Business Referrals

An overview of marketing automation

Carl Maerz is a co-founder of Rocket Referrals.

Are you familiar with marketing automation? It’s certainly been a buzzword in the business world for the last half decade as companies search for more efficient ways to communicate with their prospects and existing clients. Put loosely, marketing automation refers to software platforms aimed at automating communication on multiple channels online (such as email, social media, websites, etc.) and automating repetitive tasks.

Over the last decade the term ‘marketing automation’ has stretched into a catchall for any software product that aids a business in communicating with, well … other people. And although the semantics have blurred, there are indeed stark differences between products that fall within this category. At Rocket Referrals we found that many people were confusing our software with other programs on the market by using this broad interpretation of marketing automation. Therefore, we grouped products into four different categories – allowing businesses to better choose the software that fits their business and specific objectives.

At the end of the day it’s important to have a clear goal in mind before settling on a marketing automation platform. Oftentimes companies attempt to shoehorn the wrong system to meet their objectives rather than taking time to understand the nuances between them. Choosing the right one will depend on your overarching goal, marketing know-how, time, industry and budget, to name a few.

Email marketing software

(MailChimp, ConstantContact)

Sending and tracking batch emails to segmented lists of contacts. Email marketing was originally created as an alternative to sending groups of contacts blind carbon copied emails (bcc). This, combined with more advanced segmenting tools, allowed businesses to increase the personalization of their email campaigns.

Prospect nurturing software

(Infusionsoft, ActiveCampaign)

Automates regular communication to groups of prospects in effort to convert them into sales. In addition to simple lists, prospect nurturing software has a more proactive approach of collecting leads by way of web forms and landing pages. It also facilitates multiple communication paths for each prospect, based on measureable behavior to increase lead conversion rates.

Inbound marketing automation

(HubSpot, Marketo)

Generates top-of-funnel leads by distributing unique content across email, social media and websites – then nurtures the leads with tailored communication based on profiles formed by their interactions with the content (clicks, likes, etc.).

Relationship marketing automation

(Rocket Referrals)

Automates highly personalized and meaningful communication to increase referrals, retention and online visibility. This is done by first evaluating the loyalty of individual clients, and then using psychology-driven content to influence desired behavior. Additionally, touch points are sent to existing clients that both maintain personal relationships and leverage them to increase sales.

Speak with — not at — clients

- Carl Maerz is a co-founder of Rocket Referrals.

It’s Monday morning. I arrive at the office — coffee in tow — sidle up to my standing desk, and flip open the MacBook only to be greeted by a gaggle of junk mail littering my inbox. Each one of them staring back at me with a defiant grin, knowing full well that I didn’t sign up for that newsletter.

As a business owner I’d rather not be viewed in the same light as these big-box retailers or marketing bots that force-feed me emails every day.

I sure don’t want to be “that guy” contributing to the disheveled-inbox epidemic plaguing the nation. Well, it turns out that many business owners share my opinion. Some even take it as far as contracting “communication paralysis” by refusing to reach out to their clients altogether.

This strategy isn’t just unimaginative, it’s also costly. Research shows that regular and meaningful communication is the most effective way of maintaining relationships, increasing retention and capturing word-of-mouth referrals. So switching off the voice box isn’t a good idea. Rather than reducing the frequency of touch-points, focus on increasing their quality.

If you’ve ever taken a road trip with children, you've surely experienced voices emanating from the backseat: “Are we there yet? Are we there yet?” The knee-jerk reaction is to plead for silence, but consider for a moment, what if the incessant chants were replaced with reciprocal dialogue. You’d likely find value in a meaningful conversation if the kids produced something other than noise.

Similarly, the key to communicating successfully with your clients is encouraging two-way conversation. Make them feel like you are speaking with them, not at them. Clients are smart enough to differentiate an obligatory email blast from something more personal and genuine. If you don’t bark at them from the proverbial backseat, they’ll be happy to hear from you.

The Net Promoter Score (NPS)

Perhaps the most effective way of opening a dialogue with clients is by utilizing the Net Promoter Score (NPS), a single-question inquiry used to gauge the loyalty for individual clients. The NPS asks clients to rate an agency from 0 to 10 by asking “How likely is it that you would recommend (x business) to a friend or colleague?” Respondents are grouped into three categories based on their score: Promoters (9-10), Passives (7-8), Detractors (0-6).

The NPS was developed in 2003 by business strategist Fred Reichheld as a metric to determine the overall loyalty of a company’s client base. Fred found that — unlike client sentiment measured by traditional satisfaction surveys — client loyalty was directly linked to referrals, retention and repeat business.

Because of its simplicity, the NPS survey yields a higher-than-average response rate. At Rocket Referrals, for example, 40% of surveyed clients give a score rating — with the majority expounding on their response with additional feedback.

Furthermore, segmenting clients based on their loyalty allows for more personalized and purpose-driven communication. Detractors, for example, should be given a phone call to resolve any issues before they defect. The NPS can be used as a vehicle to directly drive favorable behavior from your clients. We call this the “NPS Process,” which is essentially the method of leveraging the high response rate of the NPS to influence additional action, including the collection of positive testimonials, referrals and online reviews.

How to communicate

Routine touch-points throughout the year will dramatically increase the chances that your clients not only stick with you, but also refer you when the time is right. Every touch-point you deliver plays a huge role in reinforcing your brand and the perception of your business. The idea here is to keep you “top of mind.” Remind them that you’re working behind the scenes and providing an ongoing service.

When implementing this strategy, I’m not suggesting that you ignore your detractors and neutral clients — rather, that you communicate with them differently. For example, the last thing you want to do is speak to disgruntled customers as if they think highly of you (it’s impersonal, even condescending, and it shows you didn’t pay attention to their feedback). Tailor your communication based on each client’s NPS response. Begin with your best promoters (the 10s) and work your way down from there. This strategy will get you the best bang for your buck when reaching out to your clients. It’ll allow you to remain cost-effective, while sending quality, personalized communication.

How to respond to negative Google reviews

- Carl Maerz is a co-founder of Rocket Referrals.

People love to talk. And when it comes to discussing local businesses, there is perhaps no better stage to articulate their recent experience than Google reviews. After all, a recent study shows that 92% of consumers read reviews online. It certainly gives power back to the consumer. It’s their way of getting the last word. That is, if you let them.

So what happens when they say something bad? Like one-star kind of bad. Eek! Fortunately, Google allows business owners to address and even spin negative feedback to their advantage.

When responding to negative feedback, a business shouldn’t appear defensive or combative. Rather, a polite and patient response will have a more positive impact on the client and the public. Additionally, if possible, the disgruntled client should be contacted directly to resolve the issue. More often than not they’ll openly express gratitude for the response. This also shows onlookers that the business takes care of its clients when problems arise.

Ultimately, your goal is to have the client reverse the feedback themselves. Many times if you address the problem directly the client may change their opinion, and add four more stars to their rating.

But there are occasions when the client just won’t budge. It’s still important for you to have the opportunity to tell your side of the story. You want to show all the onlookers that you take client concerns seriously. Your response should be short and sweet, with the following attributes:

Acknowledge their problem. This doesn’t mean you have to agree with it. Many times it’s just a misunderstanding that needs clearing up. Either way, let them know that you recognize their concern. Avoid being dismissive or patronizing. Prospects evaluate how you handle your detractors – your response says a lot about how you approach client relationships.

Address inconsistencies without placing blame. If you believe the review is fake (from a competitor, etc.) or just misrepresents your business, then you should say something publicly. Be polite, but make it clear that you disagree with the review. Also, in cases like this, you can contact Google directly ( and ask to have it removed.

Offer to resolve their issue offline. Responding to a bad review should be brief. No need to get into specifics – but you should offer to continue the dialogue further. Mention that you will contact them directly (if possible) and suggest that they could contact you as well. This avoids getting into the mud publicly – so that future people reading the review won’t become engrossed in the details. After you resolve the issue you could ask that the individual remove their review online, or at least follow up with a positive note.

Communicating client retention

- Carl Maerz is a co-founder of Rocket Referrals.

If you want your clients to stick around you should be communicating with them regularly. And if you want this communication to have a positive impact it needs to be meaningful, timely, and authentic. Sending bcc’d emails to your client list doesn’t do much to make them feel loved. Likewise, not returning phone calls or emails is equally as detrimental to client retention. For businesses to be great communicators they must be both reactive, and proactive in their approach.

Being reactive in your communication is as simple as getting back to clients in a timely manner. One of the top complaints we found by analyzing the negative feedback of clients of service-based companies was the lack of returned phone calls. There is perhaps no faster way of showing your clients you don’t care much about your relationship.

Communicating proactively with your clients means that you are reaching out to them regularly with meaningful content on your own accord. This communication needs to be personalized, valued by the client, and happen over time. Below are a few examples of how to proactively reach out to your clients as to eliminate perceived indifference, and aid in client retention.


In addition to providing social proof, collecting written testimonials is a very effective way of increasing client retention. After a customer makes the commitment to promote you to others it becomes a part of their self-image. In our experience, we’ve found that customers who’ve put a stake in the ground and said “This business is great and here’s why” are far less likely to leave and buy from another company.

The nerdy, psychological term for this is cognitive dissonance: the mental stress a person feels when they are confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values. In other words, it’s easier when a customer has said “I like this company” to stick with it through thick and thin.


Newsletters can be an effective tool to increase client retention, if they’re implemented correctly. Essentially, a newsletter is intended to provide your clients with valuable information regarding your business, industry, and community. This is an excellent opportunity to both humanize your company while also establishing yourself as an authority within your industry.

However, many companies implement newsletters incorrectly, and they backfire by making the clients feel more disconnected than before. This happens when companies include content that is either unoriginal, irrelevant, or both. We call this the copy and paste syndrome. Curating information across the internet and passing it along to your clients is one thing. But if you didn’t write it, don’t make it look as if you did. Your clients will be able to easily spot this ruse and lose some trust in the process.

There are several services available that can help you put together templates to work off of. We recommend MailChimp, as it’s quick, easy, and affordable. Be sure to include content about your business, your community, and information that your clients will find helpful. Be sure to keep regular intervals between each newsletter. We recommend sending a newsletter once a month, to keep your business top of mind, but not to annoy.

Follow ups

Regular communication with clients, simply for the purpose of following up, goes a long way to avoid turnover. This can include emails, phone calls, text messages, handwritten cards, or any combination of the bunch. Ideally you’ll want to vary the mediums you use to communicate with your clients (to keep it fresh), or stick with their preferred method.

It’s important to keep your follow-up communication personalized to the client. Unlike newsletters, you want your client to feel like you are reaching out directly to them, and only them. This can be as simple as addressing email or card to the client and including personalized and relevant content.
Accomplish this by implementing a system that can automate personalized communication based on predetermined intervals and/or triggers. For example, insurance agents benefit by reaching out to clients prior to their renewal date. This communication will have an even greater impact on client retention if it appears to be highly personalized and unexpected. That’s why we at Rocket Referrals recommend handwritten cards to be sent at unpredictable intervals, in order to enhance their authenticity.

Why people give you referrals

- Carl Maerz is a co-founder of Rocket Referrals.

The first step to increasing referrals is knowing why your clients refer you to their friends and family. You may want more referrals because they increase contracts/sales and — quite frankly — make you feel good. But customers care little about making you money.

People refer friends and family for many reasons (e.g. reciprocity, social status, obligation, homophily, exclusivity). Yet the biggest motivator is rather simple:

They want to help someone they care about.

Some businesses position referrals as something that’s rewarded for providing great service. That they have essentially ‘earned’ a referral by providing excellent service. This approach, however, is inherently self-centered because it’s asking “how can you help me” rather than “how can I further help you (and your friends)”. Frame the discussion around how you’re eager to help their friends and family; and that a referral will afford you this opportunity.

“I’d love to provide great service to your loved ones” rather than “I hope I’ve earned a referral.”

Asking for referrals flat out is rarely effective. You should let them blossom on their own by creating an environment where they will flourish. This begins early by planting a referral mindset in the minds of your clients. Using language that conveys the significance of referrals for your agency subtly, yet consistently, will ensure that you’re referred when the time is right.

For example, during the onboarding of a new client send an introductory email that mentions how important referrals are to your business. Not because they result in more sales, but that they reinforce that you’re providing excellent service. Say you want to work with more people like them, and that you genuinely care about serving their friends and family.

Follow up with clients often; thanking them for their loyalty and letting them know you’re there to help with anything they need. Remind them that you’d enjoy working with their friends and family, and not to hesitate sending them your way. Mention that their loved ones should ask for you directly and that you’ll take extra care.

It boils down to nurturing client relationships and guiding discussions around referrals. Happy clients will be eager to share their experience with friends and family when you take care of them and point them in the right direction.

