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8 Surefire Tips To Get SaaS Business Referrals

What's the downside of using paid advertising to generate customers for your SaaS?

Having to pay for the leads of course!

Here's another quick question for you:

How effective are you in generating good referrals from your customers?

Here at Agile Payments we have worked hard to build up a system where most of our leads come from referrals generated directly by our payment gateway customers. In fact, most of the clients that we help accept credit card payments from their SaaS customers have come to us via way of referral.

Getting referrals from our customers wasn't something that we were super successful at doing at first though.

Agile Payments - API Gateway Integrations Agile Payments: We’re more than a services provider; we’re your partner.

Just like everyone else we put huge amounts of effort into making our customers happy. But there was a time where it still wasn't generating referrals for our business in any kind of meaningful numbers.

It took a lot of elbow grease and testing on our part to get our referral system running smoothly. It certainly didn't happen overnight either. But it did happen. It will happen for you too once you get your own customer referral system in place.

Being the super cool marketers we think we are here at Agile Payments we put together our 8 hottest tips to help you start generating referrals the instant you implement them. Okay, maybe not instantly. But pretty darn quick anyways!

A Word About "Referral Marketing" vs. "Affiliate Marketing"

Stop for a minute and ask yourself to define the phrase "referral marketing." What did you come up with? Did you find yourself heading to Google to look it up? Chances are good the first thing that came to your mind was "affiliate marketing," a term which sounds very similar but means something completely different. Affiliate marketing happens when a company agrees to pay a commission for any referral that comes in through a specific "affiliate" link placed on another website.

Referral marketing, on the other hand, is basically online word-of-mouth.

Affiliate marketing can be very expensive Affiliate marketing can become expensive if it works and equally unproductive if those in your affiliates' networks don't represent your ideal customer.

Referral marketing, however, is golden for two reasons: first, because you don't have to pay for it; and second, because prospects self-identify after hearing about you through their social network grapevine.

8 Surefire Referral Tips to Start Using Today

With these 8 tips, you may find yourself responding to new referral marketing customer inquiries in no time flat!

1. Reward your current customers for sharing your brand with their networks. This is one of our favorite tips to help you generate new SaaS business referrals. Also called the "one-way referral tactic," when you do it right, your current customers stand in line to sign up to participate and your referral business stats jump from day one.

So what does it takes to "do it right?" Do you have to lock yourself in a room for a week with textbooks and a stack of notecards? Nope. You really just need two things: the right reward plus a visible referral invitation on your website.

Viral marketing is a great source of leads. Everyone likes free stuff (especially if all they have to do to get it is send out tweets or post to their Facebook page).

When you find the right reward that your existing customers really want, your new referral marketing program will sell itself. Most customers - new and returning - like discounts. As far as generating a visible invitation, here you have two things to consider. For customers who have just bought from you once, you don't yet know if they will come back on their own, so you need to send the good news about your new referral program to them through a "customer satisfaction survey" or an email (if they signed up for your email list).

For customers who have bought from you repeatedly, it is usually enough to post the news about your new referral program and how to join on your website in a prominent location.

2. Reward both current customers and new referrals for sharing your brand. Also called the "two-way referral tactic," this technique makes the bait even more enticing by rewarding both current customers who share your SaaS company's brand AND new customers who purchase from you as a result of such sharing. Your goal here is straightforward - you want today's new customer to become tomorrow's referrer, and you want yesterday's customer to keep buying and keep referring.

Refer a friend mechanisms should be simple to find and use. A common strategy is to hand out perks like membership upgrades, points to spend like cash, cash back rewards and other incentives to existing customers. New prospects get a free membership trial, a freebie upon purchase and other incentives to buy from you for the first time.

Here again, finding just the right reward is a key to making the two-way tactic work for your SaaS business.

3. Link your brand sharing rewards to sharing via social media. Sometimes called the "social sharing tactic," here you offer perks to customers who share your SaaS company's products and services directly to their social media networks. For instance, perhaps they can place a link on their Facebook page to share your brand. When their friends click on that link to visit your website, both the customer and the prospect will get a perk.

Popular perks include like-benefits such as purchase discounts, free month upgrades, freebies and other similar rewards.

Making customers happy and getting referrals from them is extremely important for your business. The road to success for your SaaS first starts with making your customers happy. Second is your ability to get them to give you referrals.

4. Partner up with another desirable complementary company to offer rewards for referrals. If you consistently notice that your customers are also using another service or product that is complementary to what you offer, consider approaching that company to offer a partnership. For example, say your SaaS features online shareable storage. You notice many of your customers also use a photo editing tool for the pictures they upload and store on your SaaS platform. Here, you could offer new prospects the option to earn points towards future discounts or freebies on your service when they purchase the other company's service as well (and vice versa).

Finding a complimentary partner for your referral proigram would be a huge plus for your business. What complimentary businesses can you think of off the top of your head that you can partner with on a referral program?

