Promotion: The Key to Activating Customers, Family and Friends

In an ideal world, people would do everything on time. You wouldn’t need to remind them. You wouldn’t need to offer an incentive. In that world, marketers would also be rolling around in piles of cash surrounded by fountains of molten gold. The reality, though, is that a lot of planning, organization, and creative incentives go into getting people to do something successfully on your behalf. You have to make it worth people’s while. And you have to make it easy, whether you’re turning to family and friends to help get your new business off the ground or to your customers to refer their friends to your brand.

friends at lunch

A recent article on Inc.com profiles Allyson Downey and her husband Jack, who started weeSpring, a Yelp-esque company where people can post reviews of baby and children’s products. When they first brought their idea to life, friends and family were quick to offer up their help with everything from planning to networking. The two soon learned, though, that although their loved ones had the best intentions, it’s difficult for people to invest time and energy into your company and make it a priority when there is no incentive, monetary or otherwise, for them to do so. As the article notes, “Some individuals offered to help and then never followed through. Others promised to spread the word but didn’t even sign up for the service themselves, although they were in the target demographic. Still others volunteered key connections to media and influencers — then never actually made them.”

It’s Allyson’s response that resonated most with me: “It’s about managing expectations with people not on your payroll. Not everyone will be out there beating the drum for you. It’s not that they don’t love you. It’s that they have their own responsibilities to deal with.”

The same principle applies to referral marketing. It illustrates why advocate rewards and promotions are critical for referral program success. Even if your customers are passionate about your brand, they have a lot going on in their lives. Setting aside the demands of work, family, friends, hobbies, etc., the average American is exposed to hundreds, if not thousands, of marketing messages per day. (CBS News pegged the number as high as 5,000 in 2006, and that was before the rise of social media, but the statistics vary wildly depending on where you get them.)

That means you have to get your customers’ attention. You have to tell them you have a referral program, consistently and in multiple places. Your homepage. Your order confirmation page. Your existing email streams. Your physical packaging. (Find more ideas and real-world examples of referral promotion in our promotions guide.) Rewards for the advocate also serve to get people’s attention and make sharing worth their while; that’s why successful referral programs reward advocates when their friends become customers in addition to rewarding those friends for purchasing.

And once you have your customer’s attention with your referral program, use it. You don’t have much time. Don’t drive people off your website to share. Let them share how they want — with email, on social, with a personalized sharing link. Make your mobile sharing experience native and familiar so it’s as smooth as possible.

For more tips and stats on where, when and how to promote your referral program, get our guide, How to Promote Your Referral Program: A Few Hot Tips. (Extole customers can find a copy in the Customer Success portal.)

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