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Old 2nd February 2005, 02:05 PM   #1
solterrabooks
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Default Refer a friend ideas

Hi -

I want to develop an easy to use and easy to track program for refer a friend - and provide some benefit to the person referring a friend.

For example, each month, based on the number of confirmed referrals, I would give discount coupons, gift certificates or a free product to the one who refers the most number of friends. But, this has to be easy for all parties.

So, I thought I could design a form which has the referrer name and email address - and they put the name and email address of the person they want to refer. When the form is saved, I send a request to the new person, explaining their friend has referred them and ask them to confirm that they want to join our list. Then, when they reply, I mark them as confirmed on the list and send a discount coupon as a thank you to the new person. At the end of the month, I count up confirmed referrers - and send out thank yous/discounts, etc.

I think this works with regard to spam issues - and most of it can be automated, but there is still quite a bit of work. So, I'm wondering if anyone has any better ideas - or any pointers to good addons/services which take care of this. Bravenet has a refer a friend - but it's unclear I can track how many each person refers.

Thoughts, comments, suggestions?


Thanks,
David
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Old 2nd February 2005, 03:38 PM   #2
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Exclamation Be careful!

Refer-a-friend programs are often considered attractive nuiscances by ISPs. If someone begins to use your service to spam, you may find your outbound mail blocked by a large number of ISPs.

Offering discounts as incentives complicates the problem. By giving incentives to others to give up contact information that does not belong to them, you are in essence purchasing e-mail addresses from someone other than the owner of that address. Many ISPs feel there's little difference between that and just buying a CD with a bunch of e-mail addresses on them and sending unwanted mail to them.

The only way to be completely safe is to obtain the recipients' permission first. I can't give someone else permission to mail to my friend's address, no matter how well I feel I know them or their preferences.

It's doable, but fraught with peril. Others have tried, many have failed. Remember, spamming for permission is still spam. That doesn't apply if you're merely sending confirmation to the initiator of the transaction, of course. But some recipients forget that they asked to sign up, and will report your confirmation message as spam. Crazy, but it happens.

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Old 2nd February 2005, 03:46 PM   #3
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Thanks for your comments! These are issues I've been concerned about - which is why I was making an effort to be sure the email had to be confirmed. Whatever I do, I don't want to risk coming close to the questionable lines and you've thrown enough doubt here that it seems I'll have to think very carefully.

So, an alternative is to recognize the 80/20 rule. There will probably be a small number of folks who actually make effort to refer a larger number of people - and would like to receive something for that effort. How about using the affiliate program, providing a link to people who sign up for it - and calling an email signup a conversion - giving them credits on our site for those signups. Then, they are sending the emails directly to their friends - suggesting them to come to my site. Is this worth the effort?

Of course, other ideas on how to take my current base and have them help me grow the list are welcome.

I'm working on doing the other ideas, such as writing for others, getting listed in directories, etc.

Thanks!

David

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Old 2nd February 2005, 04:33 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by solterrabooks
Thanks for your comments! These are issues I've been concerned about - which is why I was making an effort to be sure the email had to be confirmed.
Hang on. It's not a confirmation if the recipient of the confirmation isn't the one who gave you their e-mail address in the first instance.

In industry parlance, a confirmation is sent to confirm permission. It has the excellent side-benefit of also confirming the address as deliverable, but that's just icing on the cake. It's critical to recognize that you have no permission in the first place, just an e-mail address that some schmoe off the street decided to feed to the machine. This is the crux of the issue.


Quote:
There will probably be a small number of folks who actually make effort to refer a larger number of people - and would like to receive something for that effort.
Well, sure, but that's just providing people an incentive to spam on your behalf. They feed their list of addresses obtained from gosh-knows-where (guessed? harvested?), you get maybe a 2% sign-up rate. They walk away with a prize from you, and you get stuck with all the bounces, angry replies, and heat from your ISP for the other 98%.

I don't think it's worth it. People will think small bribes for good word-of-mouth is kind of slimy. Remember MCI's Calling Circle/Friends and Family disaster? There's better ways of getting that 2% conversion.

