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How to Build A Client Referral Program

November 17, 2021

Building a client referral program is a tool that’s perfect for getting the word out there about your goods and services. Referral programs are great because regardless of the size of your business, you can begin to build community around your brand and create the visibility that will cause your business to thrive and grow.

But what is a Client Referral Program?

Offline, we’d call it “word of mouth” marketing. Human beings love to share the different things that have helped them, and we are all far more likely to trust the opinion of someone we relate to or are close with when making purchases. Your business starts being the talk of the town and being put forth as a solution to a problem during everyday conversation, which generates new client interest you didn’t explicitly go after with adverts and leaflets.

Online, it works in the same way but people may share their experience differently. You can be featured in client blog posts, social media posts and videos etc as well as people talking to each other in their day-to-day lives.

The point is that your clients become a part of your marketing strategy; they share who you are and what you do within their sphere of influence. This creates a ripple effect surprisingly quickly because we are all so connected to one another.

So why invest time in creating a Client Referral Program?

Client referral programs that are built well and executed well, can provide an untold amount of value for your business. It’s powerful because it’s personal; when someone recommends your business to a colleague, a family member or a friend, they do so by giving it their seal of approval. When someone shares about your business with someone close to them, they essentially say, “I tried this, I liked this, I trust this.” 

Trust is a key component in creating a base of repeat clients even as you gain new clients. Therefore, a client referral program has the capacity to give you maximum exposure and a solid sense of brand integrity that is underpinned by client satisfaction. When your client base has grown on that, you’ll find yourself less reliant on luck, or trends or any factors of success that rely on the winds of change and chance.

So how do you actually build a successful client referral program?

Building a client referral program isn’t extraordinarily difficult, however, you will absolutely benefit from taking some time to get all your ducks in a row. Let’s break it down and go right through from start to finish. 

Planning

Choosing the right Product/Services

The cornerstone of any successful referral program starts with an excellent product or service. Credibility is incredibly difficult to build but easy to destroy, so if you plan to use a referral program to gain new clients, your business offering needs to be rock solid.

If your business offers a variety of different things, it might actually be good to focus on a core product or service that you know you do exceptionally well. It needs to be memorable so that your clients think of your brand and your product first when they’re making their recommendations. So to start off with, keep it simple and straightforward and choose the product or service with the widest appeal.

Cultivate an excellent relationship with your existing clients

A successful referral program needs engaged and passionate clients, particularly if your business is smaller and you don’t have an endless marketing budget. Ensure that you touch base with your existing clients regularly. You can use email newsletters, or social media posts that drive engagement and interaction. 

Running a business gets incredibly busy and it can feel like a daunting task to cultivate a relationship with your clients. However, remember that a little interaction, but often, goes a long way. You definitely don’t need to spend every hour of the day on social media. The key is consistent communication – strategically let your clients know your business is still there and keep that connection going.

This means that when you ask your clients to refer people in their social circle, it’ll feel like they’ve been asked by a friend rather than a strange entity they maybe haven’t heard from in quite some time.

Have a clear marketing goal

Whenever you consider adding something new to your marketing strategy, taking some time to think about the direction you’re heading in, is always a good idea. Ask yourself some questions like:

  • What do we hope to achieve? 
    • Maybe you want to focus on a central product or service, or maybe you’re launching something new and want to kick things off with a client referral program to get the word out there. Maybe you have a goal in mind of how many sales you want to generate. Have a think about this so that you can build a referral program that will get you to your goals.
  • Who do we want to target?
    • Who is the audience, which kinds of clients are you trying to target? Having a clear picture of this will help you choose rewards that are relevant and enticing.

Other questions can include things like:

  • What resources do we have? (Time, money, both?)
  • How long do we want to run a referral program for? 
  • What channels do we already have at our disposal that we can use to promote the program?

Getting a clear picture around all these things will save you a ton of time in the long run and help your decision making process easier and more efficient.

Do your research

If you’ve never set up a client referral program, it can be helpful to see what other businesses have been doing. Here are some examples to look at to get you started:

1. CountingWorks PRO

We launched a referral program for our Pro Subscribers as a way to thank our existing clients and meet new clients! We took the time to include clear instructions on what needs to happen and it’s all in an easy to read page on our website.

2. Revolut

Revolut is a fin-tech brand who have used client referral programs for years as they’ve carved out a niche in the financial sector. The interesting point here is that they make the referral programs time sensitive to inspire action. This is a great method for keeping things fresh and creating a buzz every time the referral programme ‘relaunches’. The referral bonuses vary – it shows that there is room for flexibility and you can offer different bonuses until you figure out a formula that works for your business.

