Word-of-mouth marketing is having a resurgence: Wikipedia tells me it dates back to the 1970s, but it’s singing a different tune in its arrival to the 21st century. With social networks available of every flavor, celebrity has become a niche and influencers can be found of every interest.
That’s why referrals are a powerful way to market your business. Matching the right incentive with the right people can boost your brand’s reach—in ways that may even shock you—and sets up a win-win for both you and your customers.
Outline Your Goals
Consumers are smart enough to know that referral campaigns are not just to their benefit, but they’re okay with that. So it’s incredibly crucial to consider what you want to get out of a referral campaign for yourself, so there’s full transparency in case questions are asked.
What you want to get out of a referral campaign will vary based on your size, but it all mostly comes down to wanting to expand your customer base and just generally build a larger awareness for your brand. Since you’ll most certainly be receiving a lot of attention, you’ll also want to be prepared to communicate with and field questions from customers.
Because incentives are what referral campaigns are all about, you need to make sure your business can afford to part ways with certain stock or provide a discount. This factors into how long you may run a campaign, too. Yup—calculating cost is all part of the planning, and you’ll be happier knowing you laid everything out in advance.
Solidify Your Plan
Theoretically, a referral campaign should be simple. All you have to do is bang out the copy, choose a hashtag, and start advertising on social media—right? Wrong! While general prep actually isn’t too difficult or requires too much of your time, you need to be ready for all the kinks and unexpected surprises along the way.
You’re going to have people who don’t follow the campaign stipulations correctly, which may leave you in the awkward position of having to decide whether they just fudged up a little or are actively trying to break the rules. Similarly, people may mistype hashtags or simply just tag your social account instead. It’s up to you to decide if that’s a game changer and if you’ll be looking out for that.
In this stage, it’s not only important to decide on your incentive, but to be so confident in your choice you know to stick with it and not back out from it. Know whether or not you’ll be campaigning “while supplies last,” if the incentive is only available to a certain number of customers, and how (and if) it can be combined with other deals.
You need to know your campaign like the back of your hand, because chances are, if it gets big enough, customers may start poking holes or trying to find ways to get their freebie without putting up their end of the deal. That isn’t to say you should hold any distrust or negativity toward your customers—you just never know!
Putting It Into Action
So you’ve conquered your nerves, done all the prep, and your referral campaign is ready to go live! It’s exciting, isn’t it? And maybe even a little scary.
Depending on where you’ve chosen to launch your campaign, you’ll want to prepare yourself for a lot of social media use. That means not just monitoring your hashtag, but also replying to comments and DMs, which may quickly amass to overwhelming figures.
If you have employees, you’ll want to prep them to be able to handle customers who are coming into your shop and have participated in the referral campaign. They’re going to need to have as strong of an understanding of it as you do, especially when it comes to rewarding your customers with its incentive.
As your campaign chugs along, it’s imperative to track both how many people participate and how many people actually come in to claim the incentive. This will not only track how your campaign itself is doing, but provide you with concrete proof that your business can go far (with its reach!).
As a consumer, I love a good referral campaign. I’ve learned working in this industry that customer loyalty is huge, and ever since, every time I see a “Post a picture of your haul to Instagram with our hashtag” or a “Check in with us on Facebook” I’ve gotten more excited about participating.
People appreciate free gifts. You appreciate spreading brand awareness. When those two come together magic happens, a kind of magic made only possible with the help of social media. Referral campaigns may not be the best fit for everyone, but they’re certainly worth trying out at least once. And hey, even if it doesn’t work out for you, chances are you still made at least a few customers very happy.