If you have a great site and great services or products, people will tell their friends without a bribe. You can certainly make it easier for them to do that, even suggest that they tell a friend - put a button on your pages or e-mail - but incentive programs are just too much trouble. You'll be spending all your time managing it instead of your core business.


Last edited by 4ndr3w; 2nd February 2005 at 04:53 PM. Reason: For clarity and bad grammar :p
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Old 2nd February 2005, 07:23 PM   #5
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Your points all sum up why I've not acted on this so far I guess. Seeing you write it out makes great sense. You're right about focusing on the quality of site and services - and this will grow organically.

So, thanks for helping me focus!

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Old 2nd February 2005, 09:56 PM   #6
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Hi Again -

Just when I've decided this strategy is riddled with risk, I come across the word of mouth marketing association - supposedly working to build best practices in word of mouth. I join their email newsletter - and pow - the confirmation page gives me spots to refer 5 or 6 of my closest friends! So, I gues they think it's ok!

take a look:

http://www.womma.com

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Old 3rd February 2005, 03:55 AM   #7
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THEY might think it i ok, but the recipients might not. I reported a company for spamming my private address, they said it was not spam as the address was given to them by a friend of mine. Now I really do not care HOW they got it, the fact is that they have broken the law, 'unsolicited marketing mail' means just that , it is the RECIPIENT who must solicit the mail, not a thrird party.

The easiest and most successfull way I have found is to send the discount voucher to your client, but give the discount/offer to a third party. I remember a long long time ago when I was a buyer, at Christmas all the companies I dealt with gave me gifts. They all gave me drinks etc, but they were all for me. One company asked me what I was getting my mother for Christmas, (I wasn't married at the time). We got talking and I mentioned that as we were a real poor family, my mum had always wanted bone china cups and saucers (seems silly now, but still brings a lump to my throat). Anyhow they asked if they could buy the gift, and I bought something else. A week before christmas it was delivered to my mothers house, with a handwritten note along the lines of. This is a gift to you from xxxxx company, you don't know us, but we know you from your son with whom we have dealt with, and are prod to say so. Thank you.

THAT gift above all else sticks in my mind. It was only 6 cups & 6 saucers, and probably cost les than 20, but the look on my mothers face when she was told that her son was a good person sticks with me now, and as daft as it seems , 20 years later, I type this with tears in my eyes (little ones of course lol).

By wording the offer to a good friend of xxx xxx, a loyal and trusted customer and mentioning that you have supplied a VERY limited number of these vouchers to be distributed by xxx xxx, you are making the customer you already have feel good about himself, and he will want to tell others also. By sending the vouchers to your customer, HE will forward them to your potential referrals, and he will NOT be spamming, they will be received better, and you get a real high quality word of mouth referral.

That is how to generate word of mouth advertising in my mind.

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Old 3rd February 2005, 08:36 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Old Welsh Guy
It is the RECIPIENT who must solicit the mail, not a thrird party.
Exactly. Leave it to OWG to say in a single sentence what took me four paragraphs. I guess I will never be a copywriter.


Quote:
THAT gift above all else sticks in my mind.
That's actually a very touching story. I don't think you're daft in the least to recall it with such feeling even 20 years after the fact.


Quote:
By sending the vouchers to your customer, HE will forward them to your potential referrals, and he will NOT be spamming, they will be received better, and you get a real high quality word of mouth referral.
That's a great idea. I wish I had thought of it. I hope you don't mind if I use it as if I had!

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Old 3rd February 2005, 03:33 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 4ndr3w
That's a great idea. I wish I had thought of it. I hope you don't mind if I use it as if I had!
Feel free, if I wanted to keep it secret it wouldn't have left my fingers lol. As I said the other day, the more I give away, the more I get back. Monday of this week I was stuck with some php code, I pmed an online buddy, and within an hour he sent me the correct code. I passed the code of as my own of course

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Old 6th February 2005, 09:55 PM   #10
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Thanks for the input, comments, ideas - and great story! I'll be working on a variation of your suggestions to build goodwill with customers and encourage sharing the vouchers!

David

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