A few weeks back, we provided a top tip across our social media channels, which advised our audience to build a referral program.

It got me thinking.

If 84% of B2B businesses initiate the buying process with a referral and a further 69% of companies that implement a referral program say they close deals faster.

Perhaps it’s time we delved into how a comprehensive referral program can drive leads into your pipeline.

WHAT IS A COMPREHENSIVE REFERRAL PROGRAM?

We want to make sure we don’t leave any stone unturned. So, let’s start with the basics with a quick overview of what a referral program is.

To put it candidly.

A B2B referral program is a formalised process in which your happiest customers can recommend your product or services to their peers. It can include anyone from friends, family, colleagues or business associates. In return, your referrers receive a reward for their role in supplying you with new business.

BUILDING THE CASE FOR A B2B REFERRAL PROGRAM

Whether you’re a Business Owner, a Managing Director or even just a Department Manager. You need to build the case for building a b2b referral program in your business.

At the beginning of this piece, we alluded to some of the key benefits for creating such a program. It’s no surprise that we’re not the only ones who agree. Research suggests that 78% of Marketers and 87% of frontline sales staff state that referrals are essential to B2B sales success.

As well as this, they also state that referrals have a higher conversion rate, close faster and also have a higher lifetime value. Furthermore, organisations who already have a formalised referral program 86% experienced revenue growth over the last two years (compared to only 75% without programs).

EXAMPLES OF SUCCESSFUL B2B REFERRAL PROGRAMS

Having all the stats is useful. Having actual evidence is paramount.

You have probably seen many referral programs in B2C. Nationwide springs to mind. Nationwide ‘refer a friend‘ offers both the referee and the referred contact a monetised reward when the referred contact opens an account.

Now let’s take a look at some cases of a B2B referral program.

One great example is Blackbaud. Blackbaud is one of the worlds leading cloud software companies whose target audience is primarily not for profit organisations such as charities and foundations.

Their referral system is simple and effective. To make it more appealing, their referrers are known as ‘Champions’. Merely filling out a registration form with some necessary details allows you to become a ‘Champion.’

Blackbaud has also been savvy. Instead of a one-off reward like Nationwide provide. Blackbaud has a points system. The more prospects your refer — the more points you earn. The result, having more points enables you to claim more rewards.

As you can see, Blackbaud has taken its referral program seriously, and it’s paying dividends.

THE ELEMENTS YOU NEED TO CREATE A  SUCCESSFUL REFERRAL PROGRAM

We’ve given you the facts, the figures and the examples.

Finally, you need to know the elements you need to create your referral program.

1. Plan for Customisation and Transparency

First off, remember that your business is unique. Therefore, your referral system needs to reflect your business and to an extent, your customers. So, ensuring your referral program is customised and branded will give your existing customers that feeling of familiarity.

Furthermore, to create a successful referral program, you should engage with your customers about this. Ask them what they think about a referral program, what incentives they feel would nudge them to refer contacts, and what would detract them from referring people. Your customers hold a wealth of information. Utilise them.

Once you have built your referral program, continue to engage with your customers by sharing things such as;

– How their information will be used?
– Who will reach out to the referee?
– How does your referral process work?

Having this transparent relationship with your customers and referrals will build the trust that’s needed, so they continue to share your program.

Remember. People buy from people they know, like and trust.

2. Promoting 

After creating and structuring your referral program, it’s time to plan how you will promote it.

Now, you have inadvertently begun doing this by utilising your customers in the research process. However, you need to go further.

First off, use your website. Your website is like your shop because of this, it makes sense to begin here.
After that, begin taking advantage of your social presence. Use the appropriate social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc. Share, Share, Share.

As well as this, you can also promote it at crucial touch points. For example, straight after a purchase has been made via order confirmation pages or order confirmation emails.

Having developed these channels, you can then turn your attention to digital marketing techniques such as tweaking your website and SEO strategy. These will make your brand and referral pages more visible.

3. Offer the Correct Reward/Incentives

It’s crucial to the adoption of your program that your rewards line-up with your customer’s expectations. Think back to the Halifax and Blackbaud examples. Their rewards reflected their customers but also provided enough incentive to nudge contacts to make a referral.

What is also crucial to remember is that some of the most significant rewards can be charity based or a simple thank you. Think of rewards that build stronger relationships with your customers.

Whatever you choose. Ensure that you fulfil your referees timely.

It’s clear to see that building a B2B referral program can be extremely advantageous. To pull it off successfully, it’s critical that you research with your existing customers if this is something you and them could benefit.

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