By now you’ve probably heard about Uber, the uber-hip ride-sharing company born in San Francisco, which matches drivers with riders through a mobile app that allows for fast response times. Its competition with other ride-sharing companies like Lyft, along with more traditional taxi services, has gotten it tons of attention. Uber has remained competitive through maneuvers including discounting rates and offering money to drivers for other services who become Uber drivers. It cut rates 25% in the Bay Area for the summer and cut New York City rates by around 20% to remain cost-competitive, and also incentivized Lyft drivers to switch over to the Uber side with a $500 bonus. But what’s really driven Uber’s rider expansion is attention-getting promotion.
In its five years, Uber has surprised users with a multitude of groovy offers such as last month’s ice cream promotion. Customers could choose ice cream using the Uber app and have their treats delivered to them curbside (along with Uber swag). Other offers, often region-specific, have included helicopter rides to the Hamptons, 15-minute snippets of kitten snuggletime, Tamale Lady tamales, rides in a DeLorean, on-demand weddings and Christmas trees delivered to your door. Along with getting lots of press, these sometimes outlandish promo campaigns show Uber knows its audience and how to reach it.
What do kittens and tamales have to do with ride-sharing? Thinking literally, not much. But these promotions stand out in people’s minds, communicating how easy and fun it is to have things delivered right to your door. (They also provide proof-of-concept for Uber’s solving on-demand urban delivery — a subject for a different post.) What brand doesn’t want to be associated with the pleasure-filled moment of giving someone ice cream? Or a delicious tamale? Or, for that matter, a kitten? The promotions create buzz in the moment and they keep the brand in people’s minds, so that when they need a car at their door, they’ll think of Uber.
Promotion is key to any successful marketing initiative, including referrals. Our most successful customers, who see 20 – 40% of their new customers come from referrals, promote their programs widely and make sure to do so in places other than their websites. You might think this is off-base for a referral program reliant upon digital sharing and often digital redemption, but that would mean you don’t have your kittensnuggling hat on. In order for your referral program to drive new customers, advocates have to share it with their friends first. To do that, they have to know your program exists. Promotions provide that awareness. While you want someone to share referrals immediately and continuously, promoting the program will keep the referral program top of mind so that when a referral opportunity presents itself to a customer (say, when someone compliments their snazzy polo shirt), they share.
Want to jolt your thinking around how to promote your referral program? Our promotions guide has real-world examples of how and when to do so. Grab it here.