Operation Share the Love – Referral Marketing Case Study

referral program About six weeks ago I was brainstorming with a client about increasing the volume of inbound leads they received. They have a healthy customer base most of whom are reasonably happy. Building a referral program quickly rose to the top of the to do list. Without spending too much effort considering timelines we decided Valentine’s Day would be the perfect time to launch Operation Share the Love.

With less than six weeks to get the program launched we immediately put a plan in place. The program had to meet the following criteria:

1. Be simple to administrate

2. Cost less than $4,000 to execute

3. Launch by February 14th

Our initial efforts were quite traditional. We read through lots of example referral programs, interviewed several customers and outlined points based reward systems that would earn a wide range of discounts, free training, charitable donations and prizes. Then we did a reality check against the above goals.  It turns out our original plans would break the bank,and  more importantly require a complex points based workflow that would need to be monitored and explained. Time to reboot!

With time ticking away we built a simple referral program that met our initial criteria:

  • Spark excitement – The top 200 clients (defined by revenue) were segmented into a physical mailing list. We bought giant Hershey kisses and did a simple mailing. Along with the Hershey kiss we put a tag on the box that said we loved their organization and gave a URL to the share the love website. Mailings were sent 7 days before Valentine’s day via regular post.
  • Be friendly – The balance of customers were sent a friendly email message on Valentine’s day wishing them well and encouraging them to “share the love”.
  • Make participation easy – Participating is easy. All we were asking for was an introduction to their peers. With a simple click from the landing page participants are brought to an email message that opens within their email system. The message is already written and our team copied to make tracking a breeze. They could customize the message to make it more personal should they desire but no significant effort is required.
  • Offer incentives – To encourage participation we offered each program participate a simple incentive. Every time they make an introduction they are entered to win one of three prizes. But we also went a step further. We gave participants a discount code (time based) that they would be passing along to their peer. That way they were getting something (a chance to win a prize) but also giving something (a discount code) as well.
  • Create urgency – entries to win the prizes are only valid for the next five weeks.
  • Cover the logistics – Putting out a great program is part of the challenge but you also have to make sure we’re communicating thoughtfully to the right clients. We made contest rules easy to find, suppressed clients from the mailing who we knew were not happy and worked with sales to map out how we would treat the referral introductions.

18 hours after launch we already have 20 introductions and a demo request! The test of time will determine our true return on investment but from where I’m standing the program is off to a GREAT start.

Let the lovin’ continue!

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