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This post contains a transcript from a webinar we hosted with Campaign Monitor Partnerships Manager Sarah McCredie and Founder of Ambassador Jeff Epstein.

Sarah: Hi, everyone. Thanks for joining us on this webinar as we dive into how to optimize your referral program with email marketing.

Now, for the presenters. My name is Sarah McCredie, and I head up partnerships here at Campaign Monitor. Campaign Monitor, for those that don’t know, is an email marketing and automation platform that enables you to create beautiful and powerful email campaigns. We have over 200,000 customers that includes brands like BuzzFeed, Topshop, Airbnb, and Virgin. And if you have any questions at all during the presentation, you can hit me up on Twitter @sarahailish and I’ll do my best to get back to you afterwards.

And my co-presenter is here, Jeff Epstein. He is the founder and CEO of Ambassador, a leading referral marketing platform trusted by brands like Frank & Oak, HP, and Hulu. If you have any questions about Ambassador, you can tweet them at that handle there. Jeff, thanks so much for joining us today. And now, let’s dive into the topic of referral marketing.

Jeff: Thanks, Sarah. I’m so happy to be here and really excited to talk about referral marketing with everyone here. So, to jump right into it, we are talking about again today how to optimize your referral program.

At the table, there are really three different chapters. First, is explaining briefly what is referral marketing. Second is talking about how you can scale your referral programs through technology. And third, is thinking about how you can optimize your programs with email marketing. And then, we’ll have a little QA at the very end as well.

So, the first one. Again, it’s pretty self-explanatory. The good news is most marketers agree that referrals and word-of-mouth are gold. Referrals convert faster, spend more, and are more loyal customers. So, I’m gonna walk you through some examples and talk a little bit about referral marketing quickly. Referral marketing is a proactive approach to generating referrals.

Rather than waiting for customers to refer friends, referral marketing is really putting a process around getting people to amplify your message via word-of-mouth. As we think about the umbrella of referral marketing, there are lots of ways that you can get referrals. There are peer-to-peer referrals, there are partner referrals, there are also affiliate, and influencer referrals, which are becoming more and more popular.

Today, though, we are primarily gonna focus on the customer referral programs, which are really the people that are using and love your products. So, in terms of the process of referral marketing, this is really how we think about the optimal way to order referral marketing.

So first is the identification of these brand ambassadors or advocates. And again, for just the customer referral program, you don’t know who they are, they are gonna be your customers, which is great. The enrollment side, again, is engaging them and asking them to enroll in the referral program itself and we’ll see some examples down the road via email and some of the great ways to do that.

Also, of course, you wanna track these referrals, right? So, you wanna make sure you are measuring, optimizing the share, the clicks and ultimately, the conversions, which are typically buying more product. Or potentially, setting up for their marketing for that nature. The last step is the rewarding of those referrals. Incentivizing and rewarding those ambassadors, again, is customized to your business, but there are lots of options that you can use, of course.

So, we also have a lot of statistics around that really prove out how important it is to leverage referrals. And here is actually statistics from a 2016 Nielsen’s Harris Poll and the facts don’t lie. So, 82% of Americans say they seek recommendations from friends or family when considering a purchase. And actually, 88% of Americans say they would like some sort of incentive for sharing product via social or email. What’s even more interesting is if you look at millennial specifically as a demographic, these numbers and statistics go up into the mid-90s in terms of percentile. So, as you target millennials, these stats become more important and kind of across a wide range of Americans.

So, that brings us to the reward structures and goals. And again, there’s different ways that you can incentivize people to leverage their referrals and to get more customers. So, a monetary reward, pretty straightforward, obviously, it’s an incentive that has a gift card or even cash—there’s a high likelihood of success with those types of, you know, referrals.

Non-monetary is more so points, swag, maybe extra product in some cases, which could also obviously it doesn’t have a monetary value attached to it. You can also reward with what we call single and dual incentives.

So, a single incentive is when the referring party is the only person receiving the incentive. And there is also dual incentive, which we highly recommend. It’s where both the referrer and the referred customer receive an incentive and they’re both rewarded. It’s a win-win outcome. People tend to share with their friends more when they know their friend is also getting a benefit. An important part of understand here is also align this with your business goals as well.