If you’re interested in learning more ways of increasing referrals, you can check out our free educational platform Launch Academy.

Why Twitter?

- Carl Maerz is a co-founder of Rocket Referrals.

In the United States Twitter is nearing 56 million active users this year. That’s a lot of eyeballs. And I bet many of them are in the market for that fancy new widget you produce. Take a pass on Twitter and you’re sacrificing an opportunity to get in front of all those prospects.

1 in 4 Americans are active Tweeters in 2016

Twitter bird w: glassesTwitter is also an effective tool at maintaining relationships with clients, connecting with partners in your industry, and nurturing prospects. It helps build brand awareness and keeps your business top of mind. It can also be used to push out useful information and occasional promotions to your followers.

If you’re new to Twitter I suggest you take 20 minutes looking over their Twitter 101 page for businesses. This page will provide you with the basics to get started.

Additionally, I’ve put together some key points to keep in mind while you’re tweeting.

Include pictures

Like magpies, tweeters seem to like shiny objects. Tweets with pictures have five times the engagement rate than your ordinary, boring text-only ones. Pictures stand out more in a user’s Twitter feed, so don’t be shy about including them. As a rule of thumb about every other tweet should have a relevant picture attached.

Use hashtags

Hashtags are trending right now. If used effectively they can raise awareness of your company to people who share a relevant interest. To learn more about #hashtags and how to use them check out this post by Sprout Social.

Share interesting content

If your business has a blog, Twitter is a great platform for sharing posts with others. Each time you release new content you should consider posting it on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn at a minimum. But don’t stop with your content. The most effective tweeters share relevant content (stuff your followers will actually want to read) from all over the Internet. This includes retweets you find interesting, news articles, blog posts, or industry updates. Your target should be between two to five tweets per day.

Get more followers

There are probably a thousand ways you could get more Twitter followers. Most importantly, you want to inspire your target market to follow your business. This way your content will be relevant to your followers, shared more often, and eventually lead to sales. This article by TNW will show you some simple ways to begin building your Twitter following.

For additional guidance on getting started with Twitter check out our free educational platform Launch Academy.

Local SEO - what you don't know

- Carl Maerz is a co-founder of Rocket Referrals.

You’ve heard the term – but have you ever wondered what Local SEO really is?

One of the most important factors Google considers with search results is your current location. And they’ve gotten pretty good at knowing where you are. For the most part they study your device’s IP address or use the GPS in your smart phone to find you. Google understands that where you’re standing plays a big role in what information you’ll find relevant when performing a search — especially when looking for local establishments, like a restaurant or laundromat. People used to type the name of their city alongside the search term (e.g. car insurance Atlanta) to get local suggestions. But anymore Google is smart enough to know where you are without asking.

More often than not Google places local businesses at the top of search results. They know, for instance, that people who search for ‘Chinese food’ are likely more interested in finding a place nearby for some beef chow mein than info on a popular New York restaurant 900 miles away. The same goes for most establishments that can be found locally (e.g. home insurance, tree stump removal, plumber).

There are several ways someone will discover your business via a search engine. They could be directed to your website, your social media profiles, or your official business listing. And although they’re all somewhat interconnected, organic SEO focuses primarily on the first two, whereas local SEO focuses on the latter.

A common misconception with SEO is that it revolves entirely around directing people to your website. The truth is, people are introduced to businesses everyday without visiting their website at all. These businesses are discovered via Google’s official listings, serving as a directory, like an online phonebook.

As a matter of fact, some businesses rank high on local search without having a website at all. And if their local search signals are strong they’ll likely end up above businesses focusing on organic SEO alone. Of course, having an established website does help your online visibility, even locally, but focusing on your website alone is not an effective approach.

Organic vs local

Local vs Organic

Local SEO aims to increase the likelihood that a nearby business listing (in contrast to website) will rank higher for people searching for products or services within a limited proximity.

Organic SEO aims to increase the likelihood that a company website will be discovered by people searching for relevant terms online, through non-paid means, and within a much broader proximity.

It’s true that organic SEO and local SEO strategies often intersect. But there are elements that local businesses should prioritize ahead of those companies operating nationally—specifically in regard to local search signals.

NAP consistency

The most effective way of improving local SEO is by applying NAP consistency - meaning that your business’s Name, Address, and Phone number are uniform across the internet — with both online directories and websites — wherever your information is listed.

Search engines regularly collect information from all the nooks and crannies of cyberspace. This data is then stored for easy access when people perform searches online — this process is called web crawling. One of the things they are looking for is consistent information regarding businesses. The more often an establishment is accurately listed across the net, the more confidence the search engine has in it. And higher confidence means more recommendations for relevant search queries.

Even slight contrasts in a business name, address, or phone number likely will create duplicate listings online and throw off search engines. For local SEO it’s important to always use your local address and phone number. If, for example, you have a toll-free number you should list your local number first.

Utilizing data aggregators or paid data facilitators is the quickest and most effective way to ensure accurate listing across the web.

NAP consistency is a starting place but your local SEO strategy shouldn’t stop there. If you’re interested in learning more ways of improving local SEO you can check out our free educational platform Launch Academy.

Should you offer incentives for referrals?

- Carl Maerz is a co-founder of Rocket Referrals

Referrals are nothing new. People have been making recommendations to their friends and family since the Ice Age. In fact, in the olden days, word-of-mouth was the primary way of discovering new products and services. Back then the village carpenter, of sorts, would likely ask Captain Caveman if he had any Neanderthal buddies in need of a new club. He had to make a living, after all.

Fast forward to the 21st century (thank God) and, until recently, referral strategies hadn’t evolved a whole lot. In most cases, a proactive approach to obtaining referrals consisted of asking a client for the names of a couple of friends or family members. Over time, new strategies were developed aimed at leveraging existing clients to acquire new business. These methods were mostly a consequence of changing technology which influenced the way we communicate. As these strategies became more popular they were encapsulated by a single term: referral marketing.

Gas referralReferral marketing became popular with the success of incentive-based programs whose proliferation was greatly influenced by the internet. A prime example is the file-hosting company Dropbox that realized massive growth after introducing a program that rewarded its members for referring their friends. Due to their success, Dropbox became the poster child for referral marketing and, on that account, incentive-based programs were the new gold standard.

It wasn’t long before companies followed suit and started incentive-based referral programs of their own. This strategy worked well for some businesses, and flopped for others. This left many befuddled and raised the question: why were incentive-based programs proving to be hit or miss?

It turns out that incentive-based programs are more successful for companies offering products and services where personal relationships with clients aren’t paramount. On the other hand, for those companies that value business-client relationships, monetary incentives actually backfired.

This is because offering rewards for referrals is the quickest way to convert relationships once founded on trust into those that orbit money. Offering $10 gas card, for example, places a monetary value on the referral. This confirms that the business craves referrals simply because they convert to revenue.

Sociologists call this a shift from social to market norms. From ‘What can I do for you’ to ‘What can I give you’.

Remember, in relationship-focused industries, one of the most powerful reasons people refer is to help their friends and family – not for ten bucks. As soon as a monetary reward for new business is introduced into the equation (being your relationship) your client will feel like you are after their friends and family for a fatter bottom line, not necessarily because you want to help them.

So, should you offer incentives for referrals? The answer depends on your business model. If you’re a service-based company where client relationships are valuable, then it’s better to hold off. On the other hand, for companies that offer products and services where personal relationships aren’t particularly important, incentives can be an effective way of encouraging clients to spread the word.

This is why your clients are leaving

- Carl Maerz is a co-founder of Rocket Referrals.

At Rocket Referrals we work closely with service-based companies (e.g. insurance agents, doctors, plumbers) where ongoing relationships and repeat business are critical. An integral feature of our service is automating regular and meaningful communication to these businesses’ clients on their behalf. The goal: to improve relationships and ultimately lead to higher retention & referrals.

A great concept, but does regular and meaningful communication actually contribute to higher retention?

Most people we speak with — at least initially — believe that price is the largest contributing factor to whether their clients stick around or not. That’s the reason they’re usually given when their clients defect, anyway.

The preponderance of research and psychology we studied said otherwise, but we had to know for sure. So we conducted a study of our own. Over the past couple years we collected more than 20,000 Net Promoter Score (NPS) responses from more than 200 service-based companies. We sorted them anonymously by type (negative, neutral, positive) and looked specifically for comments that highlighted reasons for dissatisfaction — a forerunner of client attrition.

As we suspected, price isn’t the biggest culprit. It turns out that, when asked, clients only claim price is the reason, even though it’s likely not the case. This usually happens either because the person is looking to avoid conflict, or because another reason allowed price to become an issue.

Our research showed that, of those clients that eventually defect, 81 percent do so because they lack regular and meaningful communication from the business. This includes following up on questions or specific issues in a timely manner, periodic checkups, returning phone calls, and the overall access a client has to an actual person.

These gaps in communication are forming a perceived indifference; meaning they start to feel like the business doesn’t care much about them. This quickly degrades client loyalty and — like a weak immune system that begets sickness — clients defect at the first opportunity that presents itself. So, if a cheaper option pops up, they will certainly take it. But this doesn’t mean that’s necessarily the reason they leave.

We also found that the average service-based company is at risk of losing about 20 to 25 percent of its business each year. Of these at-risk clients well over half could be prevented from leaving if they were communicated with more frequently. But the occasional email or newsletter doesn’t cut it. The communication needs to be personal and meaningful. In other words, they need to know you care and have their back.

So what are you waiting for? Your clients are waiting to hear from you.

What in the world is Yahoo! Local thinking?

Here’s a little nugget of trivia for you: during the first year of its existence Yahoo! was called “Jerry and David's guide to the World Wide Web”.

I can barely get that out in a single breath. Well, that was back in 1994, and thankfully they’ve shortened their name to what we know today: Yahoo! It just rolls off the back of your throat better I guess.

Screen Shot 2015-10-19 at 11.35.25 AMThe interesting thing about Yahoo! is that so many of us are familiar with the company, but so few of us actually use their search engine. By several statistics less than 11 percent of all online search as of July 2015 was performed on Yahoo! sites. It's a percentage that has been steadily decreasing over the years.

Despite its decline Yahoo! has managed to keep its head above water. In 2012 the company appointed the former head of Google Local, Marissa Mayer, in attempt to turn things around and set the company on a positive trajectory. In recent years it has also undergone extensive rebranding to bring a fresh look to a previously stagnant company. The future of Yahoo! is still uncertain, but since bringing on Mayer the stock price has more than doubled, so there are signs of life.

Which is one reason, as a business, you shouldn’t write off Yahoo! just yet. Things could get better.

If you follow the trends in the search engine world you surely know local search is on fire right now. All the big players have been changing their algorithms to give more weight to local businesses while simultaneously providing valuable reviews for their users.

At the moment Google is doing a remarkable job at integrating local business information and reviews into their search engine. With a single keyword search, e.g. ‘pizza’, you can get a list of nearby restaurants, photos of the business, their menu, online reviews, and even directions on how to get there.

Yet for some reason when the other major search engines turned left towards an improved user experience and local business autonomy, Yahoo! took a hard right.

Yahoo! Local is like an out-of-touch parent awkwardly trying to figure out Snapchat for the first time. I can see the effort, but their attempts have fallen flat.

On the consumer side they’ve tinkered with a partnership with Yelp while also offering their own review platform. I spent hours trying to wrap my head around their strategy, but at this point it just isn’t clear.

I performed that same search for ‘pizza’ on Yahoo! and instead of getting a list of restaurants I was shown the nutritional facts for a 14” cheese pizza. What? I mean, aside from the fact that I’m not counting calories, they didn’t even include the pepperoni.

To be fair the list of restaurants were hidden there somewhere, I just had to scroll halfway down the page. But the listings seemed sparse and incomplete.

As a business, if you would like to make any changes to your default listing (such as updating your address, phone number, description, or adding photos) on Yahoo! you have to pay money. And it isn’t cheap.

Yahoo! has signed an exclusive deal with a company called YEXT to manage its local online listings. But after digging into this further I did find one way around this, which I explain below.

YEXT is a ‘Digital Location Management’ software company. Basically they (for a fee) manage the local directory listings and content for businesses across various online sites. They tout their services by highlighting several online websites they work with. Fortunately they only have exclusive agreements with Yahoo!,, Mapquest, and a handful of less relevant directories.

Which leaves me wondering why a struggling search engine fighting for relevance would hamstring its local search, an area rapidly expanding in significance, by trying to force businesses to pay to keep their online listings accurate?

Now for that way around YEXT. Go to and claim your business online. This will allow you to update information which is sent, for free, to 97 percent of online search engines. Yahoo included. This includes all basic information which affects local SEO, but does not include business descriptions. Not to worry though, because on all the major search engines you can add photos and descriptions for free (excluding Yahoo! of course).


