The way current economics are laid out, consumer-driven brands hold great leverage over mainstream marketing channels to advertise their offerings, engage massive audiences, and build up their customer base. B2B companies in respect, have but a little marketing ground to stand on.
As a business genre that encompasses longer sales cycles, profound decision-making, and long-term client relationships, typical advertisements rarely suit that approach.
While standard digital marketing practices involving email marketing and social media may give you access to the masses, it’s a hundred-to-one shot to find credible business partners who’re willing to stick long-term.
Perhaps relying on extended connections of your existing customers or partners to refer new leads will ensure higher lifetime values, conversion rates, and keep customer acquisition costs in check.
Over 90% of companies consider business-to-business referral programs as their primary source of lead generation, but 63% of them lack proper channels to derive and track referrals. If you’re looking to board the referral marketing bandwagon, here’s all you need to know about creating a B2B referral program.
What is a B2B Referral Marketing Program?
A B2B referral program connects your brand to key decision-makers in a related company through the personal relationships of its loyal customers. The program leverages existing business relationships of clients, partners, and stakeholders through word-of-mouth marketing to generate leads and acquire new partners through referrals within a B2B context.
While a customer referral program primarily targets end consumers, B2B programs are aimed at fellow business enterprises to expand their clientele and user base with it.
If you’re simply asking your stakeholders or customers to share your brand with others without a referral strategy, it won’t count as a referral marketing program. Marketers either need to motivate their current partners through special perks or incentives to recommend their brand to peers and track every incoming lead through a streamlined referral system.
How Referral Program Impact Your B2B Business?
Referral programs, in essence, are driven by word-of-mouth recommendations which are often unpredictable. Satisfied customers tend to share their positive experiences with friends and acquaintances - who might’ve something to gain from that brand - but without a formalized B2B referral program there’s no way of acknowledging their referral effort.
A B2B referral program streamlines the way customers share your brand, propels prospects to participate, tracks each lead, and associates it with the referrer.
With a lot more at stake in B2B businesses and a longer sales cycle, you need a trusted partnership to scale up - and referral programs are well-endowed to assure that. Let’s count a few benefits of B2B referral marketing:
- Recommendation from your existing clients about a company is a testament to their credibility. This vote of confidence influences 91% of all B2B buyer decisions.
- Despite offering incentives, the referral program features one of the lowest customer acquisition costs since you're leveraging an existing network rather than targeting completely cold prospects.
- Around 78% of B2B marketers consider referrals as high-quality leads. Knowing your business in and out, referrers are more likely to send prospects that are a good fit for your offerings.
As your referral program gains momentum and generates positive results, you can scale it up to reach a broader audience. With more participants and a wider network, you can increase your referral count and, consequently, customers.
B2B Vs. B2C Referral Programs: What’s Different?
Every B2B referral program should be tailored to the individual needs of the business. Unlike consumer-driven businesses that focus on instant transactions, B2B companies go through multi-step sales journeys and aim for long-term deals that last a few years.
Before signing up a new lead as a partner, businesses ensure that their product or service will meet the prospect’s needs. It allows them to detail a specific customer support staff and assist fresh leads through every part of the sales funnel. Here’s a closeup analysis of B2C or B2B referral programs:
Setting the Foundation for the Best B2B Referral Program
To improve the prospects of setting up the best B2B referral program marketing campaign, you need to have the following things sorted out:
A Revolutionary Product
A great product is at the core of every marketing program. Advertisements may bring the initial hype to your product launch, but people won't stick through unless your product/service provides a valid reason to.
A positive user experience sets the basis for long-term user commitment and perhaps generates referrals. Customers will likely share your products with their networks in cases:
- Monitor reviews and customer testimonials on review sites. Positive reviews often indicate a willingness to share the brand.
- Observe your customers' activity on social media platforms. Are they sharing your content, mentioning your brand, or tagging your products?
- Pay attention to the tone and content of interactions with your customer support team.
- Assess whether your customers are using built-in sharing features on your website or app. For instance, if you have social sharing buttons on product pages, check how often they are used.
- Watch Net Promoter Score which measures customer loyalty based on the question, "How likely are customers to recommend your product or service to a friend or colleague?"
A Loyal Customer Base
Loyal customers are a company’s greatest assets. Instead of focusing on leads and sales revenue, a B2B business must prioritize customer relationships.
