In any business operating today, digital marketing strategies are vital for success. Some of these strategies cost more than others and have varying benefits, so where should you focus your energy?
While you should leverage multiple channels, smart companies use referral marketing to scale their business easily and effectively.
We all have networks, and referral marketing helps use the networks of your customers to expand your business. But what exactly is referral marketing and how does it work? Don’t worry, let’s go over all you need to know about referral marketing and SaaS referral programs. To be specific, we’ll cover:
Before you can leverage referral marketing, we should go over what referral-based marketing actually means. It is essentially a form of marketing that utilizes word of mouth and recommendations. Referral-based marketing grows a business’s customer base by leveraging networks of existing customers.
While the definition is simple, customer referral programs themselves take many forms. What they have in common is that they take your loyal and enthusiastic customer base and turn them into brand advocates.
The process of word of mouth and referrals is one that can happen without you doing a thing. Campaigns using this strategy merely influence and encourage this process along.
As we said, referral marketing revolves around the word-of-mouth strategy to gain new customers. It works because people are likely to be influenced by recommendations provided by their friends and colleagues.
Referral marketing provides your customers with easy ways to share your business with their network.
Today, technology makes it easier than ever to use referral marketing. You can use your SaaS website, email, and social media along with a referral tracking system. This system automates many of the steps, like setting up email messages, reward fulfillment, and social media sharing.
Look at how Dropbox promotes its referral marketing program and encourages the use of many different channels:
There are many different types of referral systems you can use. Each comes with their own challenges and benefits. However, each type isn’t mutually exclusive. You can use multiple types across your marketing strategy to meet your business’s needs.
One-way referral marketing campaigns provide your current customers with incentives to refer your business. By exclusively investing in your referrers, you can focus your budget on more enticing incentives for your already loyal customer base.
For some campaigns, this referral marketing strategy can make sense. The referral process is better at catching the attention of your current customers, so they’re more likely to refer your brand to friends and colleagues. You’re also providing them with a more engaging experience that builds long-lasting brand loyalty.
The two-way referral system incentivizes both new users and current customers. It’s also the most common and widely used technique.
Implemented correctly, it leads to more effective onboarding of your potential customers. A successful referral only occurs when the referred customers purchase through or sign up with your company.
This increases the chance of your potential customers moving through the sales cycle. Giving them a good incentive to follow through with the referral leaves them with a positive experience with your company. Providing them with this positive experience is the first step in producing loyal customers and decreasing customer churn.
Using two-way referrals also makes your current customers feel good about referring you to their friends. They can refer knowing that they are giving their network access to a great deal with a company they believe in. Look at how PayPal runs its referral program.
Social media has evolved into one of the most advanced powerful marketing tools at your disposal. Think about the last time you discovered a company had no social media platform. How did you feel about them afterward? Building a social media presence is vital in appearing reliable and relevant to your prospects.
Social referral marketing refers to the process of using your social media platforms to encourage sharing your landing page, social media page, or posts. With shares, likes, and comments, you can have your current customers and followers refer your business and brand to their friends.
Social media referrals can benefit your brand by:
A third-party referral strategy focuses on bringing users to your network from beyond online platforms. In essence, teaming up with a different company or organization (a third party) to get referrals.
This is a less popular option for SaaS products, but has been used successfully with Evernote. Evernote’s system gets referrals through Moleskin. This affiliate program allows people to use a Premium code and earn points.
In the end, it’s not what our customers can do for us, but what we can do for our customers. Most referral marketing strategies use some form of incentive to gain referrals. Some SaaS companies have even used straightforward monetary incentives to gain new customers.
Using cash incentives, gift cards, and products can be a great way to encourage your customers to refer your business to their network.
You can also use influencers to expand your user base. Influencers always require some sort of material incentive to promote companies on their platforms. However, getting someone with a wide base to do your word-of-mouth marketing can be an extremely effective way to promote your business.
In most cases, referral marketing is completely legal. While some professions, like those in medicine, can’t gain incentives by referring their patients to others, for your SaaS company it provides a legal and effective way to promote your business.
However, it becomes illegal if you violate customer privacy. Also, look at your state’s specific regulations about referral marketing. As long as you keep up to date with the latest regulations and handle customer data responsibly, you can reap all the benefits of referral marketing.
A SaaS referral program uses a referral marketing strategy built specifically for software-as-a-service business models. It integrates seamlessly within the user experience to optimize your lead generation.
Because SaaS is an on-demand, cloud-based service, it can operate its referral program entirely online. Users can join a referral program, share their referral link on their platforms, and redeem their rewards seamlessly through the power of the internet.
They work using the types of referrals we’ve already discussed. It engages your existing customers and encourages them to be your brand advocates.
Using a referral program, you will be able to reduce customer acquisition costs and your SaaS customer churn. Plus, if you choose the right referral software, a program can be easy to set up and run automatically.
