Referral marketing can yield impressive growth when you use the right strategies. People trust their peers more than messages that come from brands, making word-of-mouth advertising the most influential and capable way of attracting the best clients. 

And referral programs certainly aren’t just for ecommerce and B2C. A well-built agency referral program – just like any B2B referral system  – presents a high-value way to acquire new customers with minimal effort. In this post, you will learn how to build a successful referral program for your agency. Whether you are re-visiting this powerful marketing channel or launching your first refer-a-friend program, our guide reveals best practices that will bring the clients to you. 

What is an agency referral program?

An agency referral program is a system that brings new business clients to your agency through recommendations from your existing customers. This marketing strategy transforms previous happy, loyal customers into reliable brand advocates. 

A formalized referral program motivates clients to share your marketing agency, social media agency, staffing agency, or other B2B agency with other businesses that may benefit. Instead of spending your billable hours chasing new clients, embracing referral marketing helps you win more valuable clients by just excelling in your job. 

A referral program rewards existing clients when a business they refer becomes your new client. Incentives such as gift cards, free gifts, or discounts motivate them to promote your services to more businesses. 

With the help of software, a referral system helps agencies easily track referrals that come in and their exact source, making the impact of this marketing strategy measurable. It also rewards new customers, encouraging them to sign up for your services and remain loyal.

converge agency referral program

Why should you start an agency referral program?

The benefits of using a referral program to grow your agency are unmatched. Most marketers agree that referral programs are the second-highest source of quality leads. Below are more reasons to invest in this invaluable marketing channel.  

  • Increases awareness of your agency services: Regardless of whether a lead converts, a referral still builds awareness of your agency services. Stronger brand awareness means earning more market share as you scale up will be easier.
  • Effective for client acquisition: A survey by Nielsen reports that 92% of people trust word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and family over all other advertising forms. New clients are more likely to use your services when close friends refer them.
  • Brings in high-value clients: The primary goal of a referral program is to attract valuable clients who are fit for your agency. High chances are that the referred leads will align with your ideal customer profile, since your existing clients will only recommend businesses that benefit from your services.
  • Has a relatively low client acquisition cost compared to other agency marketing methods: Referral marketing is a cost-effective way to advertise your agency, compared to other marketing systems like traditional online ads. Your marketing expenses can be cut exponentially because this system relies on word of mouth and existing customers. Even better, the cost of referral rewards is fixed, and clients only receive these incentives by performance.
  • Lower risk to use than paid ads: A referral program only requires you to pay for the software, and then only requires you to pay when referrals return results. This presents an extremely low probability of failure when implemented correctly. Paid ads stand a higher risk, as you’ll need to spend blindly and won’t always get ROI.
  • Makes word-of-mouth trackable: Without a way of mobilizing and measuring recommendations, word-of-mouth can be unpredictable and challenging to track. Thanks to referral software, you can create a unique link for each of your existing customers, making it easy to track every referral they send. 
  • Expands your arsenal of marketing channels: Developing a referral program is an invaluable addition to your marketing channels that can take your revenue a notch higher. It provides all the benefits of a paid, owned, and earned channel, all at once: the rapid results of paid media, the control you have over owned media, and the cost-effectiveness of earned media.

Referral software for agencies [Free Tools]

These referral tools for agencies are a free and easy way to help you start your referral program.

Free Tools + Services:

Want a fully automated referral program for your agency business? Run your referral program with us at Referral Rock. Find out how we can build your program with you (and tailor it to your unique needs)

Essentials for a successful agency referral program 

Despite the benefits, not every agency is ready for a referral program. In order for an agency referral program to be successful, you must have the following elements in place before you launch:

  • A healthy network of satisfied clients, who would willingly recommend your agency services – a program can’t thrive without enthusiastic referrers
  • A track record of stellar service to clients – the reason people will want to refer
  • Capacity to handle an influx of new clients, and offer the same stellar service clients have come to expect
  • Knowledge of existing clients:
    • Demographics
    • What made them enroll for your services
    • Why they chose you over competitors
    • How they communicate with their friends
    • Where they get information about your agency
    • What rewards would motivate them to refer new clients
  • A profile of the ideal new client 
  • A strong social media presence where happy customers can engage with you
  • Identifiable positive reviews or comments (online, or made one-on-one when clients have met with you)

Agency referral program best practices

For your agency to create a continual cycle of word-of-mouth marketing, it needs a strong customer referral program strategy. The following referral ideas and practices will help you start a program that lands you the best clients while accelerating your growth. 

Offer meaningful rewards

Rewarding your existing clients is a perfect way of motivating them to make more referrals, while offering incentives to new clients encourages them to use your services. When setting the reward amount, you must ensure the rewards are affordable and easy to pay out consistently, but still worth enough to motivate referrals. 

You can consider offering service discounts to promote retention on both sides. Other referral rewards that work well for B2B stakeholders include gift cards, credits towards a free month of service, personal development opportunities, charitable donations, gift baskets, sales, marketing funds, event tickets, and valuable gifts.