So, again, thinking about what non-monetary versus monetary rewards look like, here are a couple of examples. Really straightforward and various tiers from a non-monetary perspective. And with the monetary one, a quick call back question or to give and get $10. Another non-monetary reward is…one that actually shook up the marketing universe quite a bit was T-Mobile giving referrers extra stock in their company. So, it was pretty, again, pretty unique there. This wasn’t the cutting edge. This is the one really unique used case. That is something that companies can do and, of course, aligns with their business model really being highly innovative and doing things that are…with some shock value to say the least.

Madison Reed does a great job with the duo incentive. As I mentioned, it’s highly recommended. In this case, you can see, you know, the friend that you refer gets $15 off their first order. And as a referring party, you also get a $15 credit. So, it’s great. It’s a win-win. Everybody is happy and we can talk about how much we love Madison Reed colors.

Here’s an example of a tiered incentive structure. And in this case, again, it is monetary. But what it does, it actually tiers as you perform better. So, if you refer friends, and in this case, if you refer over four friends, you actually receive $500 as opposed to the $300 you would receive for your first four friends. So, again, in this case, it’s high reward value, they earn a nice amount of money in terms of their referrals. And you can even earn more if you refer a bunch of people. So, it really incentivizes you to go for the extra mile to get that fifth and sixth person. So, that’s the end of chapter one.

Moving to chapter two, you’re thinking about how you can scale referral programs with technology. And the importance here is really thinking about, you know, like any technology, you are really automating and making your processes more efficient from a business perspective.

So, what you wanna do is sort of like think about what are the things if you want to use technology that would really, you know, be more painful from a business perspective. And some of the things we highlighted here and there are a bunch of them. But one is usability.

So, thinking about all of the things that we thought about or other technology companies thought about to make your life easier rolling out referral programs efficiently and quickly. So, it’s removing pressure from a customer perspective, the usability for customers that will obviously be paramount. So, the less they have to think about, the easier it is for them to act, and the more they will. And, again, that’s something that we certainly can do with technology.

It’s also important to have the flexibility with technology. So, in order to make rapid changes to understand the various things that you haven’t thought about potentially initially, we do have a technology platform. You can actually, again, be more… You can leverage that technology in much a better and flexible way.

And finally, you also have the ability to have a much more customized experience. So again, this is thinking about both the user experience from the end customer to the person actually making the referral, but also the customization from a business perspective and some administering the program itself. And we’re gonna show you some examples of what that means and how it can be integrated within a website, within your social programs as well and email, of course.

So, those are all things to think about in terms of customization, which, again, are a lot harder to do if it’s not through technology we simply build in-house or kind of pack together with a couple of, you know, widgets and things like that.

So, example of multiple campaigns. And again, this is one good example of where the flexibility and customization is something that …this isn’t something that you can just do ad hoc. And this is an example of three campaigns, three different programs on the same page targeting three specific products. It’s also important to think about the ROI for referral marketing. And partnering with a technology vendor obviously helps you scale that more quickly.

In this case, the company is adding incremental nearly $1.8 million in revenue through various amounts of clicks and shares and so forth. But the important thing to think about from an ROI perspective is, you know, measuring referrals against other customer acquisition channels. So, thinking about paid, pay-per-click, social, if you do TV or radio or tradeshows. Remember, all these are other ways require customers as referral marketing is.

And then the last point is all the social sharing and the actual word-of-mouth, even if they don’t convert right away, they are still by-products of referral marketing. So, they are still gonna be adding value that was not even being recorded in this ROI now.

And moving on to chapter three, which is really focusing on how to optimize referral program with email marketing. So, we have a sampling of some of the most commonly used channels here. You have social, you have referral pop-ups, obviously your website, both landing pages and emails. So, like any other marketing method, it’s really about integrating and cross-promoting into a cohesive marketing strategy.

So, here is a quick example of social. Again, being able to quickly get your message through social channels. Again, super straightforward. Enabling people to do this quite easily and again, that’s a really great way to get high engagement and tons of visibility in the social streams.

