- Automating your referral program with software makes it easier to run and scale versus running a manual program.
- By integrating with your existing tools, referral software can automate program promotion, referral tracking, data sync, and reward fulfillment.
- Look for tools that can trigger rewards through actions in your CRM or e-commerce platform (e.g. issue rewards when a referral becomes 'Closed Won').
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 parts of your referral program should you automate?
Next, it’s time to consider exactly which aspects of your program should be automated. Consider what tasks may take up the most time or are the hardest to keep track of. You may also want to look at areas that are industry-specific, and how you can tailor them to make them easier with your referral program.
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. Promoting 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 use referral software (and an email service provider) to send an email right after they’ve made a purchase.
You can also use referral marketing automation to post about your program on your social media channels. Schedule posts, or automate the reposting of updates from your blog. Or, try automating promotions via SMS.
Automated pop-ups are another way to promote your referral program. Try building them right into your website so users will be notified when they go to your site. Or add a certain trigger, so customers get the popup when heading to a certain page, or after taking a certain action.
Finally, consider automated reminders in your current customers’ account. That way, when they log into your site or app, they are asked to refer a friend. This is a great way to keep your referral program top of mind, and to remind them of what can be earned when spreading the word about your company.
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
With the right referral marketing automation software, you can instantly sign up customers for your referral program as soon as they buy or sign up for another action. This leaves less work on the customers’ end, and it ensures that they are enrolled in your program. No need to sign up or add an extra step. With an automated program, they’re added already.
Referral program automation example: Setting up any (or all!) of the following automations can simplify enrollment 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.
Referral Rock software lets you automatically enroll customers into your program, with no sign-up needed on their end.
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. Maintaining 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. Continuing 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. Sending 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
Referral Rock software can automate all sorts of referral rewards systems, including tiered and multi-step rewards.
Considerations when looking for referral program automation software
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
- Can handle multi-step sales processes (if applicable).
- Multi-step sales processes are common for B2Bs, and many B2Bs want to reward customers for bringing in both leads and sales.
- If you have a sales process that takes place over several steps, it’s best to work through this early on to better understand what you’re dealing with through your automated referrals.
- What customer support is available to help you set up the automations (a dedicated onboarding specialist is best).
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.
Other tools to automate your referral program
It’s now time to consider what other software you’ll integrate your referral platform with in order to automate your referral program. Understanding the platforms at hand will allow you to get the best out of what’s available and to better use them in your favor.
Foundational workflow automation tools pair with referral software, including Zapier, OneSaas, PieSync, and Automate.io. Check out the tools’ websites to see which apps they work with, and if they will best suit your referral needs.
You should also pay attention to the tools that your chosen referral software integrates with to let you automate processes of word-of-mouth marketing.
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, like Referral Rock, 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.