Be sure to reward all successful referrals immediately after a new customer meets requirements, to build trust. Since the agency services are recurring, you may offer bonuses to customers if the businesses they refer continue to utilize them. A good example is when a business pays for another year of services. 

peterson consulting referral program


Know when to ask for referrals

Knowing the perfect time to ask for referrals means that your existing customers are more likely to share your services with good-fit businesses. The absolute best moment to mention referrals is when your clients are happiest. Here are some of the moments to take advantage of.

  • When customers have just paid for your services – you can ask immediately or a few days after. 
  • Once they give positive in-person feedback during your regular conversations with them
  • After they’ve just talked about your agency services to their friends – in person, on social media, or in positive reviews
  • When they post a positive comment or leave a positive review about your services

Make sharing easy

Your referral program should be as straightforward as possible to allow your customers to easily share it with friends. Concisely explain how the program works in just a few steps, and ensure that the reward rules are clear in terms of when the rewards are earned. Is it after the referred client makes the first payment, has been qualified as a lead, or both? 

x agency referral program 3 steps

The process should take as few clicks or taps as possible to find and share. Plus, you should give your clients unique referral links that are easy to copy and paste. Be sure to offer several sharing options, such as email, texting, or social media platforms. This will depend on the channels that most of your clients use to share information with their peers. 

Nonetheless, it would be best if you emphasize social media sharing, as this is where clients naturally share with many peers at once. And since most people use phones to share on social, you must ensure that your program is easy to use on mobile.

Use your referral program page to motivate sharing

Your referral program page should have an eye-catching headline that encourages sharing. It should also highlight how your agency can benefit peer businesses, such as through top-notch services and affordable charges. 

Advertise all the incentives and other benefits of your referral program to attract many customers and include a clear call to action. “Invite Friends” or “Share Now” are great examples.

Create personalized, strategic referral messages

The messages that your referring clients send to their peers can determine whether you gain or lose them. Your business’ first impression is everything, and the referral message makes that first impression on referred leads. Be sure to personalize these messages and make them sound like they are from the referrer. Where possible, you can have the referrer write part of the message. Finally, remember to optimize the message for the channel it is sent on. Emails should feel personal, Twitter messages need to stay short and sweet, and Facebook messages should include a featured image.

Use software to track your referrals

A software is designed to make your work easier, and in this case, it can make tracking referral marketing more effortless. It’s nearly impossible for an agency business to track referrals independently. With the right referral software, you can track the number of referrals coming in and their exact sources, helping you quickly disperse rewards.

Metrics are vital in proving ROI for any marketing effort. The software collects detailed metrics your agency needs to measure its success and refine its program. It also generates automatic referral links that tie referrals back to where they came from while automatically issuing rewards once earned. 

Be sure to choose a software like Referral Rock, designed for B2B needs and advanced enough to run B2B programs, including agency programs.

Promote your program on a variety of channels

Continuously promoting your referral program is critical to ensuring your clients know the benefits of sharing. Regularly post about your program on your business social media account, and send program promotional emails out to your entire client base so that many clients can know about it. 

Other places to promote your program include your website’s homepage, agency portal, newsletters, transactional emails, email signatures, and more. You may also place “refer a friend” options in website headers and footers, or send personal invitations to top clients – say, those who have used your services for a full year. Direct your customers to the program after receiving high ratings on a client satisfaction survey.

Thank clients for referrals

When offering rewards to your clients after a successful referral, it is wise to let them know that you appreciate them. Send them personally written thank you notes whenever their peers sign on for your agency services.

 After all, they are supporting the growth of your client base while contributing to your business success. You might even opt to spotlight referrers publicly, on your website, blog, or social account, as another way to say thanks.

 Don’t be afraid to follow up

It’s okay to follow up with the customers if you don’t get a referral at the key times. Some may have forgotten about it after signing up, and the follow-up ask could be the one to move the needle and yield impressive results. 

Track and measure your success

Tracking your program metrics is critical to ensuring your strategy is a success. It gives you insights in case some areas aren’t performing as per your expectations. Some of the essential performance metrics to track for your agency include:

  • The number of referrals you get over specific periods
  • The percentage of customers who make referrals
  • The percentage of referred friends that ultimately become your clients
  • What is the retention rate of referred clients vs. all clients
  • The lifetime value of referred clients vs. all clients

With this information, you will know whether your program is still competitive within your niche.

Start a referral program that works for your agency

A referral program is a powerful marketing tool that can take your agency to the next level by bringing high-value customers to you. It powers your brand awareness and client acquisition engine, increasing your revenue and promoting your business success.

 Learning how to successfully establish an effective agency referral program is critical. The above practices will help you start a program that will bring clients directly to your door. 

To make your referral process as easy as possible, you need the help of a referral software to automate and track your campaigns. Referral Rock software is designed to help you achieve this with ease. Click here to request a demo and learn how the software works.