A referral program for electric cars

- Carl Maerz is a co-founder of Rocket Referrals.

I came across an article outlining a new referral strategy Tesla Motors is implementing for their Model S sedan. As might be expected at Rocket Referrals I try to stay atop developing trends in referral marketing. So staying “up to speed” with what Elon Musk is cooking up here only made sense.

This program appears to be consistent with other retail-oriented referral strategies we have seen in the past. It operates on the tell-a-friend-and-you-both-get-something credo.

Tesla_Broadcast_Tower_1904Current Model S owners share a referral link with their friends and, if they buy, both are rewarded with a thousand bucks in Tesla credit. There are other rewards for referring 5 or ten friends, such as an invitation to an premier party and the exclusive right to purchase a souped-up version of their Model X (their SUV variant).

When asked the reasoning behind this referral program, Elon Musk indicated that Tesla is exploring ways to lower its cost of client acquisition. More specifically, ways in which the company can cut down on marketing costs by driving prospects directly to its website to order their vehicle. He indicated that the company could save $2,000 for every prospect who skipped visiting Tesla's physical stores and instead just took their friend’s word for it.

The thing is, Tesla’s marketing budget is already next to nothing. They do none of the traditional advertising that the big car manufacturers do.

OK, so no Super Bowl commercials, but you have almost certainly heard of them. This is due to 1) word-of-mouth 2) leveraging the press 3) no-pressure show rooms

Tesla has been very successful at creating a buzz around its product. They are new. They are exciting. And they are green. I mean, since when have we had fast and attractive looking electric cars? Since 2008 to be exact, when Tesla released its first model, the Roadster. Even the name sounds crisp. They have developed a product known for breaking the mold and innovating on green energy. People talk about this kind of thing. And when they do, those with money consider taking out their pocketbook and placing an order. According to Tesla, this referral program is an effort at incentivizing existing clients to tell their friends, and to reward those who already do. The result would be a lower cost of acquisition.

That’s fine, but I think there is a much larger objective behind this referral program: to further the exclusivity of owning a Tesla.

Let’s be honest, $1,000 seems like little more than a pat on the back when compared to a price tag upwards of six digits. Let’s just say that the demographic that purchases a Model S sedan is probably not jumping through hoops to get a relatively small kickback. And thus is the real genius behind the referral program.

A small incentive is Elon Musk’s way of showing his appreciation to his customers who are actively referring their friends, while also promoting the establishment of an exclusive group of Tesla owners.

Exclusivity is felt throughout the Tesla brand. There’s no negotiating on price. There’s no network of franchised dealers. There’s a backlog of car orders lasting for months, or even years. Those who refer many friends get an invitation to an exclusive party, or the right to purchase an exclusive Tesla model.

This referral program is just another way that Tesla is creating a network of owners from a chosen demographic.

The importance of collecting online reviews

- Carl Maerz is a co-founder of Rocket Referrals.

Online reviews are hot right now. Every business knows they should be getting more of them, right?

Well, I’m asked daily “why” a business should collect online reviews, “how” they help, and “what” the process of collecting them entails. So, I figured I would just write a blog post about it for all the curious minds out there.

It’s easier for prospects to find you online

Most of you have heard of the term SEO (search engine optimization), as it tends to be a buzzword not only in the insurance industry, but just about everywhere you look. Simply put, SEO is the process of ensuring your website ranks high when people search for a related topic online.

Over the years SEO has become rather complex. The search engines (Google, Yahoo, etc.) offer different breeds of search and are constantly changing their algorithms in hopes of improving the user experience. Keep in mind that search engines are most interested in catering to the end-user (the guy or gal searching online) and not the businesses.

Just over 67 percent of all U.S. search results are from Google. Therefore most of what I discuss below, including examples, will relate to Google search.

At the end of the day, the businesses will pay to be where their prospects are – which provides Google with one of their highest revenue streams through Adwords (paid placement on search). In fact, advertisements account for nearly 90 percent of Google’s annual revenue at over $59 billion. So that’s how Google is making all that money!

Improving SEO traditionally meant finding ways to improve a business’ ranking on organic search results. Being “organic” means that the search results don’t include any pesticides or are genetically enhanced in any way. Nah, I’m joking. It means that websites appear higher in search rankings because of their relevance to the search terms, rather than being paid for.

For a business, showing up on organic search is much more productive than paid advertisements. One study showed that 94 percent of people click on organic search results over paid advertisements.

Ranking higher with organic search isn’t easy. So many factors go into how businesses are ranked including things like website keywords, number of external links to website, etc. There are thousands of companies out there that specialize on helping businesses rank higher in organic search. It is no easy task.

There is a new breed of search that is becoming increasingly relevant: local search results (essentially a subcategory of organic search). Google recently updated its algorithm (Pigeon) to rank local businesses higher in search – essentially giving them a free pass over most organic search results.

This is not to say that organic and local search aren’t related. They certainly are. Location of the business is a significant factor for organic search results. But local listings, which are tied directly to Google Maps, regularly appear at the top of the search – for example here when insurance related terms are searched for e.g. “home insurance”, or “car insurance des moines”.

Take a look at the example below of the different types of search results.


Screenshot 2015-06-29 15.17.22


Ultimately, as a business operating within a region, the goal is to rank higher in local search results. This way you will be placed in a prominent location with relevant searches.

According to Google, three factors influence Google local search rankings: Relevance (matches search), Distance, and Prominence (how well known the business is).

A significant component of “prominence” is online reputation from online reviews. Google will take reviews from many different online sites into consideration (including Yelp, Facebook, Google, etc.) which all influence the rankings on Google local search.

Reviews help you stand out

We’ve established that collecting online reviews help your business rank higher on organic (including local) search results. The next—perhaps obvious—benefit is that online reviews will help your business stand out from the crowd.

A 2014 study by BrightLocal suggests that the American consumer is increasingly using local reviews to make purchase decisions. Their latest survey shows that 88 percent of consumers use, at least occasionally, local online reviews during the buying decision process.


Screenshot 2015-06-29 15.20.14

The bottom line is that online reviews are an important tool for consumers to judge the quality of a business. There is currently a large opportunity for agents to stand out online. The vast majority of businesses have at most 1 or 2 reviews online. Many have none at all.

Put yourself in the shoes of a consumer searching online for whatever service you offer. Would you rather chose a rather unknown establishment, or one that has a handful of positive reviews? Research, not to mention common sense, shows that online reviews provide social proof which impact purchase decisions.

So how do you do it?

  1. First things first, you want to ensure that your website is “with the times.” The better your website the higher you will rank on organic (including local) search.

  2. Claim your Google+ and Google Business Page and your Yelp Business Page.

  3. Identify who your best clients are using the Net Promoter Score (NPS).

  4. Collect testimonials from your best clients.

  5. Ask those clients that gave you a testimonial to review you online.

Using Net Promoter Score to influence client behavior

Screenshot 2015-05-06 13.41.16Carl Maerz is a co-founder of Rocket Referrals

It was a 2003 article in the Harvard Business Review entitled "The One Number you Need to Grow" that changed forever how we define client loyalty.

Business strategist and author, Fred Reichheld, set the framework for the Net Promoter Score (NPS) which is used by many of the world's most successful companies.

The NPS is a no-­frills survey used to identify client behavior that is predictive of future growth. Unlike the typical drawn-­out customer satisfaction surveys, the NPS is laser focused on what really matters: client loyalty. So focused, in fact, that it asks only one question: How likely is it that you would recommend us to a friend or colleague?

At Rocket Referrals we put a lot of emphasis on the NPS—not only because it provides insightful information about our clients—it can also be used to directly influence client behavior.

Reichheld indicates that "the path to profitable growth may lie in a company's ability to get its loyal customer to become, in effect, its marketing department." But our research has shown that simply identifying "promoters" and "detractors" is not enough. After all, it doesn't make a difference if you don't actually do something with the data.

The answer lies in using the NPS as a vehicle to drive additional data and action from your clients.

Perhaps the best quality of the NPS is that, because of its simplicity, a high percentage of people actually respond to it. We have seen an average response rate of 50% across all companies using Rocket Referrals.

Here’s the trick: Directly following the NPS a fair number of the respondents are primed to keep feeding you. All you need to do is ask!

The key is in the process. Have you ever been faced with a big stack of papers on your desk? Sure you have. The hesitation to begin is because you can see the long dreadful task ahead of you.

Traditional satisfaction surveys with all their boring questions is kind of like this. But, if you step them along one question (one sheet) at a time, they are much more likely to continue.

Ask your clients for one minute of their time with the NPS.

Next, ask them to tell you why they answered how they did. Frame the question dynamically based on how they scored. For example, ask a detractor for specific ways you could improve.

A promoter on the other hand, ask what you did right ­and then see if you can share their response with others.

The NPS will provide you will useful information itself, but it is when it is used as a stepping stone to immediate action from your clients that it becomes very powerful. We have been able to gather hundreds of testimonials for our clients using this method.

But it doesn't stop here. Assuming your clients rate you highly on the NPS and provide you with a positive testimonial, the door is wide open to ask for just a little bit more. Immediately following the testimonial is your chance to ask for recommendations on social media. I call this the "put your money where your mouth is" stage.

Finally, for those of your clients that have given you raving testimonials, you know who to ask down the road for reviews on third­-party websites. As you can see, the NPS is like the first date in a long relationship with your clients. Ask the right question and take the right followup steps, and start to realize that growth Reichheld keeps raving about.

The NPS Process: NPS > Followup Question > Social Media Recommendation > Reviews

A better way to do email marketing

Twenty years ago Bill Gates was interviewed by David Letterman on the Late Show and spoke about the beginnings of the internet. It was 1995 and the majority of the country wasn’t yet online, nor did we really understand how big this “internet thing” would become.


This clip reinforces how differently we consume information today than we did in the mid 90s. With the advent of social media, mobile phones, tablets, and all sorts of gadgets and automation it would seem that we are almost a different breed today than two decades ago. Almost.

Movies and television often have a somewhat exaggerated view of what we will become in the future. You know; the flying cars, tinfoil getups, and cyborg-like personalities. I can see the tinfoil, but I’m reluctant to believe that our personalities will be so numbed by technology that we forget genuine relationships all together.

In similar fashion the internet and all its peripherals have not substituted for our need for meaningful communication. I don’t necessarily believe that most people believe so either. However, on a daily basis businesses communicate with us as if we were, in fact, cyborgs.

The problem is the lack of personalization. Most companies simply drop prospects and existing clients into simple drip email marketing campaigns. The goal is to “touch” the consumer with emails over time to “stay in front of them”.  This method of communicating is like pulling the string on the back of a talking doll. “Hi, I’m Chucky, and I’m your friend ‘till the end!” Does that resonate with you?

The alternative is to gain a unique profile for each contact, and communicate with them individually. Automation can still be leveraged, but it should be driven by the Net Promoter Score (NPS), demographics, previous interactions, products they’ve purchased, among other things. This portrait will ensure that automated communication can be specifically tailored to each of your clients.

Unlike drip communication, profile-driven strategies operate outside of linear planes. They use bits of information to form the most personalized content aimed at influencing action and shaping client behavior. Whether that be increasing referrals or just strengthening relationships and retention.

The profile can be shaped by the Net Promoter Score (NPS), demographics, previous interactions, products they’ve purchased, among other things. This portrait will ensure that automated communication can be specifically tailored to each of your clients.

There are also a couple ways of quickly boosting your reputation with contacts. One way is by substituting heavily branded emails for plain text ones. Emails that look like you actually opened your inbox and typed a message go a long way with contacts anymore. Secondly, consider sending handwritten cards for thank you’s or birthdays. There are tools available to help you automate much of this communication. Remember that it should have one key component: advanced personalization.

- Carl Maerz is a co-founder of Rocket Referrals, a startup company focused on helping businesses gain referrals from customers.

Referral marketing and floating ice

Baby_seal- By Carl Maerz

The MS Explorer was a Liberian cruise ship that, since 1969, provided tours of the icy waters of the Antarctic Ocean. In 2007 it struck an iceberg off the coast of Antarctica and sank 20 hours later. That’s right, they are still at it. More than 95 years after the Titanic and icebergs are as mischievous as ever.

It’s not that they are inherently evil, it’s just their prerogative to sink ships—their God given right. I can’t imagine another purpose for them. Well, except for serving as a floating La-Z-Boy for a vagrant seal I guess.

By definition, an iceberg is freshwater ice that has broken off a glacier or an ice shelf and is floating freely in open water. They are essentially the progeny of a very large piece of ice. One that has been booted from the nest to find its own way in the vast frigid waters. True, only a handful are destined to the hulls of unsuspecting ships. But they can dream, can’t they?

