Referral Marketing: The Art of Collaborating with Independent Experts and Brand Advocates

Word-of-mouth has always been a crucial differentiator: according to Nielsen, 83% of consumers place the most trust in the recommendations of their friends and family and take action on these opinions. We give great importance to our friends and family’s opinion, we give great importance to our peers’ opinion. That’s why influencers are so powerful on social media. Word-of-mouth endorsement is a purchase accelerator and yet, until recently, it wasn’t used much by digital marketers. Why? Until now, it wasn’t easy to integrate with an online strategy or scale. Let’s find out what Referral Marketing is, how you can use it at your advantage and how, combined with independent experts, it can drive success for your business. 

Referral Marketing: your new technique to drive customer acquisition and retention in the eCommerce industry

First, what is Referral Marketing? 

“Advocacy Marketing is a form of marketing that emphasises getting existing customers to talk about the company and its products.” Big commerce

There are different levels of Referral Marketing: you can get customers to talk about your company and its products at events or via documents such as success stories for example. These techniques show your prospects how efficient your products or services are with other companies. But there is a further step that makes a total difference, a further step that makes Referral Marketing a crucial ally for your online strategy: conversations, interactions between your prospects, independent enthusiasts and existing customers.

Why are conversations a crucial aspect of Referral Marketing?

It brings transparency, it creates a trusting relationship with your brand. Letting others talk about your brand in your name shows you confident you are in your customers, how much you value their opinions. You acknowledge that as they are the ones using your services or products, they are the ones more suited to answer questions about them. Their experience is authentic. They have no interest in selling your products or services. They are satisfied with your products and services, they are enthusiastic about your sector (they can be fashion experts, high tech enthusiasts, wine connoisseurs, sports experts, etc.) and their only purpose is to share their passion with others.

12% increase in advocacy can help companies to experience a 2x growth in revenue Harvard Business School Press

Three consequences on your brand:

  • You acquire new customers thanks to the precious advice your brand advocates share out of passion.
  • You build a customer retention strategy by emphasising on your relationship with your customers: you show them they are precious to your brand.
  • You increase your conversion rates by simply letting your customers and prospects talk to each other.

Read more: Each month, savvy enthusiasts from the ibbu community guide 17,000 visitors in their purchases of high-tech products, video games, decoration items and childcare articles on the Cdiscount website.

Independent experts, the peers online shoppers need to talk to!

Of course your marketing and sales teams sell your products or services, that’s a fact. But the truth is, they are not the ones suited to help online shoppers with their purchasing decision, their peers are.

83% of consumers place the most trust in the recommendations of friends and family. 

66% trust the opinions of consumers they find online 2015 report by Nielsen 

You have two options to put online shoppers directly in contact with their peers via your brand: offering the help of your community of brand advocates or the help of independent savvy enthusiasts. I already talked about a further step earlier, entrusting your customer service to independent savvy enthusiasts is the final step to Referral Marketing! Why is it so impactful? Independent savvy enthusiasts are not related to your brand, they are passionate about a subject and have tried many products or services before making up their own mind about your offers.

An independent community of savvy enthusiasts associated with your professional customer service: a match made in heaven

At iAdvize, we offer a service called ibbü. This service allows your brand to be available outside business hours and provide your online shoppers with authentic advice. But why is it important to combine your professional customer service team with independent savvy enthusiasts? Each one of them has a purpose and together, they offer the best conversational experience to visitors on your website:

  • Independent experts provide online visitors with authentic advice and share their experience with your products or services. They are mainly crucial on a pre-sales perimeter but can also answer questions about your business practices when needed, as with ibbü, we offer them online training before letting them chat with your online visitors.
  • Your customer service team focuses on their core business: helping shoppers with their technical issues, after-sales issues. Your customer service team is more impactful on a customer care perimeter.

What advantages does this association offer to your brand?

  • 24/7 support: at any important time (during the evening, at weekends, during peak traffic), independent are here to help online visitors whenever they need it.
  • Premium experience: when you associate independent experts from the ibbü community with your customer service team, you select a bunch of savvy enthusiasts who have proven their expertise. They have been selected for their savviness and experiences and they are constantly building their knowledge.
  • Win-win collaboration: independent experts feel valued by receiving financial compensation for their authentic advice and assert themselves as real experts with their peers. Your brand is available 24/7, offers a premium experience to its online visitors and even gets additional sales by not missing out on contact opportunities during the evening, on weekends and at peak traffic.

Read more: Why do brands use independent experts? 3 questions answered.

3 Tips for businesses to leverage Referral Marketing 

Now that you really get the importance of Referral Marketing and you are ready to integrate it into your online marketing strategy, iAdvize outlines 3 tips for you to optimise your use of this growing trend:

#1 – Context is everything

More than 80% of shoppers research online before buying Annex Cloud

As shoppers conduct research online before buying, your business has a huge opportunity with its e-commerce website. But whoever engages the conversation, whether it’s a professional customer service agent, a brand advocate or an independent expert, timing and context are everything. You need to engage online visitors when they need it and only when they need it. At iAdvize, on top of offering you an on-demand pool of experts with the ibbü community, our conversational marketing platform also provides you with targeting and routing engines to help you target the visitors with the most added-value for your business, and help you know when they need you.

Read more: [Infographic] How can you direct your contacts to the best respondent?

#2 – Let your advocates go vocal

Your brand advocates are your best ally, if we have one advice for you it would be “let them express themselves as they are”. You are associating your customer service team with them because they have an added value: they are authentic, don’t ruin that by giving them a script. Don’t give them too many rules, just give them some quick online training to have a professional speech and know your business practices but that’s it!

“We are not just trying to sell products, that’s not what our brand is about. With ibbü, website visitors get authentic advice. Our ambassadors share their own experience: the feelings of excitement and amazement when they open their box!”
Maxime Brillanceau, Customer Relationship Manager, Le Petit Ballon

Read more: Read the whole Le Petit Ballon success story with ibbu

#3 – Personalise your messages for your customers to feel special

A well-known adage is that customer is king. Customers and prospects want to feel special, they want to feel like you are dedicated to their questions, requests and issues. That’s why it’s so important to offer them help whenever they need it, wherever they are. But automating your responses is not an option. That’s also why online visitors need to talk to their peers: they need authentic conversations, they don’t want you to send them unpersonalised offers, they want you to understand their context and needs and individualise your responses according to their very special situation.

For an example, if your customers use emojis, don’t hesitate to use them sparingly to add a human touch to your interactions. You can also use images and send product pages to add some visuals to your conversations.

Read more: Free must-read guide: Rich content or the art of having a rich and human conversation outline.

“On average, a conversation between an online shopper and an ibbü expert lasts longer than a conversation with a ‘classical’ customer service agent. This helps create a privileged relationship between our brand and our customers. We want to spread the ibbü service over other product categories on our website in the coming months.”
Isabelle Eloir, Business Development Manager, Cdiscount

Read more: Read the whole Cdiscount success story with ibbu

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