By implementing these 5 referral program ideas you can over time double the size of your revenue and customer base. Traditionally called “Word of Mouth”, referral marketing has grown into a considerable force, particularly now with the explosion of mobile marketing and social media. Conducted correctly, these 5 referral marketing ideas can be a consistent and profitable source of new and engaged customers, each and every day, from here on out.

Building a sustainable referral marketing strategy begins with two essential elements. First and foremost, you must provide an spectacular customer experience. Secondly, you must put in place a systematic referral program based on a few simple referral program ideas.

All Referral Program Ideas Are Built Upon Customer Satisfaction

Your customer’s experience with your brand has to be meaningful and personal whether they are a new client or a loyal follower. This is the firm foundation upon which any brand becomes “referrable.”  If your customer experience is insignificant or boring, then what have you done to generate buzz in the first place?  In his best-selling book, “The Referral Engine”, John Jantsch points out the obvious, “Nobody talks about a boring business.”

Having a referral program in place makes it easy for those raving fans to pass spread the good news about your brand.  A simple, yet intelligent and creative referral program also rewards the fans for sharing your brand to their social media followers. The trick is not to limit your thinking to discounts or gift cards.  How does one determine the right reward? Answer: What is it that your ideal customer values?  What would just be a thoughtful gesture that might be a little unexpected yet extremely welcome?

5 Highly Effective Referral Program Ideas

1) The quickest way to refer a brand or business is to post their positive experience on their own social media channels. The ideas are actually endless on this point. First of all, are you asking people to check in on Facebook, Yelp or Foursquare? This let’s people know that they are there conducting business with you. Are you getting them to give you positive reviews on Yelp, Google and other directories? How about creating for them a video about their wonderful experience, posting it on YouTube, and then asking them to share your branded video with others.

2) Award your best customers with VIP status. Give them upscale referral cards that look like gift cards. Monetize the value of these gift cards. For example, a dentist could offer a “Free Teeth Cleaning” for every person that receives this card. Do not hand this out to anyone. Give these out to your VIP customers as a special offer that is only available to them. This is one of the referral program ideas that I have become most excited about lately.

3) Develop strategic partnerships with other businesses and brands. The weight loss coach who is always advising her clients to make exercise a part of their routine can refer her customers to a free yoga class. In return, that yoga instructor can send her clientele to the weight loss coach. Figure out how to reciprocate with other busy and successful businesses.

4) Create great content and send it often to your clientele via email and social media. Moreover, ensure that you ASK people to share this content. I once advised a local coffee shop to make short videos on how to make a latte, as well as feature some of their signature lunches. These short videos and blogs will make most people hungry. In reality, this type of content is more likely to inspire them have you provide these creations versus making it themselves. Great content will be shared and this will result in more referrals.

5) Create a contest. For example, the customer who refers the most new prospects to your business will receive a $50 gift card or a certificate for a popular restaurant. I have also seen some brands give points for the number of times their brand was shared via social media. Instructions should give them some sort of incentive for revealing who referred them, such as a discount on products.

Additional Pointers On Referral Program Ideas

The most important thing to keep in mind is that any of your referral program ideas should be useful and relevant to your customer.  Knowing your customer well enough is what makes referral marketing highly effective.

Utilize surveys to discover what matters most to your customers.  For the most part, referral marketing is a matter of doing something memorable, not necessarily expensive. It needs to have some authentic thoughtfulness behind it.  If your customer is referring you, it is because they have already felt a certain trust with your business.  Reinforce that trust and watch the referrals come in.

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