The theory + 7 super effective Referral Marketing tactics you can use in your product to drive your virality rates through the roof!

So let’s say you’re running a startup company developing a product, or you’ve just launched your own brand. You need traffic to your website or online property. *Desperately*

Traditionally, you would allocate your Marketing budget and spend heavily on TV and Online ads (Facebook, etc.).

Times have changed, though, and through the fields of Biology and Computer Science, a new trend has emerged: Viral or Referral Marketing.

So, the only question now is: Do you wanna go viral!?

go viral - referral marketing tactics

We can teach you all the tricks and referral marketing tactics you need to know if you want to succeed. Just. Keep. Reading.

Do you want to go viral!? 🎉 Click To Tweet

What is Referral Marketing?

Referral marketing – also known as Viral marketing – refers to marketing techniques that use pre-existing social networking services and other technologies to try to produce increases in brand awareness or to achieve other marketing objectives (such as product sales) through self-replicating viral processes, analogous to the spread of viruses or computer viruses.

referral marketing tactics - viral marketing

But you have to admire the virus. It has a way of living in secrecy until it is so numerous that it wins by sheer weight of numbers. It piggybacks on other hosts and uses their resources to increase its tribe. And in the right environment, it grows exponentially.

Admire the virus, trust in the virus, become the virus! #viralMarketing101

A virus doesn’t even have to mate. It just replicates, again and again with geometrically increasing power, doubling with each iteration. Here’s an example of how BIG you can get if you build virality into your product the right way:

1
11
1111
11111111
1111111111111111
11111111111111111111111111111111
1111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111

In a few short generations, a virus population can explode.

Don’t worry, though, we’re not going to hack your computer. Our only goal is to make your Referral Programs go Viral!

And now to the juicy part…

6+1 Referral Marketing tactics to use in your product

In order to achieve virality, there are specific steps you need to take. And while they might seem insignificant if you look at them one by one, all of them together can make your virality rate explode!

1) Leave happy customers behind

leave happy customers - referral marketing tactics

At the core of every and all referrals are great products, exceptional customer service, and a great overall buying experience.

Better yet, make your customers fall in love with your product! Nobody will invite a friend to a product or service they’re not fond of themselves. This is fundamental to any referral campaign. And yes, word of mouth still plays a huge role.

Walt Disney said it best:

Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends.

From a smooth onboarding process, pricing plans that don’t suck – yes, throw in that free plan you were thinking about – all the way to awesome customer support!

Make your customers go…

referral marketing tactics

…then at the tight moment, trigger them to share your product with their friends!

2) Boost your Referral marketing campaigns with Paid Advertising

referral marketing tactic - Paid advertising

Despite referral marketing being a primarily organic channel, there’s no reason why you can’t use PPC campaigns on Social Media to boost your referral.

What this will do is start – and keep – the ball rolling in order for you to create the first k-factor. Once this threshold is reached, your referral program will start gaining size on its own.

facebook ads for referral marketing tactics boost

When using Paid advertising to boost referral marketing campaigns, your CPC (Cost-per-click) and CTR (Click-through-rate) are the KPI’s that benefit the most, as one paid click will bring more than one users into your website (through the referral program).

This makes Referral Marketing campaigns one of the best ways you can spend your money on Paid advertising.

paid advertising - referral marketing

Hammam Baths know their game well and often use Facebook Ads to boost their Referral Marketing campaigns. Through referral marketing, they were able to grow their email list to over 10.000 engaged users.

3) Optimize your Open Graph elements

Referral Marketing tactics - Optimize Open Graph

The main referral page for your viral marketing campaign is meant to be shared.

That’s why it’s of crucial importance that you take special care of it and actually spend time optimizing the Open Graph image that comes with it.

So what is an Open Graph element?

Open Graph is the content you get if you paste a link on Facebook or Twitter. It consists of 3 main parts:

  1. Title: The landing page/referral campaign title + your brand name. (Could be something like: “Join our new contest | GrowthRocks”)
  2. Description: What is your landing page about? Here you can add more information and give context to your audience. E.g.: “Win a ticket to the next Growth Hacking event”
  3. Image: Probably the most important element on a referral marketing landing page, because as they say an image is worth 1000 words.