3. Uber Eats

Uber Eats has had an ongoing referral program for years. Each user is able to generate a code, which they can share with friends and both the user and the friend will also get a little money off their order. It’s quite a significant amount – enough to make a “feel good” difference to people ordering and enough for them to share their code with others. 

Uber also has a referral program to find new drivers as well with significant rewards available for successful new hires.

Another useful exercise is to see what your direct competitors are offering as well and see if you can draw some inspiration. Not all referral programs will work for every business so it’s important to intentionally choose what will work for you.

Execution

Once you’ve done all of your planning it’s time to execute. Here are a few things to consider as you release your referral program:

Decide on your tools 

There are in fact tools that you can use to track your referral programs. This isn’t required for launching but the recommendation is that you at least check out the popular ones and see if it will help you and your clients keep track of their referrals and any bonuses they are owed. There are quite a few to choose from so check it out and see if any of them work for you.

Choose your referral awards

Make a decision about what your referral awards are going to be. You can use financial incentives, vouchers or even free products. If you’re offering a service then maybe you can use free upgrades or access to different services as an incentive. A great starting point is to figure out how much a new client is worth and apportion a fair reward to the client for bringing that in on your behalf.

Choose who will get the rewards

Be clear about who is eligible for rewards and what needs to happen for successful redemption. Spending time on the terms and conditions gives you peace of mind and your clients clear direction on what they need to do. It’s a recommendation to make things as easy as possible when building a referral program. If clients feel like it’s work, they are far less likely to engage with it.

Choose a method for sharing your referral program

It is good to have a strategy going into this so you don’t launch the program and have a “Now what?” moment. With a roadmap of how you share it, you can get straight into promotion activities immediately. 

You can share via email newsletters, you can share about your referral program via social media. Don’t forget that word of mouth is not to be underestimated. If you are speaking to your clients regularly and have a good rapport with them, dropping it into conversation is also an excellent way to drop in a friendly reminder. If you have more resources at your disposal you can take advantage of using ads to grab people’s attention and don’t forget to promote it on your website.

Choose how you’re going to track program success

This goes hand in hand with choosing the right tools as there are normally features included that help you track referral program engagement in real time. However, it is a separate exercise to figure out what success looks like – how many clients do you feel your business needs to count the referral program a success? 

Invest Time in the Copy

When you write copy about your referral program, do your utmost to keep it punchy and easy to understand. Ideally, you want your clients to understand the main gist of things with just a glance. Alternatively you want to make them intrigued at first glance and spark their curiosity to find out more. You can use headlines like “How does $100 in your pocket sound?” that spark curiosity. Alternatively you can use statements like “Refer a friend and get $100” which are immediately satisfying.

If you aren’t a natural born writer, it is worth considering getting a copywriter to help you convey the benefits of your referral program with style and flair. Copywriters will make sure that your communication around the program is clear, concise and appealing to the clients you want to attract. They know how to make every word count so it’s wise to look into getting someone to help.

Maintenance

Using Reviews

As the traction for your product or service grows, encourage your clients to share what they think. Great reviews really do boost your brand image, and if those reviews come from paying clients it’s even better. People are naturally suspicious these days of people who receive your products for free or are paid to review it, so any time actual clients use your product or service and love it, shout it from the rooftops!

Social Media presence

On average, clients need to be shown a piece of information 7 times before they take action. With this in mind, continued promotion of your referral program is going to be so important. Social media is an excellent way to do this. 

Having a social media strategy does take time and resources to deploy. However, if you can continue to build a community around your product or service, you’ll increase engagement between yourself and your clients. Engaged clients are far more likely to engage with your referral program and introduce new clients into the fold. So once that referral program goes live, use social media to remind everybody that it’s there.

Building a client referral program is a modern application of a marketing strategy that is as old as time. It’s tried and tested, and once it’s live and it’s working well, a client referral program is a marketing gift that keeps on giving.

For more help and more information about marketing for your accounting firm, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our team at help@countingworkspro.com


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Lee Reams II

I am a marketing junkie who has spent the last 20 years developing and executing "best in class" word-of-mouth marketing campaigns. With over 10,000 happy clients I think we are on to something. The explosion in web marketing and social media have redefined the way independent professionals market their practices. Follow my blog to see if you can take some of our actionable ideas to market your own practice.

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