Author's Note: The letter below is intended to represent the types of comments and challenges I hear from enterprise companies that come to Amplifinity seeking a solution for their own company's referral program. This blog is written from the point-of-view of a sales rep who is fictional (lest readers make the assumption that I have directed it to Amplifinity or Amplifinity's stellar marketing team!). ~Bryan Tucker, Amplifinity Sales Exec and Passionate Promoter of Amplifinity's Referal Program Software
To Our Valued Marketing Director at ACME Corporation,
As one of the sales reps at ACME, I am grateful for marketing programs and the people who create them. In fact, I'm tired of all the blogs about the tension between sales and marketing teams. I think you guys work really hard, and I don't think our company would be where we are today if it weren't for you! You fill up my pipeline with leads from your webinars and inbound marketing campaigns, and you help me reignite stalled opportunities with quarterly marketing promotions. You’re helping me and frankly, I wish I could help you more.
So today, I'm offering my help. I want to talk to you about our ACME referral program. What an outstanding initiative you've developed! All good sales people already know the best leads come from current customers referring your business. But now you've created a program to remind us to ask for referrals instead of hoping they just happen. That's great news!
BUT here's the bad news: I'm not promoting your referral program to my customers. Here's why:
1. I’m selfish.
When one of my prospects registers for your webinar, submits a demo request, or calls our sales line, I follow up and it’s easy to do. And I'd be lying if I said that helping them helps me meet my quota. But when a lead comes in as a result of the referral program you're running? If it is my current customer who made the referral, I would like to get some of the credit.
I wish...when one of my customers makes a referral, it would be automatically tracked and routed to me.
2. You never ask.
You invested a lot of time and money getting this program launched, but after the inaugural internal promotion of the program, we never heard another word about it.
Conferences, newsletters, webinars -- we hear a lot about those before and after they happen. So what happened to that referral program you talked about several months ago?
I wish... I was incentivized and actively encouraged to promote the referral program. And I wish there was an easy way to measure my accomplishments without asking you to do more work.
3) It’s a hassle.
One of my current customers clicked-thru one of your referral program promotional emails and he made a referral. When his friend accepted the referral and was routed to the sales department, I was randomly assigned the lead. But it could have just as easily been another sales person in our department who got that lead.
Despite getting that lead, I'm in a predicament. For the past three weeks I’ve been fielding questions from my customer who made the referral. She wants to know the status of the reward she earned through our program. I wish I could help her, but no one in sales knows where to find that information! I have no idea where her reward is.
I wish...that there was an automatic way to update our customers' referral statuses so that their rewards could be delivered promptly. It doesn’t make me or our company look very good when no one can answer what should be a pretty simple question.
As a sales rep, I know that referral leads close quicker and customers that come from a referral tend to buy more.
So, dear marketer, I really do appreciate all you do for me, but could you please help me help you? Find an automated referral program and we will both have less work to do. I'll get more credit for my work, and you'll get more credit for yours! And I’m willing to bet that our customers at ACME will appreciate how organized and efficient we are in serving them and keeping them happy.
Let's talk, ok?
Sincerely, Your Faithful B2B Sales Rep
A guest post by Amplifinity President and CFO, Eric Jacobson
My family has two cats. One is an orange cat. One is a black cat. And we have this weird thing that happens in our house-- my nine year-old son and his buddies like to have Nerf Gun battles, and they shoot these fluorescent orange foam bullets at each other. The bullets end up behind curtains, under sofas - everywhere. The weird thing I mentioned, is that a couple hours after they finish a fight, our orange cat walks mechanically around the house, collects the orange bullets, and deposits them in a specific location - just outside our kitchen. Then he meows repeatedly, at a very specific pitch, sort of like a submarine sonar. My daughter pets the orange cat and tells him he is a good kitty while he picks up the bullets. The black cat watches all of this without helping in any way. The black cat has never retrieved even a single foam bullet.
Having looked at data across many of our clients here at Amplifinity, I can tell you that these cats are a lot like your customers, and my daughter has the right idea. Be good to the black cat, but don't spend too much time trying to get him to do stuff he isn't going to do. Likewise, don’t waste too much money chasing customers who will never advocate for you.
