Calibrating Referral Programs During the Covid-19 Crisis

referral example

We are all trying to understand the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on our businesses and on the consumers who power them. You’ve likely been spending significant time looking at your data, industry data, and healthcare data. Just in case you’re not overloaded already, here are recent resources from marketing tech providers as well as a hopeful consumer survey.

Despite and because of the uncertainty, marketers have acted swiftly. One of the most inspiring trends are the programs and initiatives to support community and customers: 

  • Avocado Mattress has turned their production capability to make face masks;
  • Knix started a gown and mask GoFundMe and is taking care of transportation and supplies for hospitals;
  • Evite is promoting virtual events, cards for the community, and the opportunity to give to a cause of your choosing using donate buttons in invitations;
  • First Aid Beauty is donating to student loan debt while offering free shipping;
  • Kerastase is promoting support of local salons on their homepage and encouraging purchase directly from the salon’s websites;
  • Aveda is similarly promoting support for their salons and small business partners; 
  • The Frye Company is offering sitewide discounts available only when customers donate to Feeding America; 
  • Petco, like many retailers, is shifting to curbside pickup and is also providing helpful content for pet owners.
  • American Giant has joined a coalition of domestic manufacturers who have come together to produce medical masks.
  • Chacos is promoting the “Local Gear Shop” to help support their struggling brick and mortar locations.
  • Everlywell has manufactured a Covid-19 Test Kit for healthcare companies with workers on the frontlines which they are offering at-cost.

There has also been swift action by brands through Extole-powered referral programs. Our clients are orienting their programs toward customer engagement, toward creating connection with the community, and with efficiency in mind given pressing time & team constraints. They are focused on striking the right tone, shifting rewards, and keeping current customers engaged.  

For evergreen refer-a-friend programs, we’re definitely helping our clients get the tone right. It’s more likely than not that the copy in your share messages, program emails, and even calls-to-action from January need updates now to reflect the tone of the times. Here’s a very explicit example from Snag a Job: 

referral example

For others, there’s opportunity for relevance in attaching marketing to work-from-home as you can see here: 

referral example

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And of course many retailers are boosting promotions and offers in an effort to move revenue forward. It’s never been more true that your best customers, the ones who share your brand and products with their friends, deserve to share (and receive) the best offer. So, boost your referral offer too – it’s practically effortless and particularly impactful. Here’s a great example from Purchasing Power:

referral example

Another option is to consider removing your friend offer entirely and rely instead on first time visitor offers that are increasingly dramatically right now. We normally don’t recommend an asymmetrical offer, but these are far from normal times.

If you’re partnering or promoting a charity, use the digital real estate created by your referral program to reinforce your cause with calls-to-action in program emails. Here’s a great example from Knix:

referral example

We’ve also heard interest in deeper sales for targeted audiences. Successfully referred friends, former advocates, and current advocates are all perfect audiences worthy of and likely to respond to targeted sales. An advocate-only sale or preview event is an easy way to engage a powerful audience. Here’s some inspiration from Hanna Anderrson and Gilette: 

referral example

An atypical but easy use of Extole data is a custom Google audience through Customer Match to reach a segment you can rely on, your advocates and their friends, through search, display, Gmail and YouTube.

Finally, think about non-conversion engagement and build ways to keep customers involved in your brand even when they may not be buying. American Musical Supply conceived a contest to encourage current customers to share the brand with friends and family with the goal to help artists that might be struggling financially during this time. As the sharing grows, American Musical Supply then will randomly pay off one customer’s instrument financing for every 100 shares.

referral example

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