If you manage to secure their loyalty, customers will pay out in terms of repeat purchases and hopefully spread your name within their business circles expanding your outreach.
Give your clients specialized treatment that sets the bar high for the market. Listen to their concerns and prioritize their feedback to know how you can improve your services further. For instance, as a B2B SaaS company, give your clients a complete tutorial for the setup, resolve their queries, and dedicate a staff team they can resort to at any time.
A Responsive Customer Support Staff
Are you equipped to handle the incoming wave of new customers? Is your support staff equally trained to handle queries and direct leads to becoming long-term customers?
Start by providing your existing customers with top-notch services, compelling them to refer their partners, so you can repeat the cycle. The key is to never leave your customers hanging before or after the purchase.
Keep your communication lines open even after they make the purchase. If they’re inquiring about your launch, update them with the latest developments. Let them know you’re support staff is there if they need any guidance.
How to Build a B2B Referral Program?
A referral program without a launch plan is at risk of failure. Without a proper mechanism in place, you can’t instate a proper referral structure, analyze and qualify referrals, and fulfill your marketing goals.
Always have your referral strategy planned out before initiating a B2B referral program. Here’s an 11-step strategy to build a successful B2B referral program.
Share Marketing Materials with Referrers
Instead of leaving it to the clients to do all the legwork in propagating your brand name, let your marketing collateral - brochures, blog posts, social media posts, and website - do the talking.
Setting a marketing syllabus makes sure that your message remains constant throughout the audience while making the referral process easier for referrers. Here are some ways you can allow customers access to such marketing materials.
- Online Portal: Create an online portal or section on your website where referrers can log in and download marketing materials.
- Emails: Send referrers a personalized email containing links to downloadable marketing material along with instructions on how to use them.
- Printed Materials: If relevant, provide printed marketing materials that referrers can share physically.
- Customizable Templates: Offer customizable templates that allow referrers to add their own contact information or personalized messages to the message.
Set a Referral Template for Advocates
Referring others to your brand is a favor by your clients, even at the behest of referral incentives. Spark their interests with the right rewards, leverage their attention with an impressive product, and you can earn yourself dedicated advocates who’re ready to spread the good word about your brand.
Even though clients are in favor of sending referrals, they often face a scarcity of words to go by. To overcome this, businesses provide their customers with dedicated referral templates to modify and send to their prospects. Here’s an example of a referral template.
[Your Company Logo]
Dear [Customer's Name],
I hope you've been enjoying our products/services. We'd like to invite you to refer a friend, colleague, or contact who could benefit from what we offer.
- Name of Referral:
- Email/Phone of Referral:
- Relationship to You:
Why You Should Recommend Us
[Let customers know why they should recommend your products/services.]
Thank you for your support in helping us grow. As a token of our appreciation, we're offering [Incentive/Discount for Referrer] for every successful referral you make.
To refer someone, simply fill out this template and email it to [Your Referral Email] or share it directly with your contact.
[Instructions for sending referrals]
Feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions or need assistance.
Make Sharing Easy
Even though B2B referral programs involve businesses on both ends, referrals still take place on behalf of individuals. An employee or stakeholder in your company will refer a decision-maker at another business to start a partnership.
The more they share, the more leads will channel into your platform, setting the stage for long-term partnerships. Though incentives are the biggest motivator in generating referrals, the sharing process must be seamless as well to encourage participation.
If your program is wrapped up in too many steps or is guarded by an extensive signup form, you may lose out on opportunities to engage your customers and with them find new ones. Whether it’s learning about your program, participating in it, or sharing it with others, make sure it requires as few clicks or taps as possible.
Ask for Referrals the Right Way
A common hesitation among brands while starting referral programs is asking customers for a referral. What if it sounds pushy and turns your customers off from your brand? Well, the concern might be valid, it’s not how things actually work.
A study proves that 83% of buyers are ready to refer a brand or product if they’re satisfied with a purchase. A whole lot of them seek word-of-mouth and squander review sites before they make a purchase. The question is, when should you ask for the referrals?
Some businesses are inclined to ask for referrals right after the customers go forward with the purchase or develop a deeper bond with their brand. The tactic may impel your clients to bat an ear, but the best opportunity to ask for a referral is when the client is happiest with your work.
Set Effective B2B Referral Incentives
Like the target audience, the rewards in B2B referral programs differ greatly from those offered in B2C programs. Monetary incentives like discounts, cashback, and credit rewards work best for individual consumers.