A refer-a-friend pop-up is gonna be on your page. And again, it’s going to encourage participation and allow not only your customers, but also people that are browsing and potentially fans of your product or service, even if they are not customers today, they can still also refer, again, quite easily using, you know, very simple CGA.

Here’s an example of an actual website. So, thinking about building a site, building the referral technology seamlessly into the user experience, this is one fantastic way to do that. So, if you can see this example here with Samoron, they actually have a dashboard login page. This is built in, it’s seamless. You wouldn’t know that the technology is powering it, but all the heavy lifting is done in the background here. Again, a great way, perfect user experience, and makes for a really great, easy way for people to refer their neighbors.

And, of course, now that mobile is potentially as important as your, you know, web presence is, it’s really thinking about how to make sharing as seamless and frictionless via mobile as it would be on the web. And so, here’s a quick GIF showing how simple it is again, with technology to allow people to quickly share and, you know, import various contacts and so forth to get your message out in terms of how valuable it is to use your products and services.

So now, we’re on to the dedicated landing pages. And I know Sarah has a ton of experience in the landing…in landing pages. So, I’m gonna let Sarah take it from here.

Sarah: Thanks a lot, Jeff. You mentioned website, but I am a firm believer in using landing pages for any of your campaigns. I still work for a company called Unbounce that is solely dedicated to landing pages. And our mantra was, never start a marketing campaign without a dedicated landing page. And the reason for this is there is one call-to-action, one goal, zero distractions and it’s just a great channel to really clearly outline what your campaign is, what you wanna say, and again, that one action that you want your customer to take. So, in summary, I definitely recommend that you create a dedicated landing page that outlines what your referral program is, what the benefits are, how to register. And then, from there, another key point to always keep in mind is the landing page experience.

So, I know Jeff a minute or so ago talked about all the different marketing channels that you do have to consider when launching something like a referral program. And the key aspect there is making sure that all of those channels look and feel consistent. So, everything from the messaging to the design to the CTAs, you know, everything from your ad, to your email, to your landing page, to the website, you know, that should all be cohesive and that’s a huge part when considering the email that you’re sending out that references the dedicated landing page for your referral program.

So, here’s a great example from Car to Go. It’s their email newsletter that they send out. It’s a great opportunity to mention their referral program. And then you can see that where they send you is an amazing example of a dedicated landing page. You know, the same thing is very clear messaging, consistent imagery, very clear CTA. There’s just one goal and very consistent from the email to landing page. So, make sure that’s something you’re considering and you are not, you know, while promoting your referral program in an email and then sending someone to an FAQ section of your support documentation.

Here’s another great example from Harris on their landing page for referral programs. And one of the examples that Jeff mentioned earlier was this idea of, you know, incentivizing your ambassadors to keep referring, you know, more and more people by giving them different rewards at different stages. So, here you can see once someone’s referred five friends, they get a free shaving cream. You know, by 25 new sign-ups from their friends, then they get a shave set. So, again, it’s super clear, there’s no distractions in the navigation of this page. It’s very clearly, you know, dedicated landing page outlining what the referral program is, and it makes it very easy to understand, you know, what the benefit is and how you can get involved.

So, why email marketing? I mean, I am a little bit biased, but there’s also a lot of data to back it up. Email marketing has a 3800% ROI. There’s no other marketing channel that has that ROI attached to it. I like to equate it to the workhorse of your marketing. You know, there’s a lot of new, sexy tools out there. Chatbots are very trendy right now, push notifications, but there is nothing that beats the ROI of email marketing.

And there is also a greater opportunity by using email for personalization and segmentation. And those are really hard things to do, you know, in a tweet or a Facebook post. You can really speak to your audience on a level that’s one-to-one versus a tweet that kind of goes out one-to-many. And it’s also a great opportunity to outline your referral program in the email versus a web page because an email is something your ambassadors or customers can always bring back up to reference.

You know, we’ve all searched through something in our inbox to get more information versus if it’s just that dedicated landing page and you’re not giving someone an email to go along with it, then it’s really hard for them to go back and find that same web page. It’s also easy to forward to a friend, if that’s part of your referral program. And there’s also more real estate to design and really explain your program, get your brand out there, get your voice, talk about the benefits of your referral program, again, versus, you know, a few characters in a tweet.

