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Best Practice When Starting Your Referral Program

A referral program can be one of the most effective things in your arsenal. If you have a referral brand, then you want as much help as you can get. That means even starting from an organic perspective where you build from a few solid supporters into a brand that can touch globally. Before you commence with this endeavor, you should really think about the who, what, how, and why. It’s important to build an identity because you won’t be able to make any real progress. Keep this in mind before you make the pivotal steps to create a referral program. With that being said, here are some dos and don’ts of an effective referral program.

Never Sell Something You Wouldn’t Use Yourself

We are going to start off with a don’t because you need to seriously put yourself in the user’s position. A good thing to note is never promote something that you honestly couldn’t see yourself actually using. Why? Well, building any kind of brand is based off of trust. Look at yourself in the mirror and ask, “Can I be proud of myself by selling this product to people who I don’t know?” Is it really worth it and is building a referral program time efficient? If you answered “no” to both, you may have to get back to the drawing board and think of something else. Remember, referral marketing is not for everyone. You don’t want people to view you as junk mail that they throw out on the front doorstep. Or better yet, you should stop collaborating with people in which you don’t intend to build a long and fair relationship.

Knowing the Value of What You Provide

This is one of the things you absolutely should know from the gate. If a few things haven’t hit your mind such as: knowing your target audience, having an idea of what they want and need, and how it benefits them for the long and short term, you simply should get out while you can. Building a foundation that’s strong in product and service should be the priority first and foremost. At the end of the day, you can have the glitz and glamour but what does the product or service entail? It’s like going to a nightclub with all the lights, camera, and action. Sure, on the outside it looks incredible and makes you want to go. However, what is the music like, how are the drinks, what kind of customer service is available to actually keep you there. That’s what you need: staying power. That’s why it’s important that you know the value in your message from the start so you can cater to a specific audience. You have to give them what they want and need. When the value is there, everything else falls into place.

Finding Your Corner Pocket Shot

Yes. I made a reference to pool, but it’s perfect. Even though business is not a literal game, you do play with the concept of trial and error. Like pool, it takes a while to get your bearings and develop a good shot. The corner pocket shot is something that’s practiced quite a bit because it’s the end of the game. It’s a shot that determines the last standing. You need to perfect this shot to the point where it becomes second nature. This is the same thing with business. You need to know your audience very well to the point that you have a few mainstays that YOU KNOW will work. Of course, you’ll miss a few shots, but having some well placed balls will certainly keep you in the game for the long term. All of this comes from knowing your audience and how certain things affect their lives. How do you find this out? There are a number of things you can do to make things better. For example, you can do A/B testing in order to find what products do and don’t work. This helps you weed things out so you aren’t wasting any time. Also, you can test this on your first 100 supporters. When you see the conversion rate and how interactive people are with this product, that can help you make a sound decision if you should pursue a referral program or not.

Do People Actually Like Your Products?

Okay. Now, in time, this is something you really need to find out. There are different ways to gain feedback through surveys, voting charts, and even simple emails. It’s all about finding out what people like and dislike. You can’t expect to promote something that not even a small core audience likes. Be patient and actually listen to the people. There’s always room for improvement in any sector of life. When you find something that works, you have to keep things fresh.

The thing is you have to know why your product is special. What separates you from the pack? That “it” factor is what really makes people gravitate to your brand. Also, incentives work well in order to keep people there. Maybe there’s a special sale or some kind of freebie that entices people to want to buy and keep that momentum going. For a good affiliate, they want to be a part of something that has a solid reputation. Something they can be proud of that actually lasts.

Getting People on Board to Share

This is a bit easier said than done, but it’s necessary for you to take things further. You should keep things in mind like how they will be able to share via different formats. For example, some of your supporters may be more adept at social media. It’s important to know what kind of things can help them in their campaign. Maybe there’s a good social media message, a particular banner, or meme that draws attention. Also, you might have a special hashtag to draw in a specific audience. Remember, some of your audience might be a bit older, so you have to keep in mind that email may rule their world. Never limit yourself to just one aspect of marketing because different folks have unique tastes. Find out how your supporters want to share your work with others.