But in a business-to-business landscape, you need to offer incentives that have more to them than monetary value. Since the referrer is not normally a paying customer, the B2B referral rewards may look something like:
- Networking Opportunities: Provide opportunities for referrers to network with industry leaders, attend exclusive events, or participate in closed forums.
- Gift Cards: Provide gift cards or vouchers for popular retailers or restaurants, so referrers have the flexibility to choose their rewards.
- Public Recognition: Acknowledge and publicly celebrate referrers' contributions in newsletters, on your website, or during industry events.
- Priority Support: Provide referrers with priority customer support with a quick response unit providing personalized assistance to partners.
Devise an Engaging Reward Structure
The task doesn’t end with choosing the reward type, you need to figure out effective referral incentives to pay them out as well. There are plenty of ways to structure your B2B rewards:
Double-sided Incentives: Apart from rewarding your existing customers for bringing a new lead, you can also set incentives for incoming customers motivating them to make a purchase.
Cumulative Rewards: To ensure ongoing and long-term participation from your customers, reward them each time they refer a new lead. Cumulative rewards are ones that accumulate or increase over time as referrers continue to make successful referrals.
Staggered Rewards: Since B2B referral programs entail longer sales cycles, some businesses offer rewards in stages for each successful reward. Staggered rewards work like loyalty points, where you get a big reward if the referrer achieves a certain target.
Gamified Rewards: A quirky way to add fun to the rewards program is by instating a leaderboard highlighting the top referrer - one who brought in the most leads. Winners are awarded with exclusive badges and points that convert into extra rewards, motivating refererrs to step up their game.
Promote the Program via Different Channels
A B2B marketing campaign may entail some lucrative rewards for referrers, but would hardly make a worthwhile impact unless it reaches the desired audience. Unlike B2C campaigns where the target audience is an end-consumer, encouraging mass participation from your existing customers is hardly seen in B2B enterprises.
Instead of motivating your best clients with incentives alone, acknowledge their relationship with your brand and thank them for their support before inviting them to join your program.
Once the campaign is live and running, you can use mainstream channels to promote your referral program and remind the audience what it has in store for them. Some ways to accomplish that are:
- Send targeted email campaigns to your existing clients and partners, introducing the program structure.
- Set up a dedicated landing page for a referral campaign that explains what the program holds and what participants will get out of it.
- If possible, promote the referral program at industry events, trade shows, or networking functions. Engage in face-to-face conversations with clients and partners to ensure participation.
Probe and Qualify Referrals
Not anyone is fit to be your business associate. In a B2B referral program, marketers need to pay a little extra attention to probe into their potential customers. Ask the following questions:
- Are they a decision-maker in the prospective company?
- Do they have a say in who to partner as a client with?
- Do the new leads align with your ideal client profile?
- Is the company rightly suited to employ your product or service?
- Is your company capable of meeting the client’s needs?
Start by doing background checks on companies that your advocates are referring to. Looking into their industry standing, and the quality of products they’re offering. Feel free to inquire referrers about why they thought the company was a good fit for your enterprise. Qualify leads that fulfill your partnership criteria.
Automate with Referral Program Software
As you’ve already read, planning and running a B2B referral campaign is never an easy task. The strategy involves lots of moving components that are hard to accomplish manually. For enterprises that have lots of other tasks under the microscope, automating the campaign with a referral program software seems the only viable solution to ensure success.
Although so rarely employed, referral marketing is one of the finest customer acquisition strategies for B2B businesses. With a built-in trust and understanding of your product concept, new referral partners acquired through referral tend to stick along and recommend you to others.
Before you start putting together a referral strategy, make sure you’ve developed a product worth sharing, a loyal customer base that’s ready to spread the word, and support staff ready to guide and sign leads that come your way. If the process seems a little too challenging to manage in-house, sign up with Prefinery.com to achieve your business goals seamlessly.
How do I get started with creating a B2B referral program?
To get started, you should:
- Allow access to marketing materials.
- Create impressive incentives for both parties.
- Set up a referral template for advocates to share.
- Promote your program on mainstream platforms.
- Employ a B2B referral software for automation.
What types of incentives work best in a B2B referral program?
The effectiveness of incentives can vary depending on your audience, but common incentives include cash rewards, discounts, access to exclusive resources or events, and recognition. The best incentives should be appealing to your referrers and provide long-term value to both referrers and B2B customers.