We consistently observe that there will always be a segment of your customers who take on the role of serial brand advocate. These customers will dutifully and tirelessly serve your brand whenever you ask. And like my daughter rewards the orange cat for gathering up the bullets, you need to reward these customers every time they refer a new prospect or advocate for your brand. In fact, once this group gets going, they will become upset if you don’t give them an extra pat on the back. Our orange cat now meows loudly until someone thanks him for retrieving each individual Nerf bullet. Trust me, you don’t want to get a call from an angry customer like him! He might sharpen his claws on your sofa if you forget to show him your appreciation.
At Amplifinity, our data shows that escalating rewards is an excellent means by which to nurture serial brand advocacy. Our software platform makes these types of programs possible, even if it is across thousands or even millions of customers. And, our detailed process flows and integrations make sure that the orange cats get rewarded every time.
Amplifinity's Business Development Manager, Bryan Tucker, blogs about three very scary Referral Program Mistakes companies should never make. email@example.com
As marketers and salespeople, we all know the power and impact of word-of-mouth on our business, yet we still struggle to leverage it. Why? Because it's hard to measure, difficult to systematize, and seemingly impossible to monetize. While these challenges exist in some cases, Amplifinity continues to prove every day that the best way to solve them is through closed-loop referral marketing programs. Before launching another mediocre referral program that will fail to drive meaningful long-term lead volume, consider these three common referral program mistakes:
#1 - Failure to support them with the right systems, processes and strategies
Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce.com said it best: "Although every company knows customer references are important, most companies have a lax approach to managing them." Just like any other marketing program a referral program must be well strategized, tested and continually optimized to ensure peak performance. And when you automate a referral program and take the manual tracking and management aspect out of the equation, the results are even better.
Takeaway? You can't just 'set it and forget it' and expect good, long-term results.
#2 - Lack of executive sponsorship
Typically, a referral program is initiated by an executive and handed off to a junior-level employee to drive - often without the proper knowledge or bandwidth. As a result, the program is launched haphazardly and left to run itself. Sure this method can provide average results, but we all know average isn't gonna' pay the bills.
Takeaway? Referral programs that are continually improved upon - and viewed as long-term acquisition channels have the power to produce just that: ongoing and sustainable customer acquisitions.
#3 - The Black Hole effect
In order to manage lead volume and quality, it's important that every customer, prospect, and sales rep enrolled in the referral program is kept in the loop regarding the status of their referrals and any incentives tied to them. When referrals are made and disappear into a "black hole," engagement plummets, operational costs of managing escalations increase precipitously, and the program loses credibility.
Takeaway? Customers who refer new business to you are your BEST customers. Regular communication and nurturing them results in satisfied, high-producing additions to your company's "sales team."
Do you have a tip for building successful referral programs for your business? We'd love to add them to our blog!
Amplifinity's President and CFO, Eric Jacobson, compares Chinese general Sun Tzu's war treatise to modern-day employee referral programs.
Sun Tzu was a pretty ferocious character. For over 2,500 years, the ancient Chinese general's “Art of War” has been studied by military scholars around the world. Many regard it as the greatest treatise on war strategy ever. In recent decades, business scholars have mined it for business advice, pretending that Sun Tzu was really talking about corporate strategy when he wrote it. Indeed, nearly all of his verses apply to the business world. Except for maybe the ones about dropping fire out of the sky on people. But we’ll skip talking about those.
Today, let’s focus on Chapter II, Verses 16 - 18. As you read the following, do so in a slow loud, growling voice. It helps to understand where Sun Tzu was coming from…
"Now in order to kill the enemy, our men must be roused to anger; that there may be advantage from defeating the enemy, they must have their rewards. Therefore in chariot fighting, when ten or more chariots have been taken, those should be rewarded who took the first. Our own flags should be substituted for those of the enemy, and the chariots mingled and used in conjunction with ours. The captured soldiers should be kindly treated and kept. This is called using the conquered foe to augment one's own strength." -- Sun Tzu, 500BC
That was really awesome. Clearly, Sun Tzu is talking about the importance of incentivizing employee referral programs. Let’s break it down together:
1. Reward your employees when they steal customers from your competitors.
2. Reward your employees when they recruit employees from your competitors.
3. Stealing customers and employees from your competitors will make you even stronger.
That sounds really cool and scary, doesn’t it? The only problem is that when Sun Tzu was around, even a gang of a hundred guys was considered an army. How do you keep track of things when you have thousands of employees and millions of customers to steal? The best solution is to have a software platform like Amplifinity integrated with your CRM system or billing system that keeps track of who is stealing whom. This ensures that customers don’t get lost and that employees always get rewarded when they earn it. Our platform works well for employee recruiting on behalf of human resources too.
