The First Step to Brand Advocacy: Referral Marketing

by Sean Ogino |

When brands approach us to increase their social reach and brand advocacy, the first social tool we suggest is a referral program. Refer a Friend is one of the easiest ways to get your shoppers to share your products with their friends, increasing your social reach, driving new traffic, and helping your current traffic convert.

Referral marketing programs are structured to complement your business plan and are customized to attract your unique customer base. At Annex Cloud, we’ve come up with 6 best practices for developing your referral marketing program.

1. Think of your customers, employees, and partners as brand advocates from the get-go.

Many brands are too narrowly focused on turning their customers into brand advocates. Instead, businesses should expand their vision to realize their best brand advocates are their employees and partners. No one has more product knowledge than employees. Make sure each employee is helpful, online, and in-store and can make relevant and thoughtful suggestions to customers.

Referral Marketing

2. Take advantage of every available touchpoint.

Today, customers can be reached at multiple touchpoints, from in-store to online to mobile. Make sure it is easy for your customers to share and refer friends every step of the way. Online referrals work like word-of-mouth and can have the same viral effect. Enable shoppers to refer friends through their preferred social networks, through email, or even in store with written referrals.

3. Send reminders to keep your referral program robust.
Referral programs need a little bit of nurturing, you can’t simply just launch a referral campaign and expect your shoppers to adopt it without a little push. After launching, send reminders to customers with your email newsletters and social blasts. Keep referrals top of mind by making sure the Refer a Friend widget is easily visible on every page of your site.

Referral Marketing

4. Motivate your shoppers with incentives.
To achieve constant high-quality referrals, we recommend incentivizing your shoppers and their friends to convert with either a discount or perk, like free shipping. This helps get customers excited about referrals and new customers coming back.

5. It should be easy for them and for you.
Enable shoppers to easily share with just one click using Social Login. The less fields they need to fill out, the more likely they will share. Keep it easy for them to track and for you as well by integrating referral programs into your existing POS and ESP, then displaying progress in your My Account experience. Customers may be referred online but could choose to redeem it in-store. Referral programs should be seamless and flexible to make the experience easy for everyone involved.

6. Empower your advocates.
Give each brand advocate an up to date dashboard so they can track their referrals and reward statuses. Enabling them to see their statuses keeps them happy and motivated to refer more friends.

Benefits of Brand Advocacy in 2021

Brand advocates are the bedrock of your business. Highly satisfied customers who speak on behalf of your brand are twice as valuable as your average customers. In many cases, they are also instrumental in driving additional purchase activity.

Here are the benefits of including brand advocacy in your marketing strategy:

Build Trust

Word-of-mouth referral is one of the best forms of marketing. Many times, consumers trust word-of-mouth referrals from online reviews, friends, and family over advertisements and other forms of marketing. This is why brand advocacy is important.

Reduces Marketing Effort

Brand advocacy is an organic marketing channel that boosts sales through word-of-mouth and spreading awareness. When customers are brand advocates, it takes some of the marketing efforts –as well as time and expense– off your company’s plate. In turn, this allows you to focus on other parts of your business that need your attention.

Connect With a Larger Network

When you post on your corporate social media, you engage people who are already familiar with your brand, which limits your reach. With brand advocates, your reach grows exponentially when customers act as advocates within their circle of influence.

How to Build Brand Advocacy

Now that you are familiar with the benefits of brand advocacy, here are a few tips that will help you integrate it into your marketing strategy.

Do Not Ignore Your Customer Experience

Customers with a bad experience aren’t likely to turn into brand advocates. Brand advocates talk about your brand because they are happy with your product – and the customer experience you created.

Discover Your Brand Advocates

To find out who your brand advocates are, look for people who:

  • Regularly comment on, like, and share your posts
  • Leave positive reviews and share posts related to your brand
  • Reply to others’ questions about your brand on social media channels and other platforms

Set Goals for Your Brand Advocacy Program

Setting goals and KPIs ensure success for your brand advocacy program. To start, make sure your brand advocacy goals are SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound). Set the metrics depending on your goals. If you are looking for more sales, measure conversions and lead generation. If your focus is on brand awareness, track post engagement, impressions, and brand mentions.

Some additional examples of metrics to measure:

  • Brand awareness
  • Lead generation
  • Website traffic
  • Conversions
  • Brand mentions
  • Social media post engagement

 Referral programs must be thought of as a long term sales and marketing channel. It is always on. Keep tracking, testing and optimizing for continuously improving results. People trust recommendations from people they know. Fast track this word-of-mouth strategy with easy to share referrals.


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