Although not made of frozen water, referrals are kind of like icebergs. They are also offspring of something larger—existing clients. All the work you have done to establish the trust of your clients is shifted directly from client to prospect.

A referral is the mechanism that joins a company to a prospect via an existing customer. Trust transfers from the connection between the company, client, and prospect. Therefore the barriers that exist with a typical prospect and the company are broken down by way of the active promoter. As the trust transfers, the resistance is diminished, and sales are much easier to obtain.

The "Bergie Seltzer"

When icebergs melt in warm waters they make a unique fizzling sound. The noise is called Bergie Seltzer which is caused by compressed (ancient) air bubbles trapped in the ice escaping. From several YouTube videos I found it sounds like a bowl of Rice Krispies after you add the milk.

Some may blame global warming, but I just think they got lost and were caught floating in the wrong water. A warm environment is no place for an aspiring iceberg. This reminds me of how referrals can die on the vine if they are not nurtured properly. The proper habitat for referrals is one that promotes regular and meaningful communication with clients. Lose touch with your existing client base and you can kiss word-of-mouth goodbye.

I recommend sending handwritten notes to existing clients at least several times a year. It may sound labor intensive, but from our experience, the ROI is there. Personal touchpoints go a long way with increasing referrals. Consider birthday cards, anniversary cards, or loyalty cards.

Bergy bits and growlers

The baby brothers of icebergs are called bergy bits and growlers. They are like mini icebergs. Referrals also have their lesser halfs—reviews and testimonials. That is why we encourage our clients to never stop collecting them. Actively collecting written accounts of your success won’t only serve as social proof, but will reinforce your existing relationships, and lead directly to more inbound referrals.

Frankly, this is just the tip of the iceberg regarding an all-embracing referral strategy. For more in-depth discussion we recommend you check out our blog.

Start collecting those reviews on Google

By in large, people buy from people they trust. And when they are in need for a product or service they are unfamiliar with, they generally ask friends and family for recommendations. This is because trust can be transferred from person to person in what is known as Social Proof. This psychological phenomenon allows people to make decisions by trusting experiences others have with an otherwise foreign situation: “Hey Bob, my tooth is killing me, you know a good dentist?”

5starThat is why referrals are so darn effective. People don’t need to take the time and effort to build their own opinion of a specific business - they figure their friend has done that already. But if Bob, or anyone else for that matter, doesn’t know a good dentist? Well, in this instance over 67 percent of people are headed right to Google and finding out who other people recommend (1 percent are even using the I’m Feeling Lucky button).

People are essentially looking for Social Proof outside their direct network. Just last year Google released an update to their search engine algorithm known as “Pigeon”. This update greatly impacted local search results; effectively giving an edge to businesses targeting nearby prospects. Great news for businesses that are on top of collecting online reviews! People are hungry for unbiased feedback, and Google reviews are perhaps the next best thing to direct word of mouth.

The effectiveness of Social Proof on a prospect is impacted by:

  1. The perceived familiarity with the products or services by the reviewer

  2. How accurate and unbiased the review appears to be

Google is pretty good about maintaining their reputation for unbiased reviews. In fact, they go to great lengths to keeping their reviews free from outside influence. Because of this they are trusted by prospects as a way to evaluate a company. But there are ways you could go about collecting more for your business - and I encourage you to be active in doing so.

Although directly soliciting for reviews is not encouraged by Google, they say it’s okay to ask your clients for them. Below is a response from one of Google’s forums discussing this topic:

“It’s fine if you reach out to customers to ask them to review, but I do not recommend that you do this in waves. If you want to reach out to legit customers and ask them to review, I recommend you contact them immediately after you have done business with them.”

When going about collecting reviews from your customers it is best to follow a process, and spread it out over time. Collecting too many reviews at one time could lead Google to delete them all together. A consistent approach is important, and I have outlined some steps which is a great place to get started.

  1. Make sure you have a business Google+ page

  2. Identify who your happiest and most vocal customers are (NPS)

  3. Gather as many testimonials that you can

  4. Ask your most vocal promoters to review you on Google

  5. Do not get busted for soliciting for reviews - spread them out!

- Carl Maerz, Founder and COO - Rocket Referrals LLC

Be authentic, be, be authentic!

A couple weeks ago we were fortunate enough to have someone join our team at Rocket Referrals. I would best describe Matthew as pensive, experienced, good at what he does - and moderately quirky. As you might expect from any newcomer to a group, Matthew was recently feeling out our company culture & the image we exhibit to others. Today in particular he asked me how the best way to address a prospect via email would be. In other words, should he be formal - or perhaps use the word “hey”. The answer was simple. Be yourself. Be authentic.

Depositphotos_11105665_xsTrue to form, the next step was for Matthew to start chanting “be authentic, be, be, authentic!” as if he was a high school cheerleader. A cheer which I indubitably joined in on. In fact it was the inspiration this blog post - because as quirky as the situation might be - it highlighted a very important aspect for any business: to be genuine, be yourself, be authentic.

Truth be told, we always know when a business is trying to sneak one by us. Sometimes it is more obvious than others. We can always smell a snake-oil salesman from a mile away and spot deals that are just too good to be true. But the problem runs much deeper than the blatant. What about those newsletters we get that are masked as informational but laced with promotions? How about the email from your car dealership that says he’s just checking in but is really soliciting you for a referral?

Or my personal favorite: when companies change their entire branding, message, or product away from their roots. Remember when Coca cola changed their formula for the first time in 99 years in 1985 to the “new Coke?” A marketing disaster calling for thousands to demand the original product. The same goes for companies trying to fit into trends they don’t belong, or use language that just doesn’t fit who they are. It’s kind of like that father that attends career day for his 4th grade child and turns his hat backwards and spits out terms like “rad” and “the bomb.” Trying too hard to fit in just doesn’t sit right.

On the other hand, being authentic will give substance to your company. It will define who you are and enable others to relate to you. In turn, more people are much more likely to trust you and have a positive outlook on your brand. Likability breeds sales and trust leads to referrals. You may not be the perfect fit for everyone, but being authentic is the only way to truly reach an audience. And when you have a loyal following that trusts you, you begin to create a community around your products and services.

Why your clients are leaving and how to stop them

When most people hear the term “churn rate” they probably think it is a measure of how quickly an elderly Amish lady whips up old-fashioned butter.

However, in regard to subscription and many service industries, churn rate is the percentage of clients that leave the business within a given time period. Something much less sweet or buttery indeed.

The truth of the matter is that most businesses simply don’t focus on client retention nearly as much as they should. Here’s why:

  • They are laser focused on acquiring new clients
  • They are laser focused on acquiring new clients
  • They believe retention is a natural byproduct of good customer service

I agree: zeroing in on new clients is important for new and mature businesses alike. After all, if you do not bring in new blood the only way to increase commissions is through cross sales. It’s a no brainer. But, if your existing clients are dropping like flies it makes it even more difficult to grow an company and increase profits.

Research shows that, on average, it costs 6 to 7 times more to acquire a new client than retain an existing one.

This is not groundbreaking news for some companies. They have done the math and understand the importance of keeping their clients for the long haul.

In fact, many companies pride themselves on customer service and go above and beyond to convert clients into ambassadors. They have excellent producers and service personnel that genuinely care about their clients.

Why clients are leaving

Preview-microThe truth is, you can care about your clients and give them the best service and price available and still have a high churn rate. This is because, regardless of how much you do care, over time clients start to feel like you don’t genuinely care about them.

In fact, this is by far the number one reason why clients leave. The American Society for Quality references a study which indicates that 68 percent of customers defect through perceived indifference. The next closest reason at 14 percent left because they were dissatisfied with some aspect of the service.

For many businesses this will turn the notion of client retention upside down. Great service only prevents 14 percent of those clients that would defect from doing so.

The perceived indifference that accounts for an astounding 68% of client loyalty is due to the lack of regular meaningful communication from the company.

How to stop the bleeding

1. Send periodic Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys
2. Ask for testimonials
3. Send personalized loyalty cards

NPS Surveys are the quickest and most effective metric to gauge client loyalty. They are excellent at identifying promoters and uncovering detractors. They show clients that the company cares about what they think of them. This survey should be sent to each client every 4-6 months.

Asking for testimonials strengthens the bond between loyal clients and the company. After they make the commitment to promote a business to others it becomes part of their self-image. When asked to further show their commitment (sticking around) they will be far more likely to do so – rather than conflicting with this shared belief and developing a dissonant state.

Loyalty cards are a simple way for businesses to let existing clients know they still care about them. Handwritten and unexpected cards fill the communication void that happens between significant events in the relationship. What better way to eliminate perceived indifference by telling your clients personally that you care about them and thank them for their loyalty?

These three touchpoints go a long way to increasing client retention and are rather easy to implement. Remember that in this game stellar service along is not enough. Your clients need to feel loved or they walk.

Existing clients aren't chopped liver

Carl Maerz is a co-founder of Rocket Referrals, a startup company focused on helping businesses gain referrals from customers.

My brother has the sweetest dog I have ever had the privilege to play fetch with. Abby, a 5-year old goldendoodle, is very well behaved and lacks the mischievousness which most animals possess. That is, until over this holiday. Apparently, on New Year's Eve she went on a tear through the house and sniffed out every piece of candy she could get her paws on. She knew it was wrong, and normally she would have resisted her longing for chocolate. But with all the hustle and bustle over the holidays she didn’t get the personal attention she was used to. So down the hatch went the Butterfingers, candy canes, ...even Laffy Taffy. Here she is acting innocent - except of course there is a wrapper on her chin.

Photo (38)

She was missing the personal touchpoints and recognition she needed.

As do existing clients of many companies. With the new year comes sales and revenue goals. Yet too often some businesses get so wrapped up (pun intended) with searching for new clients that they forget about their existing clients. You know, the ones they got last year. In fact, I always get aggravated when companies I have done business with for years offer outstanding deals for new clients only. What am I, chopped liver? So I end up leaving and joining a competitor. And thus begins the continuous cycle for the company of losing clients and obtaining new ones.

What about the lifetime value of a client?

That is where the real profit lies. Plug the leak in the bucket before adding more water. Which reminds us that client retention is just as, if not more important, than searching out new blood. Don’t forget the three Rs of customer loyalty: retention, repeat business, and referrals.

Customer loyalty can be increased significantly by purely increasing the personal touchpoints that you have with your clients. Every touchpoint goes a long way in influencing the overall perception of a company. The better the client feels about you, the more likely they are going to stick around, buy more, and tell their friends and family.

Send them handwritten cards.

I am a firm believer that direct mail is making a comeback. With so much email floating around now people hardly even notice it anymore. Besides, when consuming information online most people just look at pictures and watch videos. Okay, except for you. Thanks for reading my post. But when something shows up handwritten in their mailbox with a first class stamp attached. Trust me, they are going to read that. And they will remember it.

Birthdays and anniversaries are the best times to send them.

People get lots of Christmas cards still, and it is kind of strange to send one on Valentine’s Day. But most people don’t get that many handwritten birthdays cards anymore. (Well, not me anyway). But don’t just send one of those cheap bulk cards that only have your signature on it. Better than nothing, but it will be forgotten. Include a personalized message and be genuine.

Good luck this year! I hope your clients don’t misbehave like Abby did. Just don’t forget about your existing clients and you will have a great 2015!

Extremely high-frequency referrals

Carl Maerz is a co-founder of Rocket Referrals, a startup company focused on helping businesses gain referrals from customers.

Extremely high-frequency (EHF) radio band is perhaps the next ‘big thing’ in the sphere of technology. Admittedly, it sounds like something you wouldn’t give a second glance at while wading through your kid’s science fair. But supposedly this technology is going to change the way large amounts of data (movies, photos) are transferred between devices. It is kind of like the near-field communication (NFC) that Apple Pay relies on - with one significant difference. EHF clocks at around 6 gigabytes per second whereas NFC is capable of about 400 kilobits a second. So, rather than tapping phones to transfer contact information or credit card details, you can instantly share entire photo albums. It’s pretty cool stuff.

Screenshot 2014-12-07 21.45.40We’ve known about EHF radio band for a long time - but it is the application which is changing. The biggest challenge is overcoming atmospheric attenuation. Now, I know you didn’t come here to read a science paper, so bear with me. Simply put, particles in our atmosphere interfere with the radio waves, so the greater the distance, the weaker the signal. As a result, two devices must be held closely together to transfer data. Not nearly as convenient as Wi-Fi (top speed of 1.35 gigabits per second), but much quicker.

