Customers are the bread and butter of every referral program. Without them, there would be no reason to run a program. So, when customers don’t join your program, it can be a little disconcerting. Let’s discuss some thoughts as to why people don’t join referral programs.

You Don’t Have A Lot of Happy Customers

This is one of the biggest reasons a referral program will fail. Not having happy customers should be a red flag right away, regardless of whether or not you’re running a referral program. That said, if the bulk of your customers are not happy with your business, chances are they won’t join your program because they won’t be interested in sharing a business they don’t like with their personal network. 

Let’s discuss some signs your customers aren’t happy.

1. The majority of your reviews or feedback are negative

If your customers are flat out telling you they aren’t happy — either directly or by leaving you less than positive online reviews — it might not be the best time to start a referral program. There’s also a good chance those customers will get annoyed if you ask them for a referral instead of addressing their concerns.

2. There are a significant number of returns on your product or service

It may not be worth your time to start a referral program if customers aren’t even using your products anymore. Or, if when they purchase them, they return them or seek a cancellation often… People don’t refer businesses they don’t use themselves.

You Haven’t Considered the Customer’s Questions

The majority of customers won’t just join a program willy-nilly. You have to address some things before they feel comfortable signing up. Some of the most successful referral programs have a short FAQ section to cover all the typical customer questions. In fact, many of those businesses also send out a welcome email to new referral program users to help to explain the main points.

Making sure to provide the material and resources to customers should be a key effort. Many times, if customers are unsure about your program, or if they can’t find information about it, they will turn away from joining.

Here are some common questions people have before signing up for a referral program:

1. How does the referral process work?

Most customers will want to understand the entire process before joining. They will want to know how much effort they will have to put in to participate, as well as how everything will fall into place once they’ve joined.

2. Will there be any rewards/incentives?

Once a customer knows a reward is involved, they may be more likely to help you out. Some customers are apprehensive if the reward system seems too one-sided. In fact, if the reward seems too self-serving, a customer may decline your program altogether.

3. What kind of referrals are you looking for?

Some customers won’t join simply because they aren’t sure who to share it with. So, by providing customers with some sort of idea or list of who to target, you may increase their likelihood of participating. Regardless, this can be good information to share with your customers, especially if you’re looking for a specific type of referral. For example, you may only want referrals who meet certain criteria. Or, if you’re open to all types of referrals, reiterate that customers can invite everyone they know.

4. How to ask the referral to join?

Most customers want to identify asking options before they join a program. For example, some customers would prefer to ask via email, so they want to know if this is an asking option. Others may prefer sending a quick text, asking on social media, or even want to know if there is a way that they can send someone directly to you.

Your Referral Program is Confusing Right off the Bat

Uncertainty can raise a customer’s red flag. If the program seems like it was thrown together, and the pieces don’t connect fluidly, people may not want to join your program. Chances are, if the customer is confused by your program, their referrals (who don’t even know you yet) will be confused as well.

1. Your invite link goes to a dead end

What’s more confusing than clicking on a link just to end up somewhere unexpected? We can all agree that if a link seems spammy or unprofessional, it’s a big turn off. Additionally, if a customer clicks to join your program, but is confused on what to do after they click, that customer won’t sign up. 

Our two-cents: before inviting a customer to your program, run through the program yourself (do an internal audit). If the forms and pages feel incomplete or confusing, fix it asap.

Assume that not all customers will let you know when they run into a problem with your program. So, if you notice people click the referral link, but never follow-through, be sure to investigate as to why this could be happening.  You can even reach out to a few customers and just ask.

2. The program instructions are not simple and clear

Let’s say your customer actually makes it to your landing page. If they get there and the process of signing up is confusing, or your instructions aren’t in layman’s terms, you can expect a low number of sign-ups. Further, if a customer can’t understand your program from the get-go, they probably won’t sign up. And if they do actually sign up, you can expect minimal participation.

Your Customers Aren’t Motivated By The Reward

This one is huge. Even if your program is easy, a customer will ignore it if the reward isn’t worth their while (whether they like your business or not).

1. The reward is something they don’t care about

If businesses who offer single-time or long sales cycle services (think of a mattress company) offer a discount for a returning visit, customers may not care about the reward. Thus, the customer won’t care about the program and likely won’t join.

2. It doesn’t feel like the reward is sufficient payment for their time and effort

There are tons of reward options out there, you just have to decide what would be most rewarding for customers. If a customer isn’t enticed by the reward, it’s likely going to result as reason enough for them to not join your program.

3. The reward seems like a gamble

This is particularly relevant to raffle type rewards. People assess their odds of winning raffles before putting forth the effort. Even if the grand prize is something big, a customer may not refer if they think their chance of winning is low.

Your Employees Don’t Support the Program

Maybe employees aren’t supporting your program because they simply don’t know the program well enough. It’s imperative to get employees comfortable with the program and on board, as these are likely the people who interact with your customers the most, and who will ultimately be asking customers directly to join.

Employees can be the reason why people don't join referral programs

1. You don’t express the importance of your program to your employees

If employees aren’t aware of how important the referral program is to your business, or why it’s important – they won’t help set it up for success. So, when you’re getting your employees used to your referral program, let them know why you’re starting a program in the first place. Once they understand the impact the program can have on your company, they may be more inclined to ask customers to join.  

2. You haven’t provided any training on the program

Training employees to be knowledgeable about your program doesn’t have to be a big production. Whether you choose to send a quick slideshow, video, or even a bulleted list – providing employees with some knowledge can help them to get customers to join.

You Simply Haven’t Promoted Your Program

We often talk about program promotion. Because it’s actually one of the biggest things you can do to ensure success. You know the saying “out of sight, out of mind?” Well, that works for your referral program as well. If your customers don’t know about it, you better believe they won’t know to join your program.

1. The program is not easy to find

We can’t express how important it is to have a findable referral program. By making the program readily visible, customers are bound to see it. And, if it’s easily seen – customers are more likely to check it out.

2. You haven’t invited customers

Another big promotion tactic is actually inviting customers. If you skip out on inviting, don’t expect customers to come flocking to your program. Again, if customers aren’t aware your program exists, how will they know to sign up?

Here are some easy, and non-intrusive quick ways to stay active with program promotion.

    • Emails – Add a link in footers. Mention the program in newsletters. Add it as part of an email drip campaign.
    • Social profiles – Mention the program in a post. Add a link to your bio.
    • Website – Make it visible on your site. Footer links. Create a banner. Or use a post-purchase pop-up.

Now You Know

As you can see, there are a few things you can easily tweak if customers aren’t joining your program. The best advice we can give is to make sure customers are happy and employees are on board. Again, ingrain it into your brain that referral program promotion is a huge factor in getting people to join. So, if you are able to get all your ducks in a row before launching a program, you’ll be set up for success.

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Posted by Megan Mosley

Megan Mosley is a writer for Referral Rock. You can find her poking around online or tweeting about marketing, small businesses, SEO, or even sharing funny memes. She is addicted to coffee and uses it as a fuel to keep her going through the day.