Perhaps one of the most underutilized tools to help grow your business, referral programs capitalize on the fantastic job you’ve done with current and past clients to bring in new ones.
Referral programs are an excellent fit for businesses in the health and wellness industry; not only will they help grow your business income, but they will also help you get closer to achieving your wellness mission by expanding your services to more people, thus supporting them in living healthier lives.
This article gives you an introduction to referral programs and introduces you to an 8-step strategy for implementing one in your coaching business.
What Are Referral Programs?
A referral program is a marketing tactic that rewards customers for motivating their network to buy your products and services. Essentially, it capitalizes on word of mouth, often facilitated by digital tools and social networks, to bring new clients to your business.
In 2014, Kimberly Whitler, a Forbes senior contributor, called word-of-mouth marketing “the most important social media.” In fact, word of mouth was the original social media. Long before the internet, people shared their experiences with services and products, including how they helped them, how much they cost, why they decided to buy in, and where to get them, by talking about them with their friends and family.
People are much more likely to buy into a product or service when they hear about (or read about) the experiences of those who have already tried it. It is the same principle that made reviews platforms like Yelp so popular.
If your clients had a positive experience with your products and services, there is a chance they will give you a positive review if the question comes up. However, unless it’s convenient and they feel inspired, even your best clients may not feel like motivating their friends and family to use your services.
Referral programs take the natural word-of-mouth marketing principles and capitalize on them. You offer them a benefit for having brought you new business, and they are, in turn, more likely to become advocates and take a more active role in motivating people in their network to sign up.
Additionally, referral programs tend to add plenty of value to your business because they don’t cost much, and you can structure them so that you only provide the benefit to existing clients if they bring on new ones.
How do you implement a referral program? Read on.
8 Steps to Creating a Referral Program
Define Your Goals for the Referral Program
What do you want to achieve through the referral program? Do you want to bring on new customers for any of your coaching services? Do you want to promote a new group program you’ve designed? Do you want to increase the subscriptions to your membership program?
Setting clear goals is essential for structuring the program, the marketing around the program, and matching the program design with rewards for your clients.
Understand How You Are Getting Referrals Now
Talk to your clients who got in touch with you through referrals. Understand the story behind it, how they first heard about your business, and the main channels of communication used. If you have a small and accessible client base, you can do this in a one-on-one fashion. If you have a large digital client base, you can send out a short survey to your clients to research natural referral systems for your business.
Identify Referral Incentives
Find out what sort of rewards would motivate your clients to get on board in recruiting their network. You can do this by researching referral programs that other health and wellness companies use, asking your clients directly, or including a few questions on the survey mentioned above.
Some attractive rewards for your health and wellness coaching business might be:
- Discounts on your services
- A swag bag
- A free month to your membership service
- Free access to a new class or service
- Membership in a community of ambassadors
- A free e-book
- A free fitness program or meal plan
Note that the rewards may have to change depending on the influence an individual has. For example, you may want to have a referral program for clients and a separate one for social media influencers. You may also want to have a leveled program where they get more benefits with each referral.
Identify Your Communication Channels and Strategy
How will people learn about the program, share the details on your service, and claim the referral benefit?
Most businesses will have information about their referral program on their website, and they might promote it actively through social media and marketing channels every once in a while. For referral programs to be effective, you should provide them with the tools to easily share information about your business, including an email template, a shareable image on social media, and, depending on how active your client will get, a media kit and maybe even branded QR codes with logos linking to coupons, discounts or promotional landing pages.
Ultimately, when your client successfully refers someone in their network to your business, there should be an efficient way to claim the referral. Most referral programs have a question on the enrollment page or questionnaire that asks new clients if someone referred them. You can use names if you have a small business or codes for larger enterprises.
Create the Tools and Media to Support the Strategy
Whether you will do the footwork yourself or contract someone else to create the tools and media, you’ll need to set aside time and resources. Once you’ve identified your strategy, set up a time to create the programs, the platforms, and the marketing tools you’ll need.
Roll Out Your Plan and Track
It’s time to launch your referral program! Put your plan in place, tell your current clients about it, and be prepared to answer questions they may have. At this time, you’ll also want to establish a way to track the clients you are receiving by the referrals and incentives you are giving out.
Ideally, you’ll also have a way of calculating the referral program’s financial benefit in your books.
Say Thank You
Remember all those clients who brought you new business? Remember to thank them and follow up to make sure they took advantage of their incentives. You may also want to motivate them to continue making referrals by highlighting added incentives they will receive.
Improve Your Program
Once you’ve tracked the success of your referral program, take time to improve it. Which incentives worked best? Were the incentives too little? Too much? Did you achieve the goal of the program?
Talk to clients who took advantage of your referral program, as well as those who didn’t, to understand why your program worked as it did.
Take that information and use it to improve your program to achieve the goals you set out for the program or adapt them to different products and services you offer.
Referral programs are a great way to capitalize on the principles of word-of-mouth marketing to grow your client base or increase the enrollment in a new program you’ve created. For a referral program to be a success, you need to match the incentives to the extra effort your clients will be putting into using their influence to promote your service. Making a plan and talking to your clients before, during, and after the process is the key to a successful referral plan and to making improvements to the program in the future.
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