Speaking of Wi-Fi, I rely on it every day to connect to the internet to share information with thousands of people. I like to compare it to traditional marketing; the bread and butter of reaching new prospects for any business. Establishing your brand, creating content, paying for advertisements on Facebook, really whatever tactic one uses to reach out to new prospects. And it works, but there are often several hurdles you must overcome to convince someone new to buy your product or services.

Casting a wide net is important to set the foundation for a marketing strategy. It builds your brand and supports your ability to close. But don’t forget about looking inward, to your existing client base, for new business. Often times companies are so busy attracting new clients that they forget to leverage promoters for referrals. One of the greatest advantages of referral marketing is the speed of closing the deal. Like EHF radio band, referrals result in lightning quick transfer of trust from a happy client to a new prospect.

Studies also show that people regularly rely on people close to them to make purchase decisions. The Nielsen Company surveyed more than 29,000 respondents and found that the advice of family and friends (77 percent) is the most persuasive when looking for information about new products or services. It seems that the more personal the product or service, the more people rely on their loved one for direction. According to a 2014 report performed by the Hinge Research Institute 87 percent of prospects begin their search for insurance by turning to friends and family.

I don’t recommend that you eschew a traditional marketing strategy and rely solely on referrals. But I do believe most businesses should give a close look to referral marketing when exploring ways to increase sales. Like EHF, referrals are nothing new. It is what you do to increase them that makes the difference.

Google reviews are just one piece of the puzzle

Carl Maerz is a co-founder of Rocket Referrals, a startup company focused on helping businesses gain referrals from customers.

I meet with a growing number of clients that inquire about finding ways to boost their online presence. Regardless of their industry, most believe that Google is the Holy Grail of leads and - consequently - new business. Although I don’t necessarily disagree, I strongly believe that Google is just one piece, albeit a big one, of the puzzle.

Sure; I continually harp on the importance of a solid referral strategy for most businesses - especially those in service-related industries. So, I figured I would do a little more harping, but this time talk about how Google - more specifically online reviews - can be effectively used in tandem with referrals.

Only moments ago, during my brief trip to Denver, I was sitting in a coffee shop scribbling on a paper napkin thinking of an easy way to explain the following. What I came up with was what you see here.


Not exactly crystal clear. So, I asked my brother - who is more graphically inclined - to give it a whirl. His is below which will help explain my concept.

Taking a step back, I am going retro for a moment to referencing the Buying Decision Process, which any seasoned business professional likely learned years past. Still applicable today, in my opinion it outlines the important points in time that any marketer should consider. I also believe that social influences greatly impact the decisions people make to purchase products and services. I would argue this is true even more today than ever before - as the internet reduces barriers created by distance and time - effectively allowing recommendations and referrals to glimmer brighter than traditional marketing, both locally, and beyond.

Oh boy, that was a lofty statement - which I am mildly proud of - but I will gladly explain. I believe that the Buying Decision Process is closely tied to Social Impact Theory, which (duh) explains how people are affected by social influence.

Social Impact Theory breaks down the effectiveness of social influence into three categories: strength, immediacy, and number.

Strength - a group (or individual) has more of an impact of influencing a decision the more important they are to the individual.

Immediacy - the amount of time and space between a group and the individual determines its potency - and how quickly a decision must be made.

Number - the more people (or reviews), the greater the influence.

This theory explains how companies that have active referral strategies combined with a local-centric online presence are among the most successful. The search for products and services is greatly influenced by when and where a prospect is when they need your services. A prospect searching for a pizza joint in a new city will almost always yield a Google search. The search for a reputable insurance agent in your local community, however, leans toward referrals from your trusted friends.

For most searches, Google has recently improved their search engine algorithms in favor of local businesses. They called the update “Pigeon” of all things. This is great news for local companies - but it only impacts about half of all new prospects - as indicated above. The other half is courtesy of word-of-mouth (referrals from your active promoters).

The bottom line: concentrating on ways to boost local SEO and encouraging reviews for your business is effective at targeting a specific group of prospects. Yet in order to cover all bases, and increase your conversion, combine your online presence with a strong referral strategy aimed at encouraging your promoters to share you with their friends and family.

Referrals & poltergeists

Carl Maerz is a co-founder of Rocket Referrals, a startup company focused on helping businesses gain referrals from customers.

Late October is upon us; and with it, darker days, lower temperatures, falling leaves and rising vigilance. As we dust off our jackets and carve our pumpkins - the transitioning environment cannot be avoided. And, although most of us enjoy the intricacies of fall, there is still the eerie side of things which creeps up on us from time to time.  After all, even the most hardened gets the occasional chill as All Hallows' Eve draws closer. That being the case, I thought it appropriate to mesh some ghostly facts into my Halloween post - so, just maybe, you’ll check your backseat next time you head home from the office.

Screenshot 2014-10-27 13.53.12Poltergeist. German for “Rattling Ghost.” The psychic manifestations that seem to appear when nobody is looking but are certain to let you know they are around. Poltergeists aren’t the misty ghosts often portrayed with bed sheets, nor the creaking noises in an old attic. Rather they crash vases, set furniture ablaze, and send books tumbling from the shelf. Active day and night, poltergeists are also known to pull people from their beds and cause them to levitate against their will.

Just over a century ago Poltergeists were studied to explain the noises of crashing glass of objects that were later found intact. A theory was developed that some inanimate objects possess a double - or a phantasmal - image that was hurled by the poltergeist. In essence, the ghosts were attempting to cause harm to the living world, but were unable to break through spiritual boundaries. The unearthly doubles were exact replicas of existing objects, and although the original was unadulterated, the effects were heard by the living, i.e. you and me.

The idea of exact spiritual replicas is repeated throughout history, evidenced by the sightings of doppelgängers (double goers). As with inanimate objects, doppelgängers are spiritual incarnations that have very close ties with their living counterparts. Both theories explain the natural attraction between the unnatural and human - showing how spirits are able to influence the behavior of those in which they have a connection. Similarly, people have connections with family and friends in which they find similar to themselves. Like father, like son. Often our decisions are made by influences from our loved ones.

Savvy businesses use this connection regularly to rein in new clients by leveraging their existing customers for referrals. Rather than attempting to win over a prospect with traditional marketing, they are able to relay the goodwill they acquired from their clientele. Referrals leverage the power of influence known as “likability” as prospects are more likely to take advice from friends and people they know and respect. Just the same, I would be more likely to follow a ghost portrayed as myself or someone close to me down a dark corridor.

Poltergeists may enjoy breaking vases - after all, it is kind of their forte - but interestingly enough, they have figured out just how to spook us. Drawing on aspects of psychology they are able to incite fear by rattling what is close to us, as it has much more of an impact. Imagine watching a haunting from afar, and compare that to breath on the back of your neck. Marketers should take a page out of the “Handbook for the Recently Deceased” and target prospects at the most spooky place - via their close friends and family.

Image credit: SLM Production Group

Psychology, aliens, and testimonials

Carl Maerz is a co-founder of Rocket Referrals, a startup company focused on helping businesses gain referrals from customers.


It is no secret that marketers have been using psychology on us for years to get us to buy stuff. That’s right, these mind ninjas aren’t just pulling tricks out of their hat. The best marketing techniques are based on in-depth studies that explain human behavior.

So let’s assume that you have clients with ongoing relationships with you. You already convinced them to buy - now your energy shifts to customer retention: an area that many companies unknowingly neglect. Unfortunately, customer satisfaction alone is not enough. In fact, the consulting and research firm Bain & Company found that in business after business, 60 to 80 percent of customers said they were satisfied before defecting to a competitor.

The good news is that a tidbit of psychology will make a big difference in retaining those clients - cognitive dissonance. This is the nerdy term for the uneasy feeling people experience when one belief conflicts with a pre-existing one.


FlyingsaucerYou may have heard about that doomsday cult in the ‘50s that believed the world was going to blow up from some super alien ray gun, or something. The leader of the cult convinced her followers that, if they were believers, the aliens would scoop them up in their flying saucer in the nick of time. Not surprisingly the world never blew up. So the cult leader told her followers that the martians decided to allow them to live after all.

Those who sold all their belongings and kissed their loved ones goodbye were in an awkward position. So, rather than face reality (that their leader was a fraud) they convinced themselves that she was a prophet, and they became even stronger believers. Like a smoker who makes up excuses, they avoided the dissonance caused by conflicting beliefs.


As a business you can also use this as a technique to increase customer retention. Of course I am not suggestion that you make up false prophecies - but, have customers make an additional commitment to you. This is as simple as actively gathering customer testimonials.

Especially when they are shared publically, testimonials will strengthen the bond between the client and business. After they make the commitment to promote a business to others it becomes part of their self-image. When asked to further show their commitment (sticking around) they will be far more likely to do so - rather than conflicting with this shared belief and developing a dissonant state.

Turns out collecting testimonials has benefits outside of convincing prospects with social proof. So, even if you aren’t posting them on your website, consider collecting as many as you possible.

Century-old lesson on referrals

Carl Maerz is a co-founder of Rocket Referrals, a startup company focused on helping businesses gain referrals from customers.

I am going to assume that, if you are reading this blog post, you have heard of the concept of six degrees of separation. You know, the idea that everyone (and everything) on this planet is separated by at most six steps, by way of introduction.

The theory was popularized in the '90s by a play written by John Guare and a film starring Will Smith,but the origin dates all the way back to 1929, and a Hungarian author named Frigyes Karinthy. It is quite interesting when you compare how someone nearly a century ago predicted the earth’s rapid increase in interconnectedness, or “small world phenomenon” by way of new technology. And this was way before the internet.

It is an obvious topic for a business referral blog, wouldn’t you say? When you consider how connected the entire planet is today it is difficult not to consider how companies can use this to their advantage - to reach new clients. But first, I want to take a step back and shed light on the cradle of this theory. Stick with me here, I bet you learn something new.

InterconnectedIn 1929 Karinthy wrote a short story entitled ‘Chain-Links’ in which he discusses the evolution of the world - quickly shrinking in size due to the “quickening pulse of physical and verbal communication.” Keep in mind that this was during the interwar economy of the Hungarian empire - not long after the Austro-Hungarian Empire was dismantled following WWI. The ripples of the Roaring Twenties through Great Britain and the U.S. was felt across the world. This included great leaps in technology and lifestyles.

But, there still was no internet. (Al Gore hadn’t invented it yet.) Nonetheless, Karinthy challenges that, using no more than five connections, anyone on the planet could find a link to anyone, or anything else. Interestingly enough, he attributes this ability through the global expansion of Europe across the world, and rapid changing technology. This is obvious as he states:

“Was there ever a time in human history when this would have been impossible? Julius Caesar, for instance, was a popular man, but if he had got it into his head to try and contact a priest from one of the Mayan or Aztec tribes that lived in the Americas at that time, he could not have succeeded - not in five steps, not even in three hundred. Europeans in those days knew less about America and its inhabitants than we now know about Mars and its inhabitants.”

This is a powerful observation. Outside of the philosophical viewpoint - it has ramifications in the business world. So often businesses rely on traditional marketing to obtain new clients. Yet frequently they rely on acquiring new blood and forget to leverage their network of clients.

In 1929 there were 1.5 billion people on the planet. Today there are 7.1 billion. Perhaps this poses a new challenge, but more inhabitants means more connections. Consider social media. In 2011 a Facebook study indicated that 99.91 percent of users were interconnected by 69 billion friendship links - with the average distance between any random 2 people was only 4.7 friends. Similarly, Twitter has an average degree of separation of 3.43 between two random users.

When you consider these numbers it is no surprise that the New York Times claims that an average of 65 percent of new business comes from referrals. Also, Nielsen _- a global information company - observed that people are four times more likely to buy when referred.

Simply put, consider how connected we all are, especially today. Referrals are a powerful, and often less expensive, way to acquire new business. When considering your marketing strategy moving forward, I suggest keeping referrals top of mind.

“Pull a thread here and you’ll find it’s attached to the rest of the world.” ― Nadeem Aslam

11 ways to increase referral business (in no particular order)

Here we go - you spot your name card at the corner of a long table in a candlelit restaurant. The waiting staff partitioned off a generous section for you and other business leaders in Iowa. Appletini in tow, you sit nestled into your chair and anxiously await the tone of the bell. Ding! You are officially a participant of referral speed dating. Each referral tip has 3 sentences or less to tell you why they deserve your undivided attention.

'I think I can, I think I can' referral mindset

TouchpointsThe key to referral business is setting the tone for your business, and your clients, that referrals are important. Understand the your best clients want to refer you, but that recommendations don’t always happen without a little push. Using language that conveys the significance of referrals for your agency- subtly, yet consistently, will ensure that you’re referred when the time is right.

