The art of finding referral targets

· marketing ·

WORK

Referrals have, in one form or another, been a part of human interaction ever since we figured out how to communicate past guttural growls and chest thumping. From an anthropological perspective, this gave us the means to find the best services and the best people for the job in our environment. It’s a mutually beneficial process, one that’s good for all the parties involved. It strengthens social bonds and empowers individuals, businesses, and economies.

Even though the basis of referrals and word-of-mouth marketing has remained the same, modern referring itself has changed quite a bit - especially now that we use the internet. It’s become infinitely more vast and often hard to pinpoint, and many of the old rules we used to take for granted now no longer apply.

Referrals hinge on trust, and in our current climate of fake news and suspicion-laden paranoia, trust is a valuable and scarce commodity - a resource that’s hard to earn and all too easy to lose.

But, then, who do we trust? Well, we trust our peers - our family, friends, people with opinions and outlooks similar to ours, blogs and publications we find informative and engaging, customer reviews and best/top lists. As buyers, these are the places we now look to when searching for info on places, products, and people. The added layer of anonymity online also ensures that we can now freely post negative reviews and opinions. It also means that we usually don’t give as much credence to referrals as we once did - now that anyone can make them - and that freedom made people somewhat prone to overreacting (“The fork wasn’t as shiny as the knife - 0 stars!”).

So, in today’s volatile market that’s oversaturated with content that’s both real and constructive - as well as otherwise - how do we at ActiveCollab handle referral traffic? Because we operate on a global B2B market, we mainly focus on web publications and online magazines, and we pay special attention to cultivating reviews and testimonials.

News publications - targeting

We divide our targets into:

  • Organic - these are high-traffic publications that are mostly made up of respectable tech magazines that conduct extensive research and product testing before writing their articles and lists. These are the places people go for advice because they trust their recommendations - since they are sincere and unsponsored opinions by leading experts. It’s very difficult to get a position on such publications.
  • Competitors - predominantly comprised of Top 10 lists, lists that our chief competitors are on.
  • Single competitor - these are most often blog posts where a single competitor is mentioned (and it frequently turns out the competitor sponsored that blog post). It’s very important to pay close attention to the context, as we don’t necessarily want to be a part of an article that talks about an application of ActiveCollab that we don’t support, since we are primarily a B2B product, and want to be used as such.

In every such referral target, we follow the same strategy we apply to our outreach efforts - we look first to make contact, build a relationship, and only then do we broach the subject of doing something more. Our goals here are:

  • To be included in articles (for example, to be added into “Top 10 Best Project Management Software” lists)
  • If we are already on a list - to be given a backlink
  • If we are already a part of the list, to be moved up to first place (the first place in lists, the same way as it is in Google searches, gets the biggest number of clicks - about 30% - and those percentages progressively fall off the further down the list you go)

Concerning the above-mentioned single competitor articles, first, we have to determine whether we even want to be a part of the article and if we even can - considering someone else already paid for it

A golden rule here is - don’t be afraid to ask. Most publications like this depend on sponsored articles so they don’t have to rely on ads, and they are more than open to collaborations such as this.

Pay Attention To Your Analytics

Just like in every other aspect of doing business online, analyzing metrics gives you a clear, quantifiable view of what you are doing right, and what you can and should improve. Services, such as Google Analytics, can help you pinpoint these areas. Like with any other marketing strategy, you need to track your progress and success of the investment, so you can react when needed. Then, you can establish a process to monitor, track, and test this data, which will provide insight into which channels and practices yield the best results.

Reviews

When we get a satisfied customer - be it through customer support, Net Promoter Score, customers who answered one of our surveys, etc. - we ask if they would like to leave a review.

This is because people (meaning - potential customers) trust what other (un)satisfied customers say about you more than they believe in your own claims (which can often appear as unfounded boasting, or even outright lies). The reviews themselves can often convert still unsure buyers, since they are devoid of any marketing speak, and are distilled into plain “I like X because it allows me to do Y better.” candid opinions. Every company should always take the time to ask their customers for a review - it’s one of the best forms of marketing there is.

Customer stories

Particular care should be made to recognize which reviews are so good - well-written, positive, engaging, and informative - that they can be expanded into full-blown customer stories. These are stories that demonstrate the value of ActiveCollab, and how it can be used to establish a process, improve inter-team communication and collaboration, often in interesting and imaginative ways. Many of our customers have their own blogs where they write about products they use and appreciate, so reaching out to them is a logical step. Just like with regular reviews, customer stories are relatable and honest experiences our customers have with our software, so they are an excellent way to promote our brand.

Referring to referrals

Every business should tap into referral targeting and make the most out of this rich source of inbound traffic. To neglect it is to waste the opportunity to pass on positive impressions people have about you and give you the chance to market yourself in the best possible way - by having others do the praising for you. With the right approach, referral traffic can serve as the perfect gateway to your brand and product.

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