Now that we know what a referral program for SaaS is, what exactly are its benefits? Consider the following ways you can leverage the perks of a program that encourages your loyal customers to be brand ambassadors.
Acquiring new customers costs money. However, out of all your marketing channels, a referral program allows you to lower your customer acquisition costs (CAC).
But why do referral programs lower acquisition costs? Well, aside from affordable pricing on software and low initial setup costs, they operate on a pay-for-performance marketing strategy.
What that means is that—if you’ve set up the program properly—you only reward (or pay) your referral marketers when they deliver you new customers. If they don’t deliver, you don’t pay.
While other ecommerce sites may have to set a budget for referral marketing, too, because SaaS offers a service, you can offer rewards, like a limited-time upgrade or a free month on their subscription.
Whether you’re a startup or a well-established company, using referral marketing will allow you to boost your positive brand awareness. With a friend program, you are allowing your current customers to brag about your brand.
Customers who may have never considered your brand are now not only aware of your company but also trust it because they heard about it from someone they know.
Because you’re offering an incentive for customers to refer their friends or colleagues, and most likely have an incentive waiting for prospective customers, you’ll have increased, faster, and more reliable conversion rates. Automation of a referral program will also boost your conversion rates.
Prospects no longer have to research to make sure your company is reliable and secure. Your current customers will also know who’ll be interested in your service. The link they give their contacts will send them directly to your landing page or mobile app where they can get started with your service right away.
Using a SaaS referral marketing program is a proven way to increase customer retention and customer lifetime value (CLV).
Referred customers even have a 37% higher retention rate compared to customers who were acquired through other marketing channels. This is even more beneficial considering most SaaS companies run on regular purchases and subscriptions.
With all these benefits, why wouldn’t you leverage the power of a referral marketing program?
The next step is to set aside some of your marketing budget and start developing a fail-proof program. Here are the steps you should take to get your program running.
For your customers to refer your product to others, you need to have an amazing service. You may get some initial buzz from incentives and rewards, but customers won’t become brand advocates unless they trust and like your SaaS product.
Use customer relationship management (CRM) software to track your performance and overall customer satisfaction. Make sure your customers are satisfied with both the product and customer support they receive.
Also, research your online reviews and utilize customer feedback. If there are areas you can improve, make sure you take steps to make the changes that will make your company and product better.
The happier you can make your customers before and after the implementation of your marketing program, the more successful it will be.
There’s a lot of different ways you can implement a SaaS referral program. Look at templates and different models to decide what you want your program to look like and offer. It can be helpful to think of your referral message as an elevator pitch. Keep it short and simple.
Your customers should know immediately what’s being offered and what they have to do to redeem it. Look at Wise’s referral program. In bold letters, customers know exactly what they need to do to earn the cash incentive on offer.
At this point, you should also consider what tools you’ll need for your referral model and if there’s an API you can use to allow your CRM and marketing tools to communicate with each other. This will make your program function more smoothly.
Making your incentive clear and simple doesn’t mean you can skip out on outlining your terms and conditions. You want to explicitly state whether you’re offering a referral bonus for every friend they refer or only upon successful referrals.
In addition, you want to state who is eligible for a referral incentive and whether or not there’s a limit on the number of bonuses they can earn. It may be a good idea to run your terms and conditions past your sales, marketing, and legal team to make sure the verbiage and content cover all your bases.
When asking for a referral, timing is everything. You need to make sure that your target audience is at the point in their customer journey that they can advocate for your product.
If you ask too early, they may not have received enough experience with your company. If you ask too late, they may be less interested in doing the work to promote your product. You need to decide what time is best for your company to optimize your SaaS marketing.
But when exactly is the best time? Well, here are some suggestions:
Now it’s time to promote your referral program. Having a referral program doesn’t mean that people will know it’s an option. You need to promote it regularly through all your marketing channels, including email and social media.
Finally, you need to be able to track and measure the results of your referral program. When you’re setting up your program, you need to decide what metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) you want to track.
Some metrics you may want to consider tracking are:
From there, you can track KPIs and find actionable ways to improve your SaaS referral program.
Now you have all the tools you need to start implementing a SaaS Referral Program in your company. Remember, referral marketing is an easy and effective way of making brand advocates out of more of your customers. It will increase conversions and lead to overall better sales.
Using this marketing strategy, along with others like content marketing and search engine optimization (SEO), you expand your reach and gain a better online presence. The best way to reach your customers is through the communication channels they use: Their friends and colleagues, and the internet.
If you want to learn more about how you can improve your online presence through SEO and content marketing, talk to our team at Accelerate or set up a consultation today!
Nick Brown is the founder & CEO of accelerate agency, a SaaS SEO agency. Nick has launched several successful online businesses, writes for Forbes, published a book and has grown accelerate from a UK agency to a company that now operates across US, APAC and EMEA and employs 160 people. He was also once charged at by a mountain gorilla