Change how you ask where people heard about you

Like the roast beef at a cheap buffet, “Where did you hear about us” is overdone. Instead, ask your new customers (or prospects) “Who was it that referred you to us?” This question is much more explicit and yields more precise information for you to act on - while also setting the tone for future referrals.

Make it about them

Too often businesses communicate the topic of referrals with their clients in a selfish way. By saying “we would really appreciate if you referred your friends to us” you are basically asking for them to make a sale for you. Saying “we really want to help your friends and family” targets the reasons they refer their loved ones.

Refer other businesses

Tit for tat, reciprocity - it does wonders. If a prospect is not right for you, or you know businesses in adjacent industries, refer people to them. Set the precedent and they will almost always return the favor when the time is right.

Make it easy

When a client is feeling saucy and wants to refer your business it shouldn’t be difficult to do. To be most effective make sure your contact information is readily available. Send introductory emails, be easy to find online, and keep your social media pages up-to-date.

Improve your website

If you still have it, remove that counter at the bottom of your webpage. Even after a referral happens the vast majority of prospects will check you out online. Get a modern, easy to navigate, and solid website to convert referrals into sales.

Gather testimonials

Written validation dramatically improves your likelihood to capture referral business. Actively gathering testimonials makes your clients comfortable with referring you. They also serve as social proof for prospects.


Reach out to your clients regularly with newsletters, loyalty cards, etc. Don’t reserve communication for when payment is due or your services are rendered. Keep an ongoing relationship to stay top of mind and to show your continued commitment.

Be interesting

By golly, give your clients something to talk about! If you share interesting stories with them they will be more compelled to discuss you with others. Sneak into as many conversations as possible by being fun and thought-provoking.

What do you say?

Thank you! Yeah, that’s right, let your clients know that you appreciate them recommending you to their loved ones. They are more likely to do it again, and they will appreciate the recognition.

Track your progress

A referral strategy is not a one and done kinda thing. Stay consistent with your strategy and stick with it! Track your results and adjust your strategy if needed.

So whaddya think? So many compelling referral tips to choose from. Start with one and go from there - they aren’t the jealous type!

Content marketing with a referral twist

Carl Maerz is a co-founder of Rocket Referrals, a startup company focused on helping businesses gain referrals from customers.

In several of my previous posts on IowaBiz I talk about general concepts around referral marketing. Along the way I have offered tips on ways to increase the likelihood that your clients will pull the trigger and send their friends and family your way. I try my darndest to put a unique spin on my content and support it with research and studies in psychology. And let me tell you, the biggest challenge I have is providing content that not only inspires people to look critically at the subject, but also offers actionable steps to increase referral business. That is my goal on this post - and I would really enjoy hearing your feedback on this particular subject.

ReferraldogJust this week I finished an eBook tailored to referral marketing for insurance agents (my company’s target market). Talk about the epitome of content marketing - and boy was it a lot of work. And for those of you who don’t know exactly what this is, content marketing is creating and distributing valuable and consistent content to attract a clearly defined audience. Blog posts, white papers, eBooks, etc. Anything your prospects will find value in reading. I then thought about ways that I could use much of what I learned about referral marketing and use it to promote my eBook, and this is what I came up with.

Inherently, content marketing is designed to supplement all types of marketing - SEO, inbound, PPC, social media, etc. The bottom line, in order for it to be most effective it needs to find its way to a lot of people in your target market (your defined audience). Now, encouraging people to share content is nothing new. I mean, you can’t even buy something online anymore without being asked to share it on Facebook. But, in my opinion, there is a clear distinction between sharing your casual blog post and a more in depth white paper or eBook.

Here’s why. People are used to paying for books and businesses often shell out money for in-depth research. If you spend the time to create this type of content you have a valid claim that it is worth something. That is, of course, if it is not just marketing material packed as useful information.

So here is my thought. Write an eBook and pack it full of valuable and relevant information (branded to your company, of course). Put a monetary value on it, say $29, but don’t sell it. Give it away to your current clients for free as a ‘thank you’ for their loyalty. They will appreciate this. Now, you want to inspire them to share it with others. But, rather than just encouraging them to forward the PDF, provide them with a link where they can only send the eBook to one person (whoever would most benefit from it) and include this link inside the eBook (think viral). And, in return the referrer will receive an email or link to an exclusive discount that they can only find if they submit the share through your form (say, 50% off the next month of service).

This is a soft referral. Your clients know who could likely benefit from your service and are sharing your content with that individual and making an introduction to your company. Allowing them to share the eBook with only one individual, and the waved price tag, will give them something of value to share. Now - for those that forward the PDF to multiple people. That’s fine! After all it is branded to your company and should include a soft call to action and the exclusive offer to share it with others. Before you know it your book will find its way into many different inboxes. As long as you are following up with the leads generated by your online forms, you can start to include drip marketing into the equation.

For an example landing page click here. Again, I’d like to hear your thoughts.

Referral cards provide ammunition to your active promoters

You know those little cards that muddle up your wallet? The loyalty cards that rest in piles on the counter or coffee or sandwich shops.

At one time I probably had 10 different cards, each of them with a single over-inked stamp or moon-shaped punch hole. “Here you go, you’re only 14 stamps away from a free small coffee!”

Ernstos4110The next time I ever saw them was when I would survey the damage after leaving my wallet in my jeans on laundry day. In retrospect, they weren’t really that effective - at least in bringing me back to buy more.

Because let’s be honest - loyalty programs are created to, well, promote loyalty. Repeat customers. More revenue. But for many companies the punch card never finds its way back.

“But that’s not true, I use my Palmers partner card every week!” you say. Yes, so do I. But that's because they put a lot of meat on their club sandwich and the lady behind the counter has a nice smile - not because of the little yellow card slowly disintegrating next to my driver’s license.

My point? In order for a loyalty program to be effective it needs to have value. Enough value that it will inspire a customer to shop with you over a competitor.

Loyalty programs come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. Punch cards, plastic cards, cards you can attach to your keychain, cards on your smartphone, and so on. They are intended to reward the customer for repeat business. More advanced programs are also designed to track purchases and tailor marketing efforts.

Referral card

But there is one type of card I have yet to mention. The referral card. Whereas the focus of loyalty programs is on promoting repeat business; referral cards leverage existing customers to bring new blood in the door.

I am sure you have seen businesses hand out cards that promote an incentive-based referral program. On the card is nothing more than “refer a friend, get 10 bucks” or something of that nature. That is not a referral card.

What I am talking about is something that a business provides their customers that they can give to their friends and family that has exclusive value to the recipient.

For example, two golf lessons at a country club valid only for Bob’s friends and family. In order for the card to have value it must be an exclusive offer that is not promoted elsewhere. The only way for a new client to get this specific deal is via an existing client.

This way your client will feel they are giving something of actual value to their friend when they are referring you. If it is a coupon that you can find in the Sunday paper its value vanishes (and is embarrassing to give away).

You may also consider pairing the exclusive offer with an incentive for your client. For example, a card that will reward both the existing client and the new guy. This way way your clients will have more of a reason to hand them out, and the prospects will feel more obligated to use them.

Referralcard1By empowering your loyal customers to bring in their friends and family you are also facilitating conversation that strengthens your brand. Referral cards will get people giving the gift of your business - as long as you make it worth their while to do so.

Remember - make it exclusive, limited, and valuable.

We still laugh (and buy) for the same reasons

Carl Maerz is a co-founder of Rocket Referrals, a startup company focused on helping businesses gain referrals from customers.

Technology is changing culture - and culture is changing the way businesses are marketing their business. The internet, cell phones, and social media have completely transformed the way people are communicating today. As a result companies are also adapting by reaching their audiences in creative ways - through the new mediums.

BubbleboyConsider what would happen if a cell phone or the Internet was introduced into the 90’s sitcom Seinfeld. George Costanza would have never gotten lost on the way to the cabin to meet the Bubble Boy if he had MapQuest or in-car navigation.

Larry David would have simply found a new way to introduce the unlikely encounter. In both cases we would have laughed for the same underlying (albeit awkward) reasons.

Similarly, marketers are conforming to changes in culture in how they reach their audiences while not altering the core message or strategy. People still buy (or laugh) for the same reasons. It is only the delivery of the message that has changed.

Take for example Oreo’s Super Bowl tweet. Witty, creative, and timely. They captured the attention of millions of tweeters and lots of press to boot. And I am sure their sales benefited as a result - after all 3 out of 4 grocery purchase decisions are made in store. Creating a buzz that improves brand recognition is perfect for cookies. But what about more serious purchase decisions, like those in service-related industries?

With financial services for instance, 87 percent of buyers turn to friends or colleagues first for recommendations, while only about 1 out of every 10 shoppers start with independent research. The same holds true for most insurance, health care, veterinarians, salons, etc.

Due to change in culture, many referrals have shifted from direct personal contact to interactions over Facebook, Twitter, email, and even online reviews. Yet the underlying reasons why people choose one company over another remain. Personal recommendations are still king.

Therefore, it is important that companies that rely on trust pay close attention to how their customers are communicating with their friends and family. There are certainly ways to directly influence the propensity of loyal customers to actively give positive referrals.

My advice is to pay attention to how your customer base is making their purchase decisions and not simply conform to what’s popular in the marketing world. Yes, technology will certainly influence how you reach your customers, and how they communicate, but the core message should target the specific reasons they buy.

The truth about Facebook ads

Carl Maerz is a co-founder of Rocket Referrals, a startup company focused on helping businesses gain referrals from customers.

Like most entrepreneurs I am constantly looking for ways to reach new audiences. And, when growing our brand, my strategy needs to be very targeted and rather creative. Therefore, I try new approaches and measure the results. Recently I experimented with Facebook advertising. After all, everybody is doing it, right? Americans spend more time on social media than any other internet activity. So, how could it possibly go wrong?

Here’s how…

Screenshot 2014-07-13 23.55.07

Facebook allows businesses to pay to promote their page (obtain Likes) and boost their posts to expand their reach to new audiences. With 665 million active daily users it is an ocean of opportunity. But there is one very big problem - it is increasingly difficult to reach relevant audiences.

In return I got a $400 invoice, about 30 page Likes and 200 Likes of a sponsored post. At first I was smiling. But that didn’t last long. After scanning the people that “liked” my content I noticed that their demographics were nowhere near what I wanted. I targeted insurance agents and got forklift operators, nannies, and even a gumologist.

Naturally I was confused. I mean, what does Bubble Yum have to do with insurance? Why was I paying for random people to like my content? I did some research and discovered that this is a very widespread problem for Facebook.

Fake accounts

According to Facebook’s latest annual statement, they estimate up to 140 million fake accounts using their service. They break these accounts into three categories: duplicate accounts, misclassified accounts and "undesirable" accounts.

Yet there are two very relevant categories they fail to mention: bots and click farms.

In a nutshell, a Facebook bot is an automated software program that is designed to create and control a fake account. They mimic real people on Facebook to harvest private data from users, and expose them to other security risks.

A click farm, on the other hand, is a business that pays employees to click on website elements to artificially boost the status of a client's website or a product.

But I didn’t hire a click farm and I sure didn’t accept any friend requests from people I don’t know. So, why would they be clicking on my posts?

In response to the growing number of fake profiles Facebook has written an algorithm to weed them out. They are able to distinguish bogus activity from authentic engagement - at least to a point. To beat the algorithms, the fraudulent websites try cover their tracks by clicking the Like buttons on many honest pages as well. And because they have liked everything under the sun prior to me running my ad, they fall into my chosen demographic.

As a result I paid for fake Likes. They don’t really like me, after all. What’s worse is that my organic reach is significantly diluted as the content is spread across interested readers, and the fake profiles.

Ride the current

Which brings me to referral marketing. Perhaps a stretch, but this is just another example of how money could be much better spent to reach new audiences.

Recent studies show that people trust recommendations from close relations 7 times more than typical advertising or independent search. Even if your Facebook ads reach real people, they still don’t have the value of a referral. You need to win their trust first. With referrals, the trust transfers from existing clients. Moreover, your existing clients know your target market much better than Facebook does.

The catch - you must have loyal customers. But if you are a company that excels at making them happy there is significant opportunity.

Raise the blinds on your referral strategy

Carl Maerz is a co-founder of Rocket Referrals, a startup company focused on helping businesses gain referrals from customers.

Have you ever been in an argument with someone and, having summed up your concise and beautifully articulated point, only get the response “...yea, but it goes both ways you know”? Well, I have. Several times. And, as elementary as the rebuttal is, it surprisingly holds weight quite often. When it comes to referrals, the same holds true. So many companies become frustrated with the lack of referrals they receive - even after providing such stellar service. But as close-lipped as customers are about giving referrals, the companies are lackadaisical when discussing their importance.