Never Engage With People That Are Disinterested

Some people just want to buy your product and that’s about it. They may not have the time or the real work ethic to be in a referral program. You can always send one or two emails in regards to your product. However, you should have a good indicator of whether or not they actually really want to be involved with your product. How do you find this out? It’s very simple. Look at the clickthrough rate of your links. Also, see if they actually sign up and even buy something. These are a few ways you can tell right off the bat if they want to get involved. Don’t be so invasive. A better way is suggesting or even asking them if they want to be involved. Even if they don’t respond, it’s a level of respect that you take the extra care to show that they are much more than a transaction. Of course, you want to be aggressive but it’s like getting your sick kid to take a spoonful of apple cider vinegar. Pour a bit of sugar on the tip of the spoon so it’s easier to digest. Think of that same concept with your prospective affiliates. Once they sign in, then that means you can be a bit more committed.

Don’t Go Overboard with the Reminders

It’s like when you try courting a new person. Of course, you want to stay in contact but give them enough to entice the need to comeback. You never want to bombard your affiliates to the point that they will unsubscribe. One weekly email or a nice reminder every now and again to touch base is important. It shows that you care but you give them the space to decide for themselves what goes on. It’s all about consistency in how you do things because once you fall off, then things get more difficult. You also have to keep it interesting. Maybe there’s a funny but relatable meme out there to make your affiliate laugh. Maybe you have a new product you want to promote and you have a special contest that will really light the fire in them to help you take the brand to another level. The possibilities are endless.

Always Expect the Unexpected (Things Can Go Wrong)

Not everything is going to go as planned. It’s a part of life. In your referral program, even your links can get broken. It’s important to be responsive to your affiliates because they are the backbone to your referral business. When they have inquiries like a messed up banner link, embed, or something, it’s your job to fix it. Dead links can seriously halt your sales and make you run for cover. It’s important to update things on the way as well. When certain products don’t sell, you need to make sure that you update it on the site. This means getting better images, descriptions, and anything else to ensure that people notice your brand.

Additionally, some of the team members may have the capability of messing around with links. When you see weird activity in your referral links, it’s your job to clean it up. Sometimes, you may have to even delete accounts. Although this doesn’t happen often, the point is that it can and will in different circumstances. You always want to keep tabs on all of your information to ensure that things work fairly.

Make Sure You Have a Good Relationship With People in Your Community

There comes a time when you actually need people in the community outside of your site to help you break a particular product or service. Let’s say you have a new sauce that’s great for barbeque, vegetables, or general seasoning for a homecooked dinner. You have to find a place that likes different rubs and sauces. However, you can’t just promote on a community forum without building a relationship first. That’s how you get banned. The same thing with someone who promotes your product to get a referral sale.

You have to worry about a few things. One, you need to know who’s the owner of the site. What does that person do for the community? Why is he such an authority?

Secondly, do you or your team have rapport? Do you write good answers or generally provide value to where people can vouch for your content?

Thirdly, make sure you come correct. Be respectful and if you do have something, don’t shove it down their throats. You need to let them come to you once you put it out there.

When you can stand by your product and generally provide value, it’s a much easier way to help you develop a long term relationship.

Don’t Over Promote — Let the Product Speak for Itself

The right spacing, the right distance will help you let your product breathe. Remember, timing is everything. You can promote things to a point but letting it breathe will help the product create a life of its own. The art of discovery is very important because it allows people to really find what they like. Also, when people find that they like something, they will share it just because it’s that great!

Then the reviews can start happening. People will speak on it and show why this helped them. It starts creating a following and then you can promote it a little bit more. This takes time and effort on your part, but it certainly pays off. When you over promote, that’s when people get tired of it. It turns people off from your product, and you won’t have anything to show for in the end.

Building a solid referral program takes a bit of time and know how. When you combine these different elements, you have a much better chance of succeeding and honing in on your path. This way you’ll create longevity in your brand.

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