eCommerce Insiders

Referral Programs: A Win-Win Revenue and Incentive Marketing Plan

Referral marketing, otherwise known as “word of mouth marketing” creates a win-win scenario for everybody.

Your company will acquire new shoppers without having to drain its marketing and advertising resources.

Eager, loyal shoppers will gladly share their enthusiasm about your brand with their inner-circle.

And that inner-circle will likely appreciate gaining access to some of their friend’s favorite products, and services.

All of this sounds great, but there’s a key resource that your online store will need in order to implement a successful referral program: brand ambassadors.

According to the Houston Chronicle’s work section, a brand ambassador is defined as a person who:

…Help(s) marketing and sales managers increase brand value by representing the brand to target customers.

While in many cases, a brand ambassador is a celebrity spokesperson, a brand ambassador can also be a consumer who is a self-proclaimed brand loyalist.

The question is, how can your company attract your own personal tribe of brand ambassadors? How can you earn referrals from your ambassadors? Consider the following tips to get you on the right track:

Be the Company Ambassadors Want to Represent

One of the most simplistic ways to attract eager shoppers who act as self-appointed brand ambassadors is by presenting your brand in its best light.

It should go without saying, but offer shoppers excellent customer service. From the moment they open your website to the time they speak to an operator on the phone, your reputation is on the line. Make sure your company is pulling out all the stops to “wow” your shoppers.

If your company offers brick and mortar retail shopping options, then your online brand should be cohesive with your offline brand, too. In addition, make sure that your email marketing media is enticing and welcoming.

If your marketing team produces content for social media, then make it entertaining and “share-worthy”. Did you know that viral videos are actually a form of referral marketing?

Think about it: A few people thinks that the content of a video is so noteworthy, they share it with others, and a movement takes place with the purpose of sharing the content message of the video. Why can’t your marketing team create the next hot viral video?

Finally, make sure that your mail packaging is as attractive as possible, especially if your company sells product subscription packages. Start brainstorming ways that your brand can become irresistible – people love sharing irresistible finds with their friends.

Befriending Bloggers Boosts Your Brand

Another time-tested way for your company to gain customer referrals is by forming relationships with targeted bloggers. But, finding the right bloggers can be a challenge. How do you find bloggers who are great writers, produce content in your product niche, and are great representatives of your brand?

One free tool to use is Google Alerts. Set a Google Alert with keyword phrases that pertains to your product, brand, or company name. This will allow you to see where relative types of content is being posted, and then you can learn about bloggers who are writing the content you need.

Reach out to the bloggers, and propose to them an incentivized content posting relationship. You can pay your bloggers a negotiated revenue fee or percentage when:

  • They post an affiliate link on their site, and site visitors make purchases via the link
  • They send a pre-negotiated number of sales leads to your site
  • They create sponsored content on their site to get readers to learn more about your products, or services

Also, you can ask the blogger for guest posting privileges, and produce posts directed at the blog’s readership. No matter what strategy you use, you’ll gain access to an eager fan-base of potential new customers.

Dangle Referral “Carrots”

One of the most common phrases in sales is “What’s in this for me?” Answer that question by creating straightforward referral rewards programs.

For example, you could create a program where a referrer will be awarded store credits after their referred friend makes a store purchase. You could also sweeten the deal by rewarding the friend with a new shopper discount on their first purchase.

Referral programs are a great way to allow excited brand customers take on some of your company’s marketing tasks, while allowing your brand to be introduced to new shoppers. Your company earns more revenue, and the referrers earn incentives.

After all, what’s not to love about a win-win situation?

* Photo courtesy of

Terri Scott

Terri is a content marketing storyteller and strategist. She teaches marketing and entrepreneurship through stories for marketers of all stripes. Her specialty is creating narrative and she writes essays and memoir in her spare time. You can view her work at, and she’d love to hear from you on Facebook.

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