You’ve come to read up on how to optimize your referral marketing campaign, but first, let’s start with a few questions:
- When was the last time you were contacted by a new prospect who said she was referred by one of your existing clients?
- Do you actively encourage your existing clients to spread the word about your services?
- Do you know if each and every client is happy with your services?
- Can you state with confidence that every client would happily refer your company to others?
- What would you do if you discovered that an existing client was so unhappy with your services that he was actively telling others to steer clear?
These are tough questions that every MSP — every business — has to confront at some point. It’s often the case that — by virtue of human nature — we focus on the trumpeting and accolades and block out the negativity.
But most prudent organizations have some sort of referral marketing campaign, and the very first step in developing a referral campaign is to understand — in painstaking detail, turning over every stone — exactly what any and every (not one or some) client would say about you if asked “is [your company] worth the time and investment?”
Regardless of the name — word-of-mouth, viral, buzz or referral marketing campaign (there are nuances among them, but they’re all hewn from the same piece of lumber) — we know it works. But getting your clients to say glowing things about you requires one critical component.
They have to love you.
Customer happiness means more business for you. That means you have to do your job and make them — all of them — happy. But how will you know if they’re happy? It’s a simple task to ask if you have just a handful of clients; but if you have dozens, hundreds or thousands of them, monitoring and tracking their ongoing satisfaction levels becomes more complicated.
The More You Know
Companies — and there are more of them than we care to admit — tend to put a hard stop on the journey when a prospect becomes a customer. The prospect-to-customer journey can be regarded as an adversarial one, with organizations often treating prospects as adversaries that need to be swayed — wined and dined if you will. They track every move prospective customers make. But once a prospect becomes a customer, organizations consider the new customer an ally, pat themselves on the back, and close the books on that one. Time to work on the next one.
Anyone who understands how important existing customers are to a business’ financial health realizes that’s a dangerous game. A customer may be a customer now, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn anything by tracking their journey and use the knowledge we’ve gained to acquire new customers.
Knowing about your customers and the level of satisfaction they nurture for your company is your responsibility. You own it. Knowing more about your customers’ thoughts and experiences is an even greater responsibility because there are levels of knowledge and you’d be surprised just how often organizations miss the point or ask the wrong questions.
A greater understanding of your customers and how they regard your organization will help you craft your message and shape your referral marketing campaign. It will also allow you to trigger word of mouth referrals at the ideal time in the customer journey. And make no mistake: it is a journey.
Recognize the Triggers
Because the customer experience with your company is a journey, you can gain an understanding of your customers and their satisfaction levels by recognizing triggers. Triggers can be emotional states — happy, angry, confused, and so on — and they can be event-based — a special event, a milestone, a significant win, and so on.
The latter are a bit easier to recognize. Event-based triggers can be a birthday or anniversary, signing a thousandth client, reaching a million hits…you get the point. These are somewhat predictable, and you can use these events to leverage the first kind of trigger — emotions.
An email blitz to your customers thanking them for being a loyal partner after you’ve signed up your 10,000th client, for example, breeds positivity and confidence. If you’re growing, that normally suggests that you’re successful, and success can be contagious and encouraging.
Technology to the Rescue
But that’s not enough. Predictable events and milestones are good, but they’re obvious and therefore don’t require too much attention. You ensure that when events occur that your client base knows it. It’s the classic push model where you push a message out to your base. It’s reactive and mostly mechanical.
The pull model is more of an art form. You need to be predictive and proactive. You need to discover the ideal times for a trigger, and that’s where technology comes in. With technology you can track customer progress and identify trends in their moods and actions. You can then use that data to implement an optimized referral encouragement strategy.
Customer Journey Mapping
A customer journey map is a complete visualization of the customer journey, from prospect (initial contact) to sale (becoming your customer) to success (ongoing relationship). Think of it as a story, with the ending being the cliché “they lived happily ever after.”
Customer journey maps can vary in how they tell the story. It may tell the story of a broad experience, or it may focus on a particular part of the journey. However your map chooses to tell the story, it has to zero in on the all-important interactions between you and your customers, and it has to identify those all-important emotional triggers we discussed earlier.
Ultimately, a customer journey map must identify a customer’s expectations, needs, goals, and motivations, and the data you collect can be used to form these elements.
How Does it Work?
The shrewd MSP can utilize client experience data to identify the points — the milestones — in the buyer journey when clients are most satisfied and therefore most likely to provide a referral. Technology helps you harness those opportunities.
In order to determine where in the journey customers are most likely to make a referral, you need to collect data from companies that are already customers. A referral marketing campaign can then be shaped and refined from the data.
Data collection leading to well-executed referral marketing campaigns has several touchstones:
- Data collection can be accomplished through CRM systems — sales and customer service representatives collect customer feedback throughout the customer journey and record it in the system
- Data will tell you exactly when a customer changes spending habits, increases their service, adds new solutions, or upgrades to more a robust service; increased spending means trust, satisfaction, and even increased confidence — a good time to encourage your customer to provide referrals
- When a customer cancels services, reduces spending or closes an account outright, it’s incumbent on your organization to understand the reasons why. Don’t be afraid to ask them. If it’s a result of your service and/or costs, you can use that data to identify patterns, reduce the risk of losing existing or future customers, and you may even be able to convince the customer to remain
- Track customer referrals — when a customer makes a referral, you must know about it. There’s a two-tier approach here: first, broadcast to your customers (with a megaphone) that you value referrals. Second, remember to always ask new leads how they heard about you!
- Use all this data to modify your customer journey map (it’s supposed to evolve)
- Identify the points in the journeys of all your customers when they’re most likely to provide referrals
- Use every available piece of data to build and optimize your referral marketing campaign; then use that to leverage an automated customer contact technology — email drips, educational resources, cost-savings literature, and so on
Best of all: the data you collected to create customer journey maps empowers you to create content that will trigger referrals from customers, because it tells you exactly WHY they are referring!
The Secret to a Successful Referral Marketing Campaign
We’ve saved the best for last. The secret to powerful, earth-shattering, mind-blowing referral marketing campaigns is simply this: stop thinking of customers as numbers. Stop thinking of them as revenue targets. Stop thinking of them as problems that need solving.
Start thinking of them as your company’s evangelists.
Now, watch your business grow.
At TPM, we’re big evangelists for our clients. We want you to succeed because your success means we did a good job. We offer turnkey solutions that fit into your marketing campaigns like a hand in a glove. If you’d like to know how we can turn your dreams into success, contact us today.