So, let’s talk about some email best practices. This is an example from one of my favorite companies right now Doughbies, which delivers cookies on demand, for better or worse, within a few minutes to your office. And you can see here that in the photo of all of their email newsletters, they have the option to refer a friend. So, one thing is, find as many opportunities as possible to promote your referral program. So, think of what emails you are already sending out to your customer, you know, even to prospects. And find strategic real estate to include your referral program in that to the right audience.

Again, give immediate feedback. You know, nobody wants to sign up for something and then two days later, you get an email about it. You know, that has to be in real-time, because, you know, it’s fresh and they’ve just signed up. Also, add personalization. And I don’t just mean, hi, first name. There are a lot of data points that you can collect from your different CRMs. You know, maybe you are using something like Shopify or even Ambassador. And you can pull in that data to really speak to that person again, on a one-to-one level versus one to many.

I will mention CTAs a few times throughout this, but a very clear CTA is extremely important. CTA is call-to-action. So, what are you calling your customers or ambassadors to do? And make that very clear, compelling, easy-to-click, easy to understand what to do next. And add CTAs in newsletters. Employee signatures are great opportunity to promote your referral program. And also customer support emails. So, those that are interacting with your customers directly, make sure, you know, they’re making sure your customers and loyal ambassadors get this program in front of them.

Here’s another great example from Lyft. And they sent out a monthly newsletter giving me a rundown of what my account activity has been for the month. And, you know, given my stats are and they know that I’m, you know, an active user of their platform, it’s another great opportunity for them to mention their referral program.

So now, let’s talk about customer journeys. So, here is an example from Campaign Monitors platform that makes it extremely easy to set up these customer journeys. So, always think about the journey that that customer is gonna have. So, from the second someone has signed up from your platform or signed up for your referral program, what does that journey look like from the second they’ve signed up to once they’ve actually referred someone to maybe they’ve been stagnant for a while or haven’t referred someone yet? Make sure you are setting the rules and triggers and designing the content around what that experience will be like for them. It’s a great opportunity to build relationships with your customers and ambassadors over time.

So, what are some triggers you can use to base your customer journeys off of? I mentioned when someone becomes a new customer to your product or service, also when they’ve signed up for your referral or have actually referred their friends, when they have an anniversary, so maybe it’s been one year since they first signed up for service, it’s a great opportunity to reach out and ask for that referral. Maybe they’ve made a certain number of purchases. So, in the case of Airbnb, maybe I’ve used Airbnb over 20 times and that’s a great opportunity to reach out and ask for that referral. Or it could be based on the number of actions in-app. So, you know, a more active user, then that’s a great trigger to use to send off an email telling them about your program.

It could be a dollar amount purchased. Or maybe it’s an NPS survey, which is a net promoter survey, which an amazing new tool that a lot of companies are using to measure customer satisfaction and loyalty. And so, you can actually embed a survey through a tool called Get Feedback into a campaign monitoring email. And then, if someone says they’re extremely likely to recommend your product or service to a friend or colleague, then that could trigger off and email promoting your referral program or redirect them to a landing page that talks about what your referral program is.

So, here’s a great example from Canopy on a customer journey they’ve created for someone that has signed up for their referral program. You can see they have a welcome email that, you know, welcomes them to his first signing up, gives them a bit more information. And then, it triggers an email when they’ve actually referred one of their friends or family to sign up for your product or service. But in this case, they haven’t actually paid yet. So, that’s another trigger to maybe, you know, poke your ambassador with an email and then, you know, once they’ve actually signed up, you can reward them with a congratulations email.

So, this was a great example I found from Google. And I signed up for their referral program and right away they had this copy on the confirmation page once I filled out the form. And I thought this was a great way to make sure you’re guiding your users through the entire process of your referral program. So, as soon as I filled out the form, they told me what exactly to do next. So, to get started, check your email. And if you can’t find your welcome email, you know, here’s a couple of places you might be able to find it. A lot of companies forget that step. You know, you’ve filled out a form and you might not know where to go or what to do next. And so, this is a great way to again, just kind of handhold your customers and ambassadors through your referral program process.

