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Referral Marketing

How Do I Set Up a Referral Marketing System for My Small Business?

This is the exact system we use for our small business referral marketing program. You can do it all yourself or “in house” within your business. We’ll focus on two types of referral marketing for small businesses.

Top of Mind Referral Marketing

Top of Mind Referral Marketing consists of a regularly scheduled email newsletter combined with a blog post and social media posts. It works to keep your business name in front of your clients and encourage them to share your posts and refer your business to their friends and family.

Doing it yourself is a great option for businesses that have someone that enjoys writing. Another DIY option is for the business to use pre-written articles that are available for many industries.

Step 1: Set up an email newsletter system

Sign up for an email newsletter system such as MailChimp or another provider of your choice. You can use a Free level to begin if that will support the number of emails you’ll send monthly.

MailChimp includes great resources for helping you set up your newsletter and import your contact list. There are do’s and don’t involved, such as making sure your recipients have given you permission to email them.

In addition, MailChimp provides ready-to-go templates so you can be assured your email newsletter looks great on all email systems and across all devices from mobile phones to desktops.

In fact, MailChimp has a great 50/50 Referral Incentive Program of its own and you can learn about it here: MailChimp Referral Program.

Step 2: Email Newsletter Writing and Management

You can identify article resources by doing a Google search for your business type (plumber, landscaper, etc) along with “pre-written blog articles”. On a quick search, we found Fat Joe and there are plenty of others. You’ll want to test an article or two from a supplier and make sure the quality is great.

Generally the lower the price the worse the results. Finding a professional copywriter will always yield the best results.

You’ll write your email newsletter and send it to your list of subscribers on a monthly or quarterly basis. Keeping a consistent schedule is important to the success of a Top of Mind Referral Program.

You might not see immediate results, but over time getting your name in front of your current customers as often as possible will yield results. A great deal of business marketing and advertising is done to promote brand awareness because big business understands that being top of mind is priceless.

Step 3: Blog Post

You’ll want to get as much use from the custom articles you’re producing as possible. So the next step is to publish the article to your website blog if you have one. If you have a blog and will post the article there, we recommend “teasing” the article in your email newsletter.

Teasing the article is pulling the first paragraph from the article and using it for the content of your email newsletter and then linking to the rest of the article. Using this method you’ll get more of your readers visiting your website, and if they pass the article along you’ll get new visitors as well.

Step 4: Social Media Posts

You can share each article across your social media channels to increase the value of your work. Sharing on social media gives you the opportunity for others to see the post and increase your brand recognition and interest.

Wrap Up

It’s important to remember that Top of Mind Referral Marketing is not a silver bullet. It takes time and a consistent approach to pay off. It may or may not be appropriate for your industry, but chances are it is.

Almost any business can benefit from brand recognition, and a basic system is far easier and costs less than paid advertising programs.


Referral Incentives

Step One: Incentive Program Development

The first step is to come up with some incentives that work well for your business. They should encourage your customers to refer their friends and family and be easy enough for you to work into your budget.

Here are some tips to get your plan developed, and this might be all you need to have a reasonable plan in place.

  • Should you offer the reward to the referrer only, or to the friend as well? Two-sided incentives where both the parties receive a reward are usually best. Here’s a great example of a referral program from Tomlimson Bomberger, a landscaping business. They prominently feature the referral program on their home page as well in a large easy-to-read format about halfway down the page.
  • Tie your incentive to your company. For instance, you can require that the discount and referral fee are both paid with future services you provide, rather than giving cashback or a credit card as the incentive.
  • If your product is something that your customers won’t buy very often, like a mattress or budgeting software), then giving them discounts on future purchases will simply annoy them. For these types of products or services, it’s best to offer a cash or credit card reward.
  • Rather than a one-time offer, consider offering cumulative credit where every time a referred friend makes a qualifying purchase, the referrer gets another reward.
  • Come up with a plan to track the people that refer your product or service as well as who they referred. Sometimes the simplest method of having the buyer tell you the name of who referred them is the best option.
  • Consider the “Rule Of 100”: If your product costs more than $100, cash discounts sound more impressive. If your product costs less than $100, then a percentage discount sounds more impressive.
  • You must present clear referral terms and conditions to explain how to earn referral rewards.

Step Two: Promote Your Incentive Program

Email, service calls, and product deliveries are usually the best places to advertise your referral program. This is where your customers will be most receptive to your program.

They’ve just experienced your product or service and the experience is fresh in their mind. They’re more likely now than ever to share the results you delivered with their friends and family. In many cases, the added incentive helps push them to act.

Creating cards or brochures about your incentive program makes it easy for your employees to pass along the details about your program.

During service calls your employees will pass along these cards or brochures to your customers at the end of the visit. For in-office businesses like veterinarians, the office staff can add information about your program during the final payment transaction.

Step Three: Website Sign Up Page

Creating a page on your website that explains the incentive program and invites participation is the next step. If you have web form software in place you can create a signup form on a page that outlines all of the details.

Step Four: Promote Your Incentive Program

There are a number of ways to promote your new program and the key is to do it when you set the program up, and then continue doing it as part of your business process.

  • Compose an email announcing your incentive program and send it to your current contact list.
  • Create a social media post for your social media accounts.
  • Adding a link to your business email signatures to “Join our Referral Program” is another option to consistently get the word out.
  • If you have a regular email newsletter, add a section near the bottom inviting participation in your program.

Step Five: Track Your Incentive Program

During the process of creating your incentive program, you came up with a plan to track the people that refer your product or service as well as who they referred. It might be as simple as using the name of your customer, or the person that referred the buyer.

When the buyer makes a purchase they’ll tell you the name of the referrer and you’ll make a credit to their account or send them the reward.

Digital tracking for your incentive program is optional. You’ll track referrals by customer name, but you can also use a digital tracking system like the one provided by HelloReferrals.

Since digital tracking systems start at around $50 per month, it’s often best to simply use your customer’s name as the method to track referrals if your budget is tight.