As a marketer or business owner, you spend a lot of time thinking about how you can best reach your customers. Where are they hanging out online? What makes them tick? How can we provide them with products that make them so happy that they’d be willing to scream about them from the top of Mount Everest?

To answer these questions, marketers are increasingly turning to psychological principles. After all, psychology is the study of people, and marketers care deeply about what motivates people to click, buy, and participate in referral programs.

Yep, psychological principles can help you optimize your referral program so that loyal customers want to participate. In this post, we’ve pulled together 6 psychology-based hacks that can help you get more referrals:

1. Prove it with social proof

Social proof is a psychological principle that says that people look to others when they’re trying to read a situation. So, for example, when someone comes to your website, it helps to show testimonials from people who’ve purchased your products and services.

Prove it works to get more referrals

Most of us have social proof on the front pages of our website, but why not prove customers are happy with your referral program? It’s rare to see any social proof on a referral program page, or in a referral program email.

Having customer testimonials can help increase the conversion rate of people completing your referral process.

2. Show similarities and commonalities

What do you and your customers have in common? Psychology says that when people see similarities between their situation and the situation that others are in, they’ll be more likely to act.

So, try highlighting those similarities on your referral page. Ask your customers why they signed up for the referral program, and how they would describe it, and use that language to encourage others. It’s one of the best copywriting techniques.

use similarities to get more referrals

The funny part of this proven theory is that you don’t even have to have the same interests as your customers for this technique to work. For example, if you have a professional photo and you look similar to your customers and the people they know, they’re more likely to trust you.

Seems a bit shallow, right? It’s just human nature.

3. Enlist reciprocity

People are much more likely to do something if they get something in return, but many referral programs don’t give anything first. Many referral programs encourage customers to refer their friends without giving any reward. Why would these customers bother making that referral?

incentives for referring

But even if you are giving those customers a reward, you need to ensure you’re giving customers reasons to refer you. You need to be providing them with a product that’s so great that they’re happy to reciprocate by referring you. Ask thyself, what can I give before asking customers to make a referral. If customers don’t see any benefit for joining and spreading the word, then chances are they probably won’t. 

4. Get a small commitment first

Here at Referral Rock, we ask for a testimonial before asking for the referral. This is a pretty small ask, and most of our customers are willing to give a testimonial.

This strategy gets someone committed to a small action before asking for the bigger action of participating in our referral program. It also loops them into who we are and what we do and encourages these customers to get more connected with our team. 

5. Show you’re an authority

When Peep Laja speaks on conversion, people listen. That’s because they trust Peep’s advice. Peep is the authority on conversion optimization.

Show that you’re an authority when asking for the referral. Displaying some of that social proof on your referral page can help.

People also love to share things that make them look better. Give customers some material to brag about you to their friends. If you’re an authority and highly sought after, it’s something a lot of people would like to show off.

6. Use scarcity

You pull into a shopping mall and there is one spot left in the front and you’re going to have to park a 10-minute walk if you don’t get this spot. It’s you and one other car racing for it. Parking spots are scarce, and you want this one. That’s scarcity. Scarcity makes people act.

Marketers often use scarcity to encourage people to convert, use discounts, or participate in referral programs. For example, Eat24 provides weekend coupons, but they can only be used on the weekends. If you don’t act before Sunday night, you’ll miss out on the discount. This strategy encourages people to take advantage of the discount while it’s available.

show scarcity to engage referrals

You can easily apply this principle to your referral program. Try giving people an even better reward for the referral if they do the action / share the link right now.

Psychology can help you out

Psychology isn’t just for psychiatrists, therapists, and research assistants. It can also help small business owners and marketers optimize their marketing. Try employing these 6 hacks in your referral programs, and let us know how they work!

Posted by Emma Siemasko

Emma Siemasko is a writer for Referral Rock and the Founder of Stories by Emma, a content marketing consultancy. She specializes in writing about startups, marketing, and customer engagement.