By Josh Ledgard
Okay, so you got someone to your site, they signed up for your beta, and they’ve even started using it. Woo hoo! Success, right?
Hold your horses, cowboy…
While it’s certainly good that people are taking an interest in your start-up, you’ve overlooked a critical element of the conversion process: Getting referrals.
Word of mouth is the most powerful form of marketing available to you. Think about when a friend or colleague whose opinion you value recommends something to you…
How much more likely are you to act on that recommendation? It could be for a new movie, a local restaurant, or a car dealership. That third-party endorsement from a happy user you trust carries a lot of weight.
It’s the difference between a runaway blockbuster smash hit and a fizzer that spends one weekend at the box office before being quietly shuttled to DVD purgatory.
I don’t want that to happen to your great idea so…
What are you doing to get the users of your product or service telling their friends?
Here are seven tips to increase the likelihood of your users putting the word out on your behalf.
You need social share buttons in obvious – but non-obtrusive – places and the actual process needs to be smooth as silk or it’s all over. No one is going to jump through hoops to tell the world about you, but if you’re truly remarkable and you make it easy for people to spread the word, they will!
We all yearn to be part of something meaningful, worthwhile and bigger than ourselves.
So let’s say your goal is to get 10,000 customers by next month. Tell your customers; if they like you and the way you’ve positioned your cause, they’re very likely to help you achieve your goal – or at least go a long way to doing so.
At the very least, email anyone you notice sharing the love and genuinely thank them! If you have their mailing address (because they’re a customer), hand write a personal note from you, the Founder, and pop it in the post. Do you think that would have a positive impact?
Reach out to your first 1,000 customers personally and find out if they’ve told anyone who might be interested. If not, find out what it would take to get them to do so.
This might sound rather tedious, but you’ll learn very decisively what you need to do (or do better) to earn this kind of recommendation organically. The fact is, most of what you do to get your name out there will fail whereas we both know personal recommendations work. So tedious it might be, but it’s also a very effective way to uncover things about your market you probably don’t yet realize.
Hundreds of thousands of companies use refer-a-friend rewards programs and you can, too. An example is how Netflix adds free months to your account when you sign up a friend using your unique referral code.
Yes, it requires specialized programming skills – or the willingness to outsource the job to a reliable web developer – but the return on investment could potentially be very large if a lot of people get on board and start recommending your product or service.
A variation of the previous tip is to hold a tell-a-friend contest, where the customer who generates the most referrals (paid or trial, that’s up to you) within a designated time period wins a prize. Make the prize relevant to your customers’ interests as well as worth the effort. A common prize for these kinds of competitions at the moment is an iPad.
Be sure to keep extolling the benefits of your product or service to your existing customers. Remind them every week what tremendous value they’re getting and all the ways their life is now easier as a result… “And, uh, by the way, shouldn’t you be telling all your friends about this unparalleled awesomeness? Yes, you’re right; you should! Here’s how…”
So the basic thrust is to focus on treating your first wave of customers like royalty, making sure they receive truly remarkable service and reaching out to them personally; make it easy for people to share the message; remind people regularly without being obnoxious; and then start working on how to scale that and amplify your communication using the voice of your happy customers.