Here’s an example of the Open Graph elements you get if you paste our URL on Facebook:

opengraph on referral marketing pages

⚡️ Growth tips: Add your logo & referral program name to the OG image. Don’t forget to update the image + page description if you change the details of your referral marketing program. It can totally ruin everything…

If you’re on WordPress, it’s really easy to optimize your Open Graph tags, just by using Yoast SEO. It will help you to add and optimize Open Graph tags on any web page.

If you are creating your own landing pages, fear NOT!

You might have to get your hands dirty with some code, but it’s nothing terrible. Here’s an example of Facebook Open Graph tags implementation:

<meta property="og:url"                content="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/19/arts/international/when-great-minds-dont-think-alike.html" />
<meta property="og:type"               content="article" />
<meta property="og:title"              content="When Great Minds Don’t Think Alike" />
<meta property="og:description"        content="How much does culture influence creative thinking?" />
<meta property="og:image"              content="http://static01.nyt.com/images/2015/02/19/arts/international/19iht-btnumbers19A/19iht-btnumbers19A-facebookJumbo-v2.jpg" />

The og:title, og:description and og:image elements refer to the Open Graph parts we talked about above.

How do I verify my Open Graph tags?

After you have properly implemented OG tags, install the iframely – URL Meta Debugger Chrome plugin to test your referral page.

Along with the Open Graph tags, this little cutie offers you the Twitter Cards preview, as well as the Original data, so you can make sure everything is going alright.

iframely preview - referral makreting

What if the Facebook preview is still wrong?

For the -not so very- rare cases that you update your Open Graph elements, but Facebook is still displaying the old website preview, you might want to use the OG Debugger.

It’s a tool Facebook invented for all of us, so we can test our Open Graph elements in real-time, and update the Facebook preview at will.

Facebook Open Graph Debugger- referral marketing

For more advanced information about Open Graph, check out the official website.

Now that you know all about how to make your Facebook previews look good, it’s time to move on to the next item on the list.

4) Include multiple sharing options

referral marketing tactics - sharing options

People don’t like to be limited.

They also don’t like to feel restrained.

Basic human nature.

referral tactics

– Jane: Not even cats?

– Me: Especially cats, Jane!

If your audience is on Facebook, you should have Facebook as a sharing option. If they are on Twitter, they should be able to use it as well.

Nobody likes to be limited. Not even cats! 🐆 Click To Tweet

As for those *cough* hipsters out there who just discovered the hot new social media platform™, a link sharing option will do the trick for them. 😉

viral loops - referral marketing tactics

Here’s what the guys over at Viral Loops have implemented at the core of their product.

5) Use the right marketing widgets

Marketing widgets - referral marketing tactics

Along with having a dedicated referral program area on your website, you need to make the program discoverable to any customer.

And this is – clearly – a job for a widget to do!

Here are some ideas…

a) Top/Bottom bar: use it on your website when you want to drive people from multiple pages to your Referral marketing program. It’s ideal because it can stay at the top/bottom of your page for as many page views as you want – like for example until the user clicks on it – without being too distractive.

bottom bar for referral marketing tactics

b) Exit intent box: exit intent widgets are your last chance at communicating with your users before they leave your website. Use it wisely, and try to offer something of value in order to get them back to the website and make them give you their email.

E.g.: “Register now and get a 5€ coupon for every friend you invite.”

Widget referral marketing tactics

c) Chat box: users respond well when they think they are interacting with another living person. However, this is not always the case when you’re visiting a marketing-equipped website. Automated messages from chat boxes can pop up anytime, prompting you to take action, lead you to a referral page, or initiate a conversation.

– Chatbox: Hey there! Looks like you’re among the 5% top engaged users with our brand. Check out our ambassador program: abc.xyz

– Me: Gee, thanks! I’ll go have a look!

olark chat - referral marketing techniques

It’s not my intention to point you to a specific tool. There are many out there, including Intercom, Olark, Chatlio, Chatra and others. Pick the one that suits you the most and implement your referral marketing techniques.