So, what do you know? I did look into my inbox. And I did get an email from Google about their referral program. And one thing I quickly wanted to touch on was to optimize your pre-header text. So, there’s three key areas to optimize before you even dive into creating your email content. And that is your from name, your subject line, and your pre-header text, right? If no one opens your email in the first place, then there’s not much hope in optimizing the content. So, it’s really, really important to always be A/B testing different from names, subject lines. And then, one thing that a lot of marketers kind of overlook is your pre-header text. But that can be an extension of your subject line and you can do a lot of creative things with that pre-header text, which again, will entice someone to open your email in the first place.

And then let’s talk about that welcome email. So, if you are creating a customer journey, someone signed up for your referral program, again, you wanna make sure that you are giving them immediate feedback, you are adding as much personalization as you can. And then, include a how-to guide or landing page on exactly how the program works, what they need to get out of it, and then detailed information about the program. So, maybe if you have an FAQ documentation, if you have your landing page, give them as much as possible because as I mentioned previously, this email will be what they reference. They are not gonna find that exact landing page link, but they will be able to pull up that email and find all the information they need about your program.

So, not only do you want to optimize that welcome email for someone that has joined your referral program, you also wanna consider what the experience in email is going to look like for someone that has been referred. So, if I am referring a friend to Airbnb, what is that email gonna look like? And again, make sure there’s detailed information about what this program is for that referral, any how-to or landing page information for them. But don’t forget to, you know, very optimize both welcome emails for both parties.

So another thing I really recommend is leveraging video in your email. So, according to my friends at Wistia, a video platform, embedding a video in your email increases click-through rate by 35%. It’s a great opportunity to showcase your product for new users, it can show off your brand voice like in this Dollar Shave Club example that, you know, went viral. It was an amazing video. And it can be used to help explain the program to existing customers, to new customers, it can show off the product.

So, you know, a video speaks a lot louder than, you know, long text email. And I do wanna clarify, you cannot embed a video in an email and have that play due to email client restrictions. But you can…there’s a lot of creative ways you can embed a GIF in an email or an image with a compelling image, maybe somebody mid-sentence. And make sure that your play button is very obvious. And that will link out to a video preferably on a landing page.

And here’s another example from World of War Craft. But again, it’s just a great opportunity to add some content and description to your email. And another example from Planday is they’ve actually walked you through exactly how to set up your referral program account through this video.

And then last but definitely not least, I wanna talk about email copy. So, videos are great, making sure you have a well-designed email is really important, making sure you are A/B testing all of those things are also important. But your email copy is something that should always be front and center. And especially with a referral program, it’s an opportunity to balance your brand voice with also the fact that, you know, this is copy that people may be sending to their friends. So not only do you have to be considerate on the welcome email copy that is being sent to your customers that have signed up to your referral program, but you also that, you know, can’t copy that they may use to actually refer their friends or family to your product or service.

Make sure that it’s conversational. You know, make sure it’s fun. You know, people, if they are emailing their friends are not gonna use the same kind of corporate copy you might use in your own marketing materials. Please eliminate any jargon. As I mentioned, make it conversational. And make sure you’re highlighting the product value over just listing features.

Another copy tip is make sure it’s clear and concise. Try to force yourself to cut down as much as possible while still getting your message across, and keep it compelling. And another piece here is be grateful. You know, these are people that have offered to refer your business to their friends and family. You know, that’s a loyal customer, that’s someone that’s really doing your business a favor. Show that you are very grateful for the fact that they are doing that. And show that through your email copy.

So, as a quick recap, again, email has a crazy ROI. Make sure it’s a key part of leveraging your referral program and a key component you are optimizing out of all your marketing channels. Create different customer journeys and map out what those look like. Find opportunities to promote your referral program. So again, go back to all the different email promotions you are sending out, whether that’s through support channels, through monthly newsletters, maybe activity roundups on your app. And see if those are great opportunities to promote your referral program to the right audience.

Always consider your email and landing page experience. Again, this also goes into ads and social, but try to keep it all consistent. You know, if you’re designing your email, make sure you are printing it out, sticking it up on a wall, and putting it right next to your landing page design and make sure those are cohesive. Again, video in your email increases click-through rates by 35%, so you really have nothing to lose by trying this out and A/B testing it for yourself. And then last but not least, optimize your copy to make sure it’s very conversational, no jargon, and it’s short and sweet and to the point.