So, if you need a software platform for competitive marketing warfare, Amplifinity is the strategy for you. Our software is Sun Tzu on an enterprise scale. We allow employees to reach out across their social networks (online and offline) to nab friends, family members and colleagues from competitors. Check us out at www.amplifinity.com!
Amplifinity's Marketing Director, Theresa Trevor, blogs about the facts and fiction of Brand Advocacy.
Originally published on Wired.com Innovation Insights January 16, 2014
No marketer, brand manager, marketing automation professional or even an advocacy marketing exec would look you in the eye and tell you that they’ve got a no-fail brand advocacy marketing strategy. The development of brand advocacy marketing is still in its infancy, though there is a set of variables generally agreed upon as necessary for success. If marketing was foolproof, Coca Cola would never have spent millions to market New Coke back in the 80s. Walgreens would have immediately rejected the offer to carry Barack Obama Chia Pets on its shelves.
That doesn’t mean that brand advocacy is a precarious use of your time and budget. Far from it. In fact, brand advocacy programs are generating huge ROI and delivering measurable results that far exceed results from traditional marketing initiatives. More importantly, the data that results from running a skillfully developed and implemented advocacy program can shape future marketing efforts in a targeted way that wasn’t possible until now.
So what do we know about brand advocacy?
Brand Advocacy: True or False?
1) A brand should know who their brand advocates are, and to what degree they will advocate on a brand’s behalf before running a brand advocacy program.
Surveys and scores based on a set of variable criteria determined prior to implementing a brand advocacy program are not the best indicators of program success.
Even formulas developed with scientific precision that purportedly reveal who among a brand’s customers will more than likely advocate on its behalf? There are quite simply too many deviations and factors to consider that make such formulaic approaches highly effective at the onset of a program.
The truth is, a brand will miss out on major opportunities to activate hundreds, even thousands of customers who happened to tell you that on a scale of 1-5, they’d recommend your brand only “sometimes.”
Further, it is often the initially uninspired customer who will turn around and become your most passionate advocate when properly motivated or nurtured.
2) Incentives are an effective and profitable way for a brand to nurture its brand advocates and encourage future advocacy.
Whether you’re a lab rat or a consumer, rewards drive fairly predictable behaviors. The truth? If they like, love or are loyal to a brand, consumers will advocate on its behalf, and will appreciate the brand’s token of gratitude when they take time out of their busy schedule to do it.
Have you ever recommended your hair stylist to a friend and, in return, received a reward for a free trim for yourself and your friend next time you both set up an appointment? Did you feel it was a gratuitous reward for what you’d have done regardless of the free haircut? Probably not.
Ever been asked to refer a friend to the same bank you left a few months ago because of its horrible customer service? Did you refer your friends anyways, just for the $100 reward the bank was offering? Your enemies maybe, but probably not your friends. No reward can motivate most customers to refer a friend to a brand that the customer doesn’t actually like.
3) When running a referral program for the first time, if a customer does not respond to your initial request for a referral, the customer should be eliminated from the second wave of the program.
People are busy. And when they’re really busy, they probably won’t respond to your brand’s referral request. But, as life typically goes, those same busy people eventually become less busy at some point. Sometimes the very people who seemingly snub you the first go-round, become passionate and proactive advocates the next go-round. Happens all the time.
The truth is, if your customers or employees or partners really like what you do, they will happily help out your brand. You’ve just got to ask them at the right time and place – and sometimes it takes asking more than once.
Theresa Trevor is the Marketing Director at Amplifinity.
A Guest Post from Amplifinity Intern, Logan Risser
“Would I retweet that?” This simple question should be the driving force behind your influence in the social media market. Ensure your social media content is worth sharing and not just another product ad or shameless plug. As a society we are inundated with advertisements throughout most of our waking hours. According to the BBC, 72% of Americans find banner ads on their phones to be annoying. Instead of adding to that pile, give people something they will appreciate. Create content that is informative and valuable, such as insight from inside your industry or tips and tricks you have learned throughout your work life. You have a platform; use that to provide something useful and not to boast about your products. Show what your business brings to the table in a unique and engaging way that will encourage conversation. Engage in productive conversations with industry leaders in your field. Twitter and other social media sites are the perfect way to connect with not only customers but also industry leaders and specialists.