In fact, we’ve built an entire list of Growth Hacking Marketing tools you can go through…

⚡️ Growth tips: try to figure out what the best time is for a user to join your referral marketing program. Hint: It’s probably the time when they’re the most engaged with your brand/product. Could be when (or if) they make a good review or when they hit a number of pageviews that indicates high engagement.

6) Do Referral Program A/B testing

A/B testing referral marketing tactics

So you created a landing page for your Viral marketing program, setup your mechanism and automations and now wait for the results…

Is that all? The answer is clearly ΝΟ. At every stage of your campaign, you should be testing and optimizing everything in order to achieve the highest conversion/virality rate possible.

Maybe “Become a GrowthRocks ambassador” works better than “The GrowthRocks fans program”. Maybe not! Unless you put it to the test, you’ll never know.

A/B testing referral marketing tactics

If you’re looking for a tool to do that, Optimizely and VWO are two of the best A/B testing and personalization platforms out there.

Here are some ideas on elements you can optimize:

a) Referral Program Title: Pick something your users want to be part of, or will want to contribute to. The Hustle calls them Ambassadors, we call them GrowthStars. Use elements close to your brand.

b) Call to Action: In the online world, if you want people to take action, you better give them a good enough reason to do it. One way of improving the attractiveness of an offer is to answer the “what’s in it for me?” question right off the bat.

A/B testing referral marketing tactics

c) Email copy: Do you make it intriguing enough for them to click on your CTA’s and refer more friends? Are the friends your customers referring getting a proper email, explaining the Referral Program as well as your brand the right way (clear & easy to understand)?

Things to check for on your referral emails: Subject line – it plays the most important role on the email open rate -, CTA button, clarity of cause on your email copy.

referral marketing tactics email

Your friend {name} invited you to join {brand}, which is {what-it-is}. Join now!

7) Select the appropriate incentive

Referral marketing incentive reward

A referral program’s incentive has to “fit” your customers and your businesses. Do they like phones? Offer an iPhone to the highest ranking user. Wellness fans? Offer a spa treatment or a magazine subscription.

A referral program’s incentive has to “fit” your customers and your businesses.

Uber, for example, allows you to gift & receive what matters to you most: free transportation with them!

uber referral marketing tactics

Dropbox is using the exact same type of reward (free storage MB) as their referral incentive. AirBnb as well! 🏰

Here are some incentive ideas to get you going:

a) Support a cause: It doesn’t always have to be about earning things. People like to give away, especially to a cause they believe in. Supporting a cause will make your customers more loyal to your brand, and at the same time will allow you to support your fellow beings. Only good karma can come out of this!

b) Offer free Swag: Businesses with a loyal following tend to give away free swag and other merch. This is great because it works as an advertisement for your brand but also functions as a gift for your customers.

hotjar referral program

Admit it, you want a Hotjar hoodie now!

c) Offer a Discount: This is the most common type of Referral incentive, as it’s usually hassle-free to implement. It is also beneficial for your company in another way: it leads to a direct increase in spending. So, keep inviting your friends! 😉

d) Earn Credit: Amazon and Evernote, for example, allow you to earn credit for every referral that you make. Gives you exactly what you want/need: More of your favorite product for free! Pretty awesome if you ask us!

Growth Hacking Marketing course - referral marketign

We’re using the exact same referral incentive on our Growth Hacking Course. For every friend you invite, you get extra discount!

What next?

what next on referral marketing tactics

Now that you know all the Referral Marketing tactics you need to be using in order for your product to go viral, it’s time to build your own Referral program!

No matter if you’re inspired by Dropbox, Uber or even AirBnb, it’s not hard to create your own Referral Program if you know the right tools and techniques! 😉

Let me know in the comments below what kind of Referral Program you’ve implemented, and what tools you’re using to make it happen.

Additional Reading On Referral Marketing: 

4 Steps To Design Virality In Your Product

The Ultimate Introduction to Growth Hacking

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