So, now to the Q&A portion of our presentations. I’m gonna invite Jeff back in here to join me. And after going through the chat box, we’ve brought up a couple of really good questions from the audience. So, the first question here is that we did show a lot of B2C referral program examples. But one of the registrants wants to know what are some examples of successful B2B referral programs? So, I’ll leave this one to your Jeff.

Jeff: Yes and we see quite a bit of examples of B2B referral programs. And surprisingly, many people immediately think of B2C and actually, our customer base is really split down the middle between B2B and B2C.

So, in terms of specific companies, you know, we have lots of companies in the HR administration space, for example, and work planning space. So, When I Work is an example of a company. So, if you think about, again, the idea and importance of referrals, it’s really thinking about where are their technology is. You know, we do a ton of software in SaaS. Where technology is, for example, making people’s lives easier when they can speak with their peers and colleagues and friends and so forth that may be doing the same thing. So, and we see a lot of software specifically, but we also see a lot of services. So, whether various agencies that talk to other companies at a, you know, I think again B2C typically tends to be higher price point, lower volume, and maybe more referrals in general.

Sarah: Great. So, the second question is how long does it take to get a referral program up and running and actually see the ROI of that program?

Jeff: This is something obviously everybody wants to know. And the reality is that it really depends. And I hate saying that, but it’s just like email marketing campaign or a PPC marketing campaign or SEO. It varies based on the company’s execution. There are some things that can be done really quickly. For example, for us specifically, we’ve launched companies in a matter of hours in a matter of days and they’ve seen an ROI nearly immediately. In other companies, it takes a little bit longer. But the thing to remember is regardless of, you know, the first, you know, the first conversion or the first, you know, kind of uptake, what we do see and this is unanimous kind of across the board, in that companies in their ninth month are always doing better than the companies in their third month.

So, some of it does take time and again, it’s momentum, especially when people are referring things. And again, they are referring with their own social, you know, social pages, they own social profiles. People typically are going to refer when it makes sense. So, it’s not always going to be the second you invite them. So, it’s important to understand that people tend to be opportunistic when the opportunity arrives is they will share knowing that they are part of a program, but it doesn’t mean they’re gonna share the day they sign up.

Sarah: Great. So, the final question is for me actually. And it is how to optimize your emails for mobile?

So, I know, as Jeff mentioned, mobile is inevitable now and it’s something that none of us as marketers can ignore. In fact, over 60% of all emails are opened on mobile devices. So, just some like quick tips there would be have…I mentioned CTAs quite a few times, so call-to-actions. Make sure those are very clear in your email. Again, I recommend having one call-to-action in any campaign, but if you have multiple ones, still just make sure it’s a clear call-to-action, they are large, they are easy to click. Make sure your copy is optimized and it’s short, it’s sweet, it’s concise. Nobody wants to scroll, you know, multiple times through a long email on their email device. Another quick tip is to test on different mobile devices.

A great tool is Litmus, that’s actually integrated into Campaign Monitor. And you can test on I think 15 to 20 different devices and in different email clients to actually see what’s it’s gonna look like for that end customer. And so, obviously, make sure your emails are responsive, that’s kind of a no-brainer. And then another tip that I always do myself is I actually test that email on my own mobile device. So, a lot of people, again, Litmus is a great tool, but you’re still only viewing that on your desktop. But actually send a test email to your own mobile device and see what that experience is like for yourself.

So, that’s all the questions we have time for right now. Thanks for joining us. As mentioned at the beginning, we will definitely email the recording to everyone that registered. And Jeff, thanks so much for joining us today.

Jeff: Thanks, Sarah. I really appreciate it.

This blog provides general information and discussion about email marketing and related subjects. The content provided in this blog ("Content”), should not be construed as and is not intended to constitute financial, legal or tax advice. You should seek the advice of professionals prior to acting upon any information contained in the Content. All Content is provided strictly “as is” and we make no warranty or representation of any kind regarding the Content.
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