AceSleeveIt seems that companies are not only uncomfortable asking for referrals but they feel awkward when discussing them all together with their clients. There is a big difference between directly asking a customer for their personal rolodex and telling them you want to help their friends and family.

Shot in the dark

I recently spoke with a client that shed some light as to why some companies balk at discussing referrals with their customers. It turns out that many of the employees either think some of their customers are unhappy with them, or just don’t know where they stand in regard to loyalty. This uncertainty fosters the anxiety of encountering a potentially awkward situation.

The solution is really quite simple. Find out what your customers think about you in regard to loyalty. Sending emails asking their likelihood to recommend and for testimonials will raise the blinds on your referral strategy. Here’s why:

  • You are introducing the concept of referrals to your customers. This is metaphorically warming the butter (I explain below).

  • You know who will respond positively when you bring up referrals. The ace up your sleeve. Seek out the promoters and those that give you raving testimonials. They are the ones that only need a little nudge to refer you.

  • Positive comments and testimonials boost office morale and confidence. Making your employees feel comfortable about discussing referrals with clients begins here. Enlighten them as to how much they are loved and they will enthusiastically bring up referrals more.

Begin by warming your customers and making them understand how much you value referrals. Next, empower your employees to feel comfortable about discussing referrals and sharpen their confidence. The end result is a referral strategy that is like a hot knife cutting through warm butter (excuse the metaphor).

What to say

Finally, I have written before about how directly asking for names is not an effective referral strategy. So, just how do you bring them up with clients? By making them feel like you want to take extra special care of their friends and family. Remember, it is about them. Below I have included some effective ways of communicating with your clients about referrals.

  • “Taking wonderful care of you, your family, and your friends is what we love to do, and helping you (insert service here) is what our office is all about.”

  • “We would like to help even more people in the community (insert service here) and the best way to do this is to get the word out. Please do not hesitate to share your experience with your loved ones. We love to help!”

  • “I truly enjoy sharing my experience and helping others. Therefore I want to extend my hand to your friends and family. If they ever have questions or need advice they can call me directly. I will be sure to take extra care.”

Consider referral marketing

Carl Maerz is a co-founder of Rocket Referrals, a startup company focused on helping businesses gain referrals from customers.

Before there were billboards, or neon signs, or quirky insurance commercials disrupting our TV shows, there was only word-of-mouth. Businesses thrived or collapsed base on their reputation. People relied on their family and neighbors to separate the trustworthy from the snake oil salesmen. But anymore, marketing has evolved into an overly complicated science propagated by new sources of media. Have companies forgotten the value of referrals?

SnakeoilThis may be the digital age, but humans still rely heavily on fellow humans for advice on how to spend their money. In fact, recent studies show that people trust recommendations from close relations seven times more than typical, traditional advertising. Yes, most trust their close friend over a lizard on where to shop for auto insurance. Interesting as this is, not much research has been conducted on referral marketing over the last century. The prevailing belief remains that referrals are important to increasing business - especially in those industries that offer services and ongoing relationships with clients. But the idea of fitting referrals into sphere of marketing seems to be uncharted territory.

Unfortunately, many people think that referrals are things that just happen. The problem with this belief is the error of doing nothing to obtain more. This results in missed opportunities. Referral marketing begins with the understanding that there are proactive approaches to capturing more referrals - by implementing a consistent and targeted plan.

Although referral marketing is still in its infancy, companies are beginning to take notice of its viability of realizing new business. There are two conflicting theories currently battling in the market: Those that believe in the tit-for-tat mentality, and those that are relationship driven.


You-scratch-my-back-and-I'll-scratch-yours. Those businesses offering incentive-based referral programs that offer cash and prizes for recommending a friend. The idea here is founded on a business transaction opposed to a relationship. That if a business provides great service, an incentive will nudge their promoters just enough to get them to recommend their friends and family. The problem, however, is such incentives make the customer feel like a source of income for the business. Introducing money into the equation cheapens the relationship and shifts the customer away from social norms.

Relationship driven

This idea promotes establishing authentic relationships with clients. These companies believe relationships are key to successful branding and generating referral business. They understand that when a client refers them they are further investing themselves in the brand. Therefore, the company will find ways to build a sense of community with their clients. By bringing someone new in they are becoming part of the family and the incentive is based solely on the service they will receive. This is accomplished by establishing the referral mindset early on with clients and shying away from the monetary side of things. Creating a network of referrals is like building a community. Make people feel as if they are part of the team - that they are going to bat for you - and you for them.

Remember that referrals are not a knee-jerk reaction to great service and products. Leveraging loyal customers takes a proactive approach of incorporating referrals into the overall marketing strategy.

Loyalty! The new Customer Satisfaction

Carl Maerz is a co-founder of Rocket Referrals, a startup company focused on helping businesses gain referrals from customers.

In business we are told that customer satisfaction is paramount to the success of a company. The customer is always right (within reason) and if they leave with a smile you have done your job. They will surely come back, and bring their friends with them, right? Sadly that is not the case - in fact, although customer satisfaction is important, it does not guarantee more sales. The truth is happy customers are merely precursors to what is really important - customer loyalty.

So what is customer loyalty, anyway? Harvard Business School defines it as customer behaviors, rather than attitudes. Collectively, it is interpreted as the three Rs: retention, repeat business, and referrals. In layman's terms– loyal customers make your company more money.

CustomerLoyaltySo what’s wrong with customer satisfaction?

Known loyalty expert Fred Reichheld reported in a Harvard Business Review article that between 65% and 85% of customers who defect said they were “satisfied or very satisfied” with their former supplier.

Don’t get me wrong: customer satisfaction is important. But it alone does not yield dollars. I like to think of it as a prerequisite to customer loyalty. Like your Philosophy 101 class in college. Whereas by achieving customer loyalty you have progressed through the 300 level courses and are well on your way to becoming the next Descartes.

I think, therefore I am

Unfortunately, in business, you cannot simply will your loyal customers into existence. In regard to referrals, studies show that the vast majority of “satisfied” customers reported a willingness to recommend services to others. But guess what? Most don’t. The responsibility lays on the company to make sure their customers refer them.

It starts by making your customers smile. Next is the proactive approach of converting those beaming comrades into devoted advocates.

Ask for testimonials

We all know that testimonials serve as written validations and promote social proof for a company. “Come on, everyone’s doing it!” But those testimonials you have scrolling on your website actually have quite the impact on the author as well. First, people like to stay consistent with what they have said. And by writing a testimonial for the world to see, they have formally stood behind your company. This promotes customer retention. It would seem pretty silly for someone to leave a great company based on a nominal price increase. Pretty shallow, wouldn’t you say?

Testimonials also serve as a rehearsal for verbal referrals. Get them used to talking good about your company - it doesn’t matter who sees it. Chances are they will recall their charming words during a fitting conversation.

Here’s how. Email your customers and ask that they provide you with a testimonial. Yes, it’s that easy. Increase response rates with a witty subject line. I’ve seen a 40% response rate with “John, we have 2 questions for you”. Timing is also important. Follow a positive experience, interaction, or ask new customers for best results.

Do something extra

Providing satisfactory service may yield customer satisfaction. Going beyond expectations will likely yield customer loyalty. Apple Inc. does this consistently by innovating products that wow their customers. A computer is supposed to compute. I can check email on a vintage PC in a small town library (you know, the ones with the old flip-down monitor protectors). I can leave feeling satisfied, but I am not going to rave about it to my friends. But when my MacBook allows me to sign a PDF document using my webcam? Now that’s cool.

It doesn’t matter if you offer designer jeans or insurance policies. Exceed expectations to the point that people can’t shut up about you. This requires doing the unexpected by offering surprises and service outside the scope of your product. It doesn’t take a big change. It could be as simple as writing a handwritten note saying thank you. The good news is that even the unexpected can be automated. At Rocket Referrals we developed realistic handwriting tech for this purpose. The point is, if they don’t see it coming it will have a memorable impact - such an effect that they tell others about it.

Develop relationships

Business with the customer extends past the transaction. Exchanging currency for products or services alone establishes a superficial relationship based on, well, money. Companies that stop here are easily forgotten. Create an ongoing relationship with the customer. By serving as a loyal provider to the customer you can expect the same in return.

This is accomplished by doing what you can to avoid offering monetary offers outside the initial sale. Enticing customers with coupons and incentives for referrals, for example, will make your customers feel like you are buying their love. Communicate with them as people, not dollar signs. Ask how you can help them - or their friends and family? Continue the relationship with followup communication. Touch them periodically and ask how you can help - not how you can profit from them.

Again, the goal is to establish ongoing relationships with your customers. They will reward you by sticking around and going to bat for you in the form of referrals.

Most turn to friends before Google for advice

When strategizing about how to acquire new customers businesses should pay close attention to the purchasing behavior of their target market. Where are they lurking? What influences their buying decisions?

As a business it is easy to assume that prospects opt for Google to guide their research. However, in service-related industries - those that operate on trust and relationships - prospects depend on positive recommendations to find their candidates.

In fact, according to a 2014 report by the Hinge Research Institute, 87 percent of buyers turn to friends or colleagues first for recommendations when shopping for financial services, while only about 1 out of every 10 shoppers start their research online. This may be the digital age, but humans still rely heavily on fellow humans for advice on how to spend their coin.

Although search engine optimization (SEO), inbound marketing, and AdWords are important to online and local retailers - service related businesses may be better off leveraging their existing loyal customers for growth.

LemonpicAlthough referrals are important they do not guarantee prospects will sign on the dotted line. The Hinge Research Institute also noted that 81 percent of referred buyers end up judging a business by researching its website. If the website is a lemon the referral dies on the vine.

Therefore a professional website goes a long way to closing the deal. Compare it to the days of old when companies were judged on the appearance of their storefront, cleanliness of their office, and credentials hanging on the walls. Sure, those are still important but today people nearly always begin their assessment online.

Having processes in place aimed directly at increasing referrals will get the ball rolling for service companies - buyers simply turn to friends and family first. But a professional and informational website is vital in converting those referrals into sales.

Referral marketing versus marketing automation

Carl Maerz is a co-founder of Rocket Referrals, a startup company focused on helping businesses gain referrals from customers.

While exiting the Des Moines downtown YMCA last week, I caught glimpse of a lady searching through a phone book. I was flooded with nostalgia and left thinking of my childhood - the last time I remember using one of those (to look up a number anyway). It also left me considering the ways businesses are discovered by new customers. There are those that are searching for you, and those that are referred to you by others. In both cases businesses should consider ways in which they can improve their ability to be found (marketing automation) - and ways of encouraging referrals (referral marketing).

Marketing automation

Marketing automation platforms seek to streamline sales by replacing high-touch, repetitive manual processes with automated solutions. They accomplish this by taking advantage of the internet to reach new customers - or more specifically allow them to be discovered by qualified leads. In terms of the phone book, think of it as finding ways to be first in line for those people thumbing through the pages - only doing so on the internet.


But again, the days of Yellow Pages are limited so marketing automation uses search engine optimization (SEO), inbound marketing, drip marketing, and tracking/analytics to drive customers to your website and improve conversion rates. Google has some complicated algorithms which decide which website to be listed when someone searches for “car insurance” for example. Companies such as HubSpot, Marketo, Eloqua, and others specialize in ways of driving those prospects to your door and using email marketing to convert them into sales.

Referral marketing

Marketing automation is important to capture those prospects that are searching for you online. But what about those prospects that rely on recommendation from friends for services or are not yet searching for you? That is where referral marketing fits in.

PhonebookA referral is the bridge that connects a company to a new client by means of an existing customer. Because of this direct link between the company, customer, and prospect, trust transfers. Therefore the barriers that exist with a typical prospect and the company are broken down by way of the active promoter. As the trust transfers, the resistance is diminished, and sales are much easier to obtain.

Science in the field of social network theory describes the pre-existing connection between current customers (A), companies (B), and prospects (C) as triadic closure. According to sociologist Georg Simmel “if a strong tie exists between A-B and A-C, there is a weak or strong tie between B-C”. In other words, a link between a company and prospects already exists via current customers. Referral marketing aims at exploiting the relationship between your customers and prospects - as it yields a much higher conversion rate and research shows it brings better fitting and higher profitable customers.

Referral marketing is rapidly evolving online with some companies offering incentive based programs. I recommend choosing a referral strategy that is not based on monetary incentives (as I outline here). After all, people refer friends and family for many reasons (reciprocity, social status, obligation, homophily, exclusivity, etc.) but generally not for personal gain.

Again, both marketing automation and referral marketing are important strategies for businesses to effectively compete in today’s market. Optimizing your ability to be found and leveraging your current customer base are separate, but important components to any marketing plan.


Asking for referrals doesn't work

Carl Maerz is a co-founder of Rocket Referrals, a startup company focused on helping businesses gain referrals from customers.

