If you’ve had any experience with referral marketing programs, you know there are a lot of steps that take place. Promoting the program, signing up new customers, tracking referrals and sales, sending out rewards – and the cycle repeats.
Thankfully, referral automation can help make the entire process much easier. Referral marketing automation uses software to perform routine tasks and run processes instantly. After an initial setup for any conditions and rules you need, a referral platform will do most of the legwork for you.
From inviting customers to join your program to sending them their reward after every successful sale, an automated referral program can easily streamline your marketing efforts and scale your business.
What is referral marketing automation?
Referral marketing automation (or referral automation) uses software to instantly perform routine tasks in your program.
A few of the commonly automated tasks include email marketing, member approvals, sales or CRM integrations, reward payouts, and more.
After an initial set up to map out how your program should run, referral automation tools will streamline the entire process.
Moreover, all these automations happen behind the scenes, so your customers have a seamless experience.
How do you automate referrals?
There are so many ways to automate your customer referrals. But before you jump straight into the software, it’s best to first list down all the steps or actions that take place in your program. Which of these actions happen repeatedly?
For example, do you always give customers a $20 gift card for every referral? Do you send monthly email updates to all program members? These repeat actions are perfect candidates for automation.
Once you have a list of actions to automate, you need to decide what will trigger these actions. Continuing from the examples above, a trigger for rewards could be any time a referral makes their first purchase. Emails can be written ahead of time and then scheduled to be sent on the first of every month.
By defining the actions you want performed, and the triggers that cause each action, you can automate referrals for your business.
What are the types of referral automations
Some businesses have a complex system with multiple referral rewards tiers. Other startups or small businesses run simpler programs that offer the same incentive for everyone. No matter how your referral campaign runs, there are several types of referral marketing automation you can apply:
1. Promote your referral program
Do people know about your customer referral program? As with most marketing efforts, the more people know about it, the more successful it will be.
Continuously promoting your referral program is infinitely easier with automation. Instead of individually reaching out to every customer to tell them about your program, you can schedule an email or text message to send right after they’ve made a purchase.
If you also maintain a blog where you post updates about your program, you can use referral marketing automation to repost those updates on your social media channels.
Referral automation example: The easiest ways to automate your promotions are through emails, text messages, or social media. Referral software can easily integrate with your email service provider (ESP) to send a dedicated message.
Or you may already have an existing template, such as a confirmation or thank you message, where you can add in a banner in the header or footer promoting your referral program.
Text messages work in the same way, except it’s advisable to create a separate message for your referral program. Customers are usually looking for quick and catchy messages while on mobile, and may just scroll past any message that includes your referral program at the very end.
2. Adding customers to your program
One of the reasons why automated referral programs work so well is because of its network effects. Customers share your brand with their family and friends, who then become customers and share to their family and friends, and so on.
Referral marketing automation allows you to grow your network by giving customers an easy way to sign up, no matter what channel they’re on.
Referral program automation example: Setting up any (or all!) of the following automations can simplify the way customers participate in your referral program:
- After a purchase or signup: Set up an automation that adds customers to your referral program after a specific action, like when a purchase is made or they sign up for a free trial.
- After opting into an email list: By integrating with your email service provider (ESP), you can add customers to your referral program whenever they sign up for a newsletter list.
- After a form is completed: If people are already signing up for one of your webinars or filling out a survey, you can set up the “Submit” button as a trigger to add that person as a member of your referral program.
Alternatively, you can also import a list of customer contacts directly into your program. Many marketing tools will also offer segmentation features so you can easily search and filter through all your customers.
Say, you send out an NPS survey to determine the best customers who are already willing to refer others to your brand. You can then take the customers who gave you the highest scores and use referral marketing automation to add them to your program.
3. Maintain customer referral data across all platforms
Accurate customer and sales records are the backbone of any referral program. Not having to manually update or input every new piece of information across all your platforms is enough reason to automate this process.
Plus, automation will not only sync all new data without you having to lift a finger, it also reduces the likelihood of human error or duplication.
Referral marketing automation usually runs by adding a conversion pixel or by integrating referral software with your existing tools, such as CRM or email marketing platforms. Then, when you need to contact any customers or review your program performance, you’ll have all the data points you need on hand.
Here are some ways we recommend to automate your referral data:
- Track where customers sign up for the program (landing page, through email, etc.)
- Track the mediums used to refer others (shared referral links, social media platforms, email messages, etc.)
- Update total referrals per customer based on specified triggers or events
- Update total rewards a customer has earned
- Create new contacts in your CRM for every referred customer
Referral program automation example: Track every referral as they move along their journey to become a customer. You can set an automation to simultaneously add every referral as a new lead or contact in your CRM.
As the referral moves along to become a customer, their record will be updated with any new information as it becomes available, and a reward will automatically be sent to the customer who referred them.
4. Continue communication with program members
You may find customers need to be reminded of your program every once in a while. People are busy and unfortunately, your referral program can get easily forgotten.
If a customer hasn’t been active for a long period, it may be a good time to send a reminder email or notification.
You can also schedule a message that goes out to all members every month or quarter, which includes their current referral rewards and any new marketing campaigns they might be interested in.
Even if you already have a marketing strategy in place, sending a friendly reminder (on occasion) allows you to keep in touch with individual customers.
Referral program automation example: Use an email service provider to send a quick message to members who haven’t been active in a certain period of time.
Or if a customer hasn’t logged into their account or a member portal for a while, you can trigger a popup notification to remind them of your referral program. If you highlight the reward incentive, for example, $25 off their next purchase, it may even persuade them to refer right away and receive the reward toward their next purchase.
5. Send out referral rewards
Most referral programs issue rewards. For a business, that means having to do more than just add data to a sheet. They actually have to track and fulfill rewards too.
Running a referral program shouldn’t be difficult, but manually sending our rewards can quickly become time-consuming. Automating reward fulfillment can save you time and create a much more efficient process.
Referral program automation example: There are a lot of ways you can automate reward fulfillment, depending on your referral program needs.
- Issue a reward in real-time to customers after a successful referral
- Issue rewards according to a schedule, for example after a set waiting or verification period
- Batch together rewards to send in bulk on a specific date
- Integrate with a tool that sends digital rewards for you
- Track any time a store coupon is used through a unique code
- Send a catalog reward link to your program members so they can choose their reward
Considerations when looking for referral program automation
There are many automated referral program solutions to help you manage the entire process, from promoting the program to distributing rewards. The three main considerations are to find a solution that:
- Integrates with your existing workflow and software stack
- Can easily automate all the steps of your referral program
- Includes a dashboard and reports that offer a clear view of your referral program performance
Aside from those, you want a solution that’s easy to use and can change as your referral program evolves. This will not only make it easy for your marketing and sales teams, but also gives a seamless sharing experience for your existing customers and their friends.
Final thoughts on referral marketing automation
Referral programs are a great way to foster loyal customer relationships, show appreciation for their efforts, and grow your business through word-of-mouth marketing.
While this sounds like a lot, referral marketing automation can help to streamline the entire process.
A dedicated referral software tool will take care of all the routine steps for you, and even integrate into your existing workflow. By eliminating much of the manual work, you can focus on giving the best experience for your customer base.