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Referral marketing is a method of promoting products or services to new customers through referrals, usually word of mouth. Such referrals often happen spontaneously but businesses can influence this through appropriate strategies.
Referral marketing is a process to encourage and significantly increase referrals from word of mouth, perhaps the oldest and most trusted marketing strategy. This can be accomplished by encouraging and rewarding customers, and a wide variety of other contacts, to recommend products and services from consumer and B2B brands, both online and offline.
Online referral marketing is the internet-based, or Software as a Service (SaaS) approach, to traditional referral marketing. By tracking customer behavior online through the use of web browser cookies and similar technology, online referral marketing can potentially increase brand awareness, referrals and, ultimately, revenue. Many platforms allow organizations to see their referral marketing return on investment (ROI), and to optimize their campaigns to improve results. Many of the newest systems provide users with the same experience whether they are on a desktop or mobile device. Offline referral marketers sometimes use trackable business cards. Trackable business cards typically contain QR codes linking them to online content for sale while providing a way to track that sale back to the person whose card was scanned.
Benefits of referral programs
A study conducted by the Goethe University Frankfurt and the University of Pennsylvania, on referral programs and customer value which followed the customer referral program of a German bank that paid customers 25 euros for bringing in a new customer, was released in July 2010. According to Professor Van den Bulte, this is the first ever study published on the financial evaluation of customer referral programs. The study found that referred customers were both more profitable and loyal than normal customers. Referred customers had a higher contribution margin, a higher retention rate and were more valuable in both the short and long run.
On whether customer referral programs are worth the cost, the study says that it records "a positive value differential, both in the short term and long term, between customers acquired through a referral program and other customers. Importantly, this value differential is larger than the referral fee. Hence, referral programs can indeed pay off."
- Jansen, B. J., Zhang, M, Sobel, K, and Chowdury, A (2009) Twitter Power: Tweets as Electronic Word of Mouth. Journal of the American Society for Information Sciences and Technology, 60(11), 2169–2188
- "Referral Programs and Customer Value
- Knowledge@Wharton (22 July 2010). "Straight Talk About Word-Of-Mouth Marketing". Forbes.
- Page 25 of "Referral Programs and Customer Value"