A referral email campaign can be a great way to generate new leads and grow your email list. But, many companies find that getting a referral program to actually deliver isn’t easy. So, we asked for some referral email-marketing tips from Andy Cockburn, co-founder and CEO of Mention Me—a company with a referral platform and excellent track record for successfully optimizing the online referral channel.
Case Study Shows How Optimization of Referral Campaigns Can Lead to Success
“Referral is a great channel,” Cockburn explains, “but it’s not easy to get it right.” When businesses do get it right, they can expect to get an increase of between 10% and 25% in customer acquisition from optimized referral marketing.
Based in the United Kingdom, Mention Me has one of Europe’s fastest growing flower retailers as a client. Cockburn cites this company as a good example of referral marketing success. Within 6 months of working with Mention Me, the flower retailer was obtaining more than 15% of its new customers through referral, and over the first 9 months, the referral rate increased 12-fold. In addition, 45% of this client’s referred customers have gone on to become referrers themselves—illustrating how successful referral programs gain momentum and flourish.
To achieve this degree of email success takes a lot of testing and optimization of elements such as incentives, email creative, and where in the customer journey referral offers are shared. An example of this was a test they ran around the messaging of incentives. Although the value of the offers was similar, a simple change to the flower retailer’s offer description—from “give your friends £10 off” to “let your friends send flowers for £20” —increased the referral share rate by 30%.
6 Tips for Optimizing Your Referral Email Campaigns
As you look to increase the email performance results of your referral email campaigns, check out these tried-and-true optimization tips we’ve summarized from our interview with Mention Me’s Andy Cockburn:
- Be sure the referral email offer stands out next to other new-customer offers available. If the introductory reward that customers can offer their friends is less valuable, or even the same as other new-customer offers, referrers simply won’t share. “They want to feel like they’re able to give their friends something better, or at least different, by introducing them,” says Cockburn.
- The referral email offer must also make customers look good in front of their friends. Brands often make the mistake of focusing on the referral reward and user experiences, but fail to think through the psychology of the interaction that is actually at the heart of the referral. “The best results occur when the marketing team manages to get into the heads of their customers,” Cockburn observes, “and reflect the motivation at the heart of the referral.” In other words, customers won’t take the social risk of referring if they perceive that either the offer or the message makes it look like they are spamming or profiting from their friends.
- Allow the referral email to occur naturally. Setting up referral programs so customers can share reward links and codes with friends may be a straightforward technology for companies to implement, but it’s not a natural way for people to make a recommendation. For example, Mention Me sets up a natural sharing scenario by allowing new customers to mention the referring friend’s name at checkout in order to claim their reward. In this way, referrals can happen “naturally” in real conversations among friends. “Mirroring customers’ natural sharing behaviors makes a big difference to referral,” says Cockburn, “and between 30% and 40% of Mention Me clients’ referrals come from this type of name sharing.”
- Promote email referrals at “points of delight.” When are your customers happiest and most engaged with your company? Right after they’ve made a purchase or just signed up to get your emails. So, the post-purchase page and confirmation email are two of the best points in the customer journey to promote your referral program. According to Cockburn, under-promoting referral programs is a classic mistake: If the referral link is hidden in an email footer or in a small panel on a company’s website, even the greatest referral programs won’t deliver.
- Keep in mind the nuances for B2B versus B2C email referral programs. Because of the potential conflicts of personal versus business motives, the B2B psychology of referral programs differs from B2C. So, offering a high-value personal incentive may not maximize B2B referrals because some people are opposed to profiting personally from a business referral. Even so, a business-related incentive may not be valuable enough to motivate a referral. Mention Me has found that offering charitable donations as rewards tends to work well in driving B2B referrals.
- Test and optimize everything. When it comes to online referral programs, optimization is more complicated compared to typical promotional email campaigns. For example, companies must ensure that customers and their referrals get the offer they were promised—at every step of the referral program—even if the offer has changed through the optimization process. Mention Me performs A/B testing by cohort to help deliver a consistent experience for referral program users.
Looking to optimize the opens, clicks, and conversions of all your emails, including referral campaigns? Contact the email-marketing experts at FulcrumTech, and we’ll help you develop and implement a winning email strategy to generate more leads, build your email list, and grow revenue for your business.