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The Best Referral Program for Your Direct Sales Business

Referrals are the lifeblood of every multi-level company. Depending on how the company you represent is structured, you may need to generate more than one type of referral. Usually, when we think about referrals we’re thinking about a customer’s word-of-mouth or electronic recommendation for your goods or services, like a testimonial, an email, a social media post, or a quote published online. However, there is an additional referral in the world of direct sales which includes people who are referred to join your team and sell for you. Both are valuable and necessary for a healthy, thriving network marketing business.

You need referrals. Luckily, there are literally thousands of creative methodologies that you can employ to keep referrals heading your way. But, not every one of those methods is guaranteed to work for your business. With limited resources, how do you find the referral programs that are worthy of your time and energy? First, look at your customer journey.

What is a Customer Journey?

A customer journey is a metaphorical journey made by a hypothetical customer as they connect with your business, detailing the interactions and proposed emotions they experience along the way. Studying your customer journey will help you gain a better understanding of how your customers travel through the sales process. This information can be used to improve the results of your touch-points or future interactions. Customer journey mapping can reveal a wealth of opportunities for improving your customer experience and, to the point of this article, also help you identify the best methods for getting more referrals.

Find the Opportunities

There are a few really cool online tools that can help you map out your customer journey, like Milkymap. But you don’t really need a complicated tool to plot out your customer journey, a simple paper and pen — make that a pencil with an eraser — will get the job done. Customer journeys should be developed from the customer’s point-of-view, again it’s most helpful to use your “ideal” customer. If you have several customer segments you should complete a customer journey map for each one. If none of your current customers are ideal, you can even create a customer journey for the clients you want to have in the future, as opposed to the ones you’re getting now.

Organize your customer journey maps by the marketing and sales funnel stages your customers typically pass through. For instance, every business is unique, but most customers go through the following stages:

  1. Discovery
  2. Exploration
  3. Comparison
  4. Evaluation
  5. Purchase
  6. Retention
  7. Referrals

You can also build a customer profile to better define the target audiences for your referral messages. You can use this free customer profile template to help identify the most important characteristics of your ideal buyer persona. This information can help you understand your customers’ needs and how you can help them solve them, which can lead to more referrals. Completing a customer profile can help you identify new opportunities to connect with your target audience. See the example below and then build your own.

Customer Profile Template Example

Create a Plan to Maximize Your Opportunities

Let’s circle back on the sales and marketing funnel and make note of the final step: Referrals. Referrals don’t happen until the very end?! Yes, and there’s a good reason why. Imagine if you walked into a business and before you could make a purchase they asked you for a referral. Your response might be “For what?”, and your customers will feel the same way. It’s difficult to recommend a business before they have completed your service or provided a product. We usually wait until the end of the transaction to form our opinion.

For this reason, businesses must strive to leave a positive impression during each phase of the customer journey. If you fail to delight your customers you will most likely not receive a referral. If you wait until the end of your customer journey to think about referrals, you’ve most likely waited too long.

Automate as Much as Possible

After you have plotted your customer journey, look for ways to improve your customer experience to ensure that your service is worthy of recommending. Next, look for opportunities to ask for referrals, but try to automate the process as much as possible. When you create automated referral requests you will receive more referrals because you will consistently ask every customer.

How and where you ask for referrals matters as well. After a purchase has been made you should plan multiple automated calls-to-action to generate the most referrals. Ultimately, the best time to ask is when your customers are ready to give a glowing review of you, your products, and your customer service.

Top Automated Referral Opportunities

1. Order thank you page

2. Shipping confirmation email

3. Delivery confirmation email

4. Order-tracking pages

5. Follow-up emails

One of the best ways to keep the referrals rolling in is to make sure that your customers have a positive experience. You can thank your referrals while also promoting your current products and services to encourage future sales. A free item or a discount offer is a great way to reward and encourage referrals. Create offers like a “15% Discount for Every Referral” and/or “A Free Gift for Every Referral” and include them in your automated messaging. 

Customize Your Plan for Your Customer Segments

Regardless of the best practices, there really aren’t any hard and fast rules when it comes to asking for referrals. Different customer segments may require a completely different approach to referrals. For instance, new customers will follow the profile described above. They will want to wait until the end of the transaction before making a referral. However, your returning customers may be ready and willing to make a referral at any stage during the customer journey. The most important thing to remember when you’re planning a referral program is to create a program that matches your brand and flows seamlessly within your customer experience.