up referral landing page. In your landing page, provide your customers with all the information they need to direct referral traffic back to your site.

Prep Them

Piggybacking off of the last point, it’s crucial that you prep your customers in the fine art of referral.

It’s not really that complicated, but for some people word of mouth marketing comes naturally, and for others, not so much. Some people don’t know how to tell others about you. That’s why you should come prepared with a script that they can use to tell people about your service.

On your customer referral landing page, embed share buttons for social media and email. Include a pre-written script that your customer can use, minimizing the need for them to come up with their own content. The easier you make it, the more buy in.

Run a Contest

Have you considered running a contest to build word of mouth marketing?

With a contest, you can excite your customer base while reaching prospective customers who’ve never heard about your brand. It’s like a two for one special.

When creating a contest with the goal of getting referrals, keep it simple and focused. In a simple contest, reward the customer who brings in the most referral traffic with a brand-related prize (i.e. give away your own product).

But don’t let any of your referring customers leave empty-handed. Everyone who participated and added new prospective customers should be acknowledged and rewarded for their efforts. Here’s another opportunity to gift free swag or offer special discounts.

Be sure to advertise your contest well. Email your current customers and get them excited about your contest. Advertise on your website via pop-ups or banners. Share it on social media. Add it to your email signature.

And then, after the contest is over, do it all over again. You can run multiple contests every year because there’s always someone else who needs to know about your product.

Create Content That’s Shareable

Exposure is huge for brands.

It’s estimated that nine out of every 10 people who are exposed to your brand won’t purchase on the first interaction. They may check out your products and even sign up for your email list. But the work of converting prospects to customers is through the process of lead nurturing.

You can nurture leads through your referral sources, too. My favorite way to do so is through creating valuable content that your referral sources can share with their social circles. From blog posts to case studies to beginner-friendly guides, take time to create educational content for the purposes of sharing and establishing trust with prospective customers.

Producing this type of educational, sharable content allows you to position yourself as a credible expert. It also gives your customers another reason to talk about your brand to their friends and family.

Include Reviews on Your Site

Reviews are word of mouth marketing, too. While onsite reviews are not the active “go out and tell” type of marketing, they do convert prospects into customers. That’s because people rely on the advice of others. A simple recommendation or criticism from an actual customer has more sway than glossy advertisements or even an entire marketing department.

I recommend allowing customers to leave product reviews on your website. This serves two goals:

  1. Good reviews can convert prospective customers
  2. Reviews are social proof that others have tried your product

By the way, don’t worry if you get a few less than stellar reviews. Prospective customers are more likely to trust products that receive a few mixed reviews over products that are universally loved. Universal love is always suspicious.

Testimonials also fit into the review category. Create a dedicated page for your testimonials, add them to your home page, and your product’s landing page. Include testimonials in your marketing materials and your social media outreach. Share case studies with your email list.

Use the words of your current, happy customers to reach new, prospective customers.

Additional Resources

Before you go, check out these related posts:

Don’t forget to download our list of resources for getting more referral business.

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