What gives refer-a-friend programs their acquisition power? Personal, compelling share messages that come from people we know.
(Worldwide, 84% of people say they trust recommendations from friends more than any other type of advertising.) To illustrate the three most common types of share messages and why they’re effective, let’s consider three referral situations, my mother-in-law, and my summer vacation.
But first a quick refresher: there are two funnels in a refer-a-friend programs. The first is the advocate funnel. It is all about how many advocates share, how much they share, and the size of the audience they reach. The second funnel is the friend funnel — it’s about how many friends click on advocate shares and then ultimately convert. The share message that comes from the advocate is the bridge connecting the two. (Check out the Encyclopedia of Referral Marketing for more info on the two funnels and other core referral concepts.)
Now, back to my mother-in-law…
My mother-in-law knows we’re going to the beach this summer, and that my young kids are twice the size they were last summer. She can probably guess that we need new bathing suits for them. When she’s shopping on Lands’ End, then, she does me the favor of referring me to their swimwear because she’s inferred my need for it, saying, “I think you’ll like the kids’ summer styles here.” She’s made an educated guess that I’ll like what she’s sending, and chances are she’s right.
Every day, we tell people about what we like, need, or want. I might say to my mother-in-law, “We’re getting ready for our trip, and I really need to get new bathing suits for the kids.” She loves Lands’ End, knows they have a referral program, and knows where to find it. Because I have expressed a need, she’ll refer me with a message like, “Check out the kids’ swimsuits at Land’s End — they’re cute, and here’s a special offer from them. Perfect for your trip. I’ll also get a $25 discount when you purchase!”
Finally, when I’ve moved beyond considering a purchase and am actually actively buying, it’s pretty common for me to reach out to my family for a recommendation. “Where should I go for bathing suits for the kids?” I’ll say. What I’m really asking is, “Who can refer me to kids’ swimsuits?” I’m requesting a referral.
This situation highlights why it’s especially important that refer-a-friend programs involve double-sided rewards where the advocate gets rewarded as well as the friend. It not only provides incentive for my mother-in-law to respond to my question by sharing with me, it keeps it top of mind. (Find more refer-a-friend best practices here.) Her message doesn’t have to say much beyond, “Here’s the referral to Land’s End I mentioned. Easy!” She already knows I need what she’s sending, and she gets rewarded for sending it. What could be simpler or more effective than that?