According to Altimeter Group, 78% of businesses have a dedicated social media team. Do not let those figures intimidate, but rather encourage you. Social media is a powerful tool and it’s rapidly growing.
Amplifinity's CEO and Founder, Richard Beedon, blogs about the evolution of sales best practices for large brands.
Originally published in iMedia Connection, April 2, 2014
There seems to be a consensus that referrals are the best form of leads. They close faster, buy more and stay longer. Exceptional sales people have been generating referrals for what seems like forever.
Until recently, large corporations have struggled to figure out how to scale the success of individual sales reps to systematically and proactively drive large volumes of referrals. But that is all changing as technology is now coming to market that can help large brands automate the best practices of sales reps and institutionalize the process of generating referrals from customers, employees and other people who influence the buying decision.
Good technology systems typically are designed to automate manual best practices. Let’s take a look at key functions that great sales people all tend to have in common:
They build referral channels. The majority of salespeople are excellent networkers. Whether meeting people via the local rotary club, the area chamber of commerce or at the local pub, great salespeople can be very good at telling everyone about what they do – their friends, family, customers, other employees and even strangers. Great salespeople also know that the more people who know what they do, the better the chance of that specific network spreading the word.
They ask their channel for referrals. Most great reps never leave a meeting, business or personal, without asking for a referral – and they are skilled at handling it with a gentle approach. One of the most staggering statistics that I have recently heard is that between 70 percent and 80 percent of all people are willing to refer leads if asked, yet less than 15 percent of individuals and companies ask for them. The great ones ask, and they ask often.
They motivate the channel. Compensation is a great motivator (just ask the majority of the 17 million commissioned sales reps in the U.S.) and many of the great ones build professional referrals networks where they compensate people and companies for leads referred to them that can eventually lead to business. There are both monetary and non-monetary ways to incent people to do things that actually work.
They nurture the channel. They always thank their network for referrals, they compensate their network in a timely fashion for referrals and they keep them in the loop.
The good technology solutions should help replicate and facilitate those processes to “institutionalize” and scale the process of driving referrals. These solutions must:
Make it easy to enroll customers, employees and influencers into the referral program. The idea is to build a referral community.
Provide them with the tools to make it easy to refer.
Track and manage all the workflows so you can measure results.
Automate the process of thanking and nurturing these channels for their contributions so they continue to perform.
While the marketplace is changing at a pace that is liable to cause even the top salespeople to question their sales strategy, there is one thing that will not change. Networking will always be #1 for driving quality leads that must be nurtured, thanked and motivated.
The only real difference today, is that these steps can be completed at a faster, more efficient pace, generating exponentially more leads and closed deals – and enabling the best salespeople to be even better.
CEO Richard Beedon extoles benefits of crowdsourcing leads in today's Yahoo, Small Business Advisor. Some of these benefits?
Beedon writes, "Reaching out to the crowds of people that know and trust you makes good business sense. They are very connected, have a loud and trusted voice, and they can reach their friends easily and often on your behalf."
By utilizing the latest in social marketing software and technology, business leaders can mobilize this channel by creating and leveraging their social relationships to generate great leads and drive new business.
Amplifinity, creators of the Advocacy Management Platform, is growing quickly. We've got several job openings, and we are on the hunt for people who have what it takes to be a part of a team that is driven, undeterred at the idea of venturing out on their own to get things done, and super enthusiastic about being part of a fast moving, energetic tech startup culture.
Amplifinity is located on North Main Street in Ann Arbor, MI, on the Huron River (Do you kayak? Like to trail run? Enjoy sitting by the water to catch a break during the day? That's all available steps outside our front door!). We are a vibrant, eclectic group of people who enjoy what we do, and don't mind taking time to have some fun while we work.
If you want to gain unparalleled professional experience with a company that values everyone's voice, opinions and new ideas, Amplifinity is definitely the place.
Click here for details, or send an email with questions or to request more information!
- The Team at Amplifinity
Amplifinity has been talking a lot lately - for good reasons. We are turning our enterprise clients' brand advocates - their customers, employees and influencers - into powerful sales and marketing channels. Read more about how we are doing it!
"Four Reasons Marketers Should Focus on Brand Advocacy" By CEO, Richard Beedon
"Employees: A New Sales and Marketing Channel"By CEO, Richard Beedon
"Brand Advocacy: Fact or Fiction?" By Director of Marketing, Theresa Trevor