Anatomy of a Pass-along
Your best customers can be your finest salespeople. Finding strategies to put this force to work for you, without ponying up commission, is the primary challenge of referral marketing.
Working Assets Long Distance (WALD), the long distance carrier that donates a percentage of customers' monthly charges to progressive causeschosen by the customers themselvesrelies on a motivated customer sales force.
The Archive received a mail piece that asks, á la Ringo Starr, for a little help from one's friends.
The mailing contains a letter and a four-panel pass-along device that extends the company's longstanding control offer of one free pint of Ben & Jerry's ice cream each month for a year to customers' friends and family.
To entice current customers, Working Assets offers a $10 credit for each new customer referred.
The foundation of a successful referral campaign is happy customers. WALD has found its customers are generally excited by the service it provides; as a result, referral programs have worked well.
"Because of the message we send out and the stands we takebecause we take those unusual sort of steps for a companythose customers who do find us love us," explains Working Assets marketing director Alex Giedt. "It's funny, because we get a lot of letters and testimonials [where people say], 'I never thought I could be excited about my phone service.'"
Working Assets builds on this enthusiasm in its referral efforts. This pass-along device is a four-panel card, where the first card contains forwarding instructions and is to be detached before forwarding. The remaining three panels include an address form, an explanation of the offer and benefits, and, interestingly, a space marked "A note from your friend."
"There have been a few times where the [new] customer has sent that back to us [with his enrollment]," says Giedt, "so we know it's being utilized."
"We really need to take this one piece of paper and make it do a bunch of things," explains Giedt. "That's the hardest thing about referral marketing: You don't know who your target is. You only know who the person is who you're trying to get to help out."
Giedt says he doesn't work within preconceived response expectations.
"Ideally, I would love for every customer to refer a customer," he explains. "At the same time, that's a 100-percent response rate ... but that would only be everybody telling one friend." Giedt figures that most people have more than one friend and numerous family members.
"I'm starting with a simple statement like that and I'm really looking to base my strategy around it," he explains.
Working Assets tests incessantly, altering offers, timing and functionality. (It plans to look into the U.S. Postal Service's new friend-mail program next year). While the company feels its program is a year-long effort, it finds the holidayswhen people naturally get togetherto be especially fruitful for this sort of viral marketing.
"There are several different openings that have to happen," figures Giedt, "and with all the hurdles you have to go through, it's sometimes just remarkable to think that referral programs work. But they do."