5. Don't try to reach everyone everywhere on social media all at once, rather, hone in on where your particular customers regularly congregate. Forbes recently reported that referral based marketing is fast outstripping SEO (search engine optimization) based marketing this year. A particularly interesting part of that article showcased how only Facebook and Pinterest were able to show increases in monthly traffic in 2014.

If you are just building your company's social media marketing base, you may want to concentrate on Facebook and Pinterest at first, monitor your analytics, make adjustments as needed and then expand (if desired) to Twitter, LinkedIn, et al. However, if you have noticed that your fans and customers are particularly active on YouTube (perhaps because you post a lot of free how-to videos there) then your best bet is to begin there, because you know your customers visit your page there a lot.

6. Romance your brand's influencers. This isn't rocket science, of course - if you know a particular group of customers is particularly fond of what you offer, you want to reach out to them first and most often with referral incentives.

It's important to build relationships with industry influencers. When it comes to romancing influencers a little positive attention can go a long way.

But if your company is new to the market or new to social media (or both), you may not really have any real traction within your existing customer base. Here, the folks you want to identify are the influencers within your SaaS market. These are the people who, just by sending a tweet or posting to Instagram, can drive a whole herd of prospects right to your doorstep (a warning at this point - if you are not yet ready to entertain an entire herd of eager prospects who all arrive at once, then wait to seek out the big influencers and romance them until you are!)

A big part of identifying the influencers is simply to be present on social media yourself. See who posts a lot and gets a lot of re-posts and responses. Reach out to them with a special offer or perk and start to build that relationship.

7. Make everything you do easy to share online! This is a HUGE one. Have you ever read a blog post or seen a cute graphic and wanted to share it to your Facebook or Pinterest page, but after looking high and low, you honestly couldn't figure out an easy way to do that? Maybe the only option was to laboriously copy-and-paste the link on the website, then close that window, open up your Facebook account, navigate to the page where you want to share it, then copy-and-paste the link in....only to then discover the graphic displayed makes it look like a spam post....?

How easy is it for your customers to share your site with their friends and colleagues? How easy is it for your customers to share your site with their friends and colleagues?

In today's social savvy global marketplace, this is the equivalent of having a "Groundhog Day" level nightmare. So you need to "savvy up" your website, your blog, your social media accounts, everything - PRONTO.

You can start by adding social media icons (Pinterest Pin It buttons, the Twitter bird, a Facebook "Like" badge, etc.) to everything you do. But don't stop there. Make sure every page and every blog post has a Pinterest-ready image - a beautiful graphic that relates to your content and shows up when you copy-and-paste the link online.

Another critical element is this: research today shows that e-zine subscribers and e-newsletter readers respond much more readily to click-through graphics than to hyperlinked text. So when you do add those graphic images, make sure you hyperlink them to a specific page where you want your prospects to go when they click on each image!

8. Be relatable and they will come. Finally, it is key to remember that all referral marketing really is, is a conversation between two people that you hope will eventually include YOU.

To illustrate, think for a minute about the last party you went to. Did you stay a long time? Why or why not? Who did you most enjoy talking with and why - what was your least favorite conversation and why?

For most of us, we like conversations where we get to do a lot of talking and sharing - in other words, conversations where we feel valued and really listened to. We like conversations about interesting topics we can relate to.

We all like to have fun at parties. We enjoy smiling and laughing and having fun - especially if we are at a party!

So if you show up to the referral marketing party in your three-piece dark blue business suit with a stack of company brochures in hand, guess how many people there will want to talk to you?

Would you want to talk to you - you with the serious expression and the statistics-filled handouts?

The more you and your company strive to be the life of whatever party your industry is throwing, the more likely you are to discover your referral business is growing too.

No matter how serious your industry is and your SaaS products may be, we are still people underneath all that seriousness, and people today buy from people they trust, people they can relate to, people they might like to meet for happy hour as well as in the boardroom.

How to Make Sure Your Campaign Doesn't Tank

We touched on this in tip #5, but it is worth mentioning again - when it comes to monitoring the success of a brand new referral marketing program, your analytics are like super-secret spies only you know about. Here, we are talking about hard data about who is visiting your website referral page and from where and how often. How many people are coming in from Twitter? Facebook? Pinterest? Do they mostly visit you in the morning, afternoon or evening? How long do they stay and how many pages do they visit while they are on your website? Are you seeing more abandoned shopping carts at a certain point in the purchase process?

Analytics tell you where you need to keep working as well as what you are doing well. They point to questions your customers may have that they aren't taking the initiative to ask and you aren't answering for them. They clue you in on the best days and times to post to social media, make your blog posts live and send out your email newsletters.

rock concert photo Analytics gives you all the intel you need to strengthen your referral program until it rocks the house down!

Next Steps

So now it is time to gather up your courage, pick your first tip to try, strategize with your team about the best rewards and incentives to offer and roll out your new referral marketing program! And hats off to you for taking your SaaS company's success into your own capable, creative and successful hands!

Do you have a favorite strategy for getting more customer referrals that I missed on this post? If so let me know by posting in the comments below.

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