Needless to say I discuss the topic of referrals on a daily basis. I meet with individuals working in service industries mainly- those where close relationships with clients is common and referrals are important to growing their business. And just as I sink into the adjacent chair and initiate conversation I am met with this: “You’re right, I need to be better about asking for them.” At first I wanted to stop the agents, lawyers, advisors, realtors, doctors, (you name it) in their tracks and shout “you don’t need to ask!” But anymore I don’t even wince at this widely held misconception. I simply lean back in my chair and explain that, not only is there no need to ask for referrals - but doing so is remarkably ineffective, and there is research to back it up.

Screen Shot 2014-04-11 at 3.25.06 PMWithout doubt this will turn the notion of referrals upside down for many people. But, the most effective referral strategies are proven to include tactics that do not include asking for referrals. A study by Advisor Impact, which focused on customer loyalty and referrals, surveyed over 1,000 clients and asked the reasons why they referred a service to others. An overwhelming 98% cited reasons that included helping their friends and family. Only 2% of the cases did clients say they referred because the business asked them for a name of a friend. This research proved that by not first identifying customers likely to refer, businesses were asking the wrong people to give a referral. Also, by asking for names, they were not effectively leveraging the reasons why people refer, and thus yielding scanty results.

Avoiding asking for referrals doesn’t mean you should let your referral strategy take care of itself. Doing nothing at all just as ineffective. Unfortunately, customer satisfaction alone doesn’t translate into referrals - it is merely a prerequisite. So, asking for referrals is a no-no, and sitting back relying on happy customers to speak up also doesn’t work. Here’s what you can do to increase referrals, and it doesn’t involve uncomfortably asking your clients for names.

Identify your most loyal & disgruntled clients

By finding your most loyal and engaged customers you are able to refine your communication - making your content more effective, personalized, and cost efficient. Also, by identifying your disgruntled clients will also not only increase customer retention, but converting frowns into smiles is a prime opportunity to capture referrals. For more info on how to gauge customer loyalty see the Net Promoter Score system.

Convey the importance of referrals

Let your clients know that you value referrals. Tell them that you would love to help their friends and family. This is accomplished by developing the referral mindset which I discuss in an earlier post. By doing so you will teach your clients that referring you is not only welcomed, but appreciated.

Coach your referral sources

Provide your most loyal customers with content that will encourage more referrals. In other words, enable your referral sources so that when they are motivated to refer you they know what to say, and to whom. Educate them on who your most ideal customers are. Inform them on the wide breadth of services you offer. Describe the triggers (life events) to look for that indicate a good person to refer. Make it easy to pass on your contact information. Tell stories that so that you are more easily introduced into conversation.

Touch your customers

I’m not asking that you invade their personal space here, just to make use of important touchpoints. Send loyalty cards, birthday cards, anniversary cards, National Pigs-In-A-Blanket Day cards (yes it’s real, and this month!). The goal is to keep you top-of-mind. The more personalized and special the better. I recommend sending handwritten cards. It is also a good idea to have an informative newsletter. Let your customers know that you are here for them and appreciate their loyalty! They will think more of you, and of you more often.

Now, I am glad we cleared up the subject of asking for referrals. Makes me feel warm and fuzzy knowing that perhaps less people will ask for names and start obtaining the referrals they deserve!

Improve content for better touch points

Carl Maerz is a co-founder of Rocket Referrals, a startup company focused on helping businesses gain referrals from customers.

People develop their perceptions of businesses based on the overall quality of touchpoints they encounter. As impressions can be both positive and negative - it is the responsibility of a business to consider how their intended message is perceived. After all, not all contact with prospects and clients is constructive. Continually finding ways to put yourself in front of your customers so that you are fresh in their mind is a good thing. But keep in mind this will only strengthen your relationship (and lead to referrals) if the message is well thought out and its delivery fitting.

Some businesses spend more energy on finding ways to reach their audience than the message they are conveying. The result is often communication that is ill-received and does more harm than good. To better illustrate this I have attached a letter a friend of mine received after purchasing a new vehicle. It is clear with the example what the salesman was trying to achieve and where he fell (considerably) short.

In an attempt to reach out to the new customer and potentially reel in some referral business the salesman chose to send a generic thank you message. The first mistake is that it does not reference anything personal but the name of the buyer pulled from a list. The actual content of the letter is confusing and is an obvious attempt at gaining more referrals.

The problem? This is obviously an email template printout sent to a list of people. Keep in mind this letter was received in the mail - not electronically. I don’t believe you can click on links printed on an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper.

The salesman was thinking touchpoint and follow up. But the recipient was thinking mailmerge and cheap. You see this type of thing often. Newsletters with plastered with advertisements and flimsy content. Noisy pop ups on popular websites. The list goes on.

The alternative is to pay more attention to the content you are sending to your prospects and clients. At Rocket Referrals we believe in sending straightforward handwritten notes for example. People appreciate simplicity with communication. Keep it personal and classy, they will notice. Over time the positive touchpoints will serve as the foundation for your brand and sales will follow.

Inspire referrals with the rule of the few

Carl Maerz is a co-founder of Rocket Referrals, a startup company focused on helping businesses gain referrals from customers.

Extensive investigation into human psychology continues to shape the marketing strategies that we are faced with daily. Sure, technology and changing trends in social relationships change the ways in which the messages are spread - yet the same underlying elements in psychology have been used for decades. First published in 1984, Robert Cialdini outlined in his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion six principles of influence that are just as effective today. They have, however, been primarily used in traditional marketing tactics that have gradually lost their potency over time. Therefore, I continually think of ways Dr. Cialdini’s principles of influence could be incorporated into referral marketing - in attempt to spice things up a little bit. After all, recent studies show that today people trust recommendations from friends and family seven times more than traditional advertising.


Today I am going to expand on Dr. Cialdini’s sixth principle of influence: scarcity. The idea behind this is that something is deemed more attractive when its availability is limited or when we stand to lose the opportunity to acquire it on favorable terms. In traditional marketing we see it daily with items offered in limited quantities or special offers that soon expire. Let’s not kid ourselves, it works. Not all the time, but the thought of losing an exclusive offer leads us to pull the emotional trigger more than you may realize.

As a business you can incorporate “the rule of the few” into your referral strategy with the help of your best clients. It starts by providing a unique offer that your current clients can give away to their friends and family. But here is the trick: it has to have exclusive value, and it must be for a limited time.

Exclusive value and limited time

For the offer to have value for your client to give away it must be exclusive to only one of their friends or family members. You want your client to feel like they are giving something special away - offering it out to all their buddies will belittle their social contribution. The offer must also have some actual value - such as a discount or extended service that they will not find elsewhere. If they can find the same coupon on your website it is not exclusive. Also, an offer for a free quote for a friend or family member is NOT a special offer. If you’re too frugal with the offer it will not be given away, let alone be redeemed by the referred individual. Finally, in honor of the principle of scarcity, the offer should have an expiration date. This will encourage the referred individual to take action.


Make it easy for your clients to refer you

MakeiteasyCarl Maerz is a co-founder of Rocket Referrals, a startup company focused on helping businesses gain referrals from customers.

The best type of referral is that which finds its way to your doorstep after being screened and prepped by an existing customer. Isn’t it every businesses’ dream to have their phones constantly ringing with prospects verbally nodding yes? If the phone isn’t ringing off the hook the problem may not be that you’re not getting referred - but that the referrals have become lost in transmission. Therefore, as a business, the responsibility ultimately rests on you to make it as easy as possible for your referred customers to contact you.

Referrals emerge from conversation between friends and family. They happen at birthday parties, in parks, coffee shops, ... well, anywhere people talk (perhaps not so much in libraries). After a recommendation for a product or service is made there is a period of time before the prospect will contact the business. After all, people decide to perform business on their own time. This is where many referrals die. There are a couple easy things that you can do to prevent missed opportunities.

Collect email addresses

Regardless of what you sell, you should treat your customers as if they are yours for the long haul. Like any continued service, communication is paramount. But for some reason even today most businesses are not proactive in collecting email addresses. It is the best way to reach your customers for ongoing communication, conduct brief surveys, collect testimonials, and so on. It will give you a direct link to your customers and allow you to perform this next step that simplifies the referral process.

Send an informative introductory email

Immediately after you make a sale or acquire a new customer, send them an introductory email. The content should have the following elements:

  • Briefly thank them for their business and let them know you appreciate them

  • List some of the main services and products you offer

  • Provide a link to your website with additional information regarding your business

  • Include a phone number and email address and encourage them to call

  • Encourage them to forward the email to others that are interested in learning more

  • Recommend that they don’t delete the email so they can reference it later

  • Make sure that the email is from you - so that if replied to you will be able to respond

Having this content residing in customer’s inbox will make it easy for your customers to pick up their smartphone and forward to those they refer to you. It provides all the basics on your products and services, links for those that like to dig deeper, and contact information to find you. What’s more, after it is forwarded it will be conveniently sitting in the prospect’s inbox as a reminder the next day when they are in purchasing mode. So, quit playing broken telephone with your prospects and start capturing some more referral business!

How to use Facebook to get more referrals

Carl Maerz is a co-founder of Rocket Referrals, a startup company focused on helping businesses gain referrals from customers.

Social media has become a generic topic. Everywhere you turn there are bits of information stressing the significance of these dynamic platforms to reach audiences and grow your business. OK, so having just written that last sentence I realize that this post also conveys that message, but I promise it isn’t generic. So let’s take a different look at social media, namely Facebook, and explore how it can be used get you more referrals for your business.

Referrals_buttonI am not the expert on all things social media. Hashtags are relatively new for me too (yet I feel compelled to use them). But, I am knowledgeable on #referrals and I understand what type of content resonates with people. According to a study published last December, 71% of adults are using Facebook. People are spending time there, too. And because so many eyes are glued to the website, businesses are fervently combating for the coveted spot on the News Feed. But there is a problem. So many businesses are so fixed on being in the spotlight that they forget to consider how well the actual message will be received by their audience. There is an opportunity for businesses to leverage the obvious connections between their vocal ambassadors and their friends and they #fail to capture it.

People #dislike being sold to

Let’s take a step back and think about why people are on Facebook in the first place. A study by the Pew Research Center published this month lists the top reasons users log onto Facebook. A couple of these include receiving updates and comments and sharing experiences with friends and family. Getting advertised to didn’t make the list. An obvious observation, yet so many companies continue to flood the News Feed with unwanted (and ignored) content. OK, so people don’t drive on the interstate to read billboards or watch TV programs to see commercials (outside of the Super Bowl) either. The point is, whenever a person can easily #ignore an advertisement, they will, and this holds true for misplaced advertisements (sponsored posts) in a user’s Facebook timeline.

This way is much better

Rather than spending time and money advertising on Facebook, find creative ways of getting your vocal promoters to say good things about you via comments. Sure, when people like your Facebook page it is #cool but it doesn’t go very far with the people who have never heard of you. Positive comments, however, reach new audiences with a message that is as close to a positive referral that you will get on social media. It means so much more when a prospect hears how great you are from someone they know. It will significantly dilute the feeling of being advertised to online and transfer trust from your ambassadors directly to their friends and family. Also, considering that half of all Facebook users have more than 200 online friends, the reach of the message has quite the potential.

Ask to be shared and recommended 

An easy way to get started is to add a Share button or Recommend button to your website and ask your happiest customers to provide you with a quick comment online. This allows people to add a personalized message to a link to your website before sharing it on their timeline. An added bonus with the recommend button is every time a user clicks on it you will gain a Facebook like for your page. Just think how much better this message will be received by its intended audience - and unlike sponsored posts coming from you, it’s free! Also, it doesn’t work to simply repost testimonials that you gather from other sources to your personal Facebook page. That comes across as bragging and is #lame. If you are interested in learning more, at Rocket Referrals we have a unique approach to gathering more Facebook likes and comments.

Building referrals begins with developing the right state-of-mind

Carl Maerz is a co-founder of Rocket Referrals, a startup company focused on helping businesses gain referrals from customers.

Referralmindset (1)Just do it. Who can forget Nike’s wildly popular ad campaign created in the late 1980s? Such a simple, yet compelling statement. But in order to ‘do’ there needs to be knowhow - a starting point, a calculated plan. This is especially true in regard to building your business through referrals. At Rocket Referrals I speak with businesses daily that have made the decision to get serious about a referral strategy - but to many, it is just a black hole. Therefore, I felt it appropriate to share a very simple concept that is essentially the starting point to any strategy to gaining more referrals. It begins with a mindset for you - the business - and that of your customers.

The Approach

Finding the right approach to gaining referrals as a business means understanding why it is that your customers refer you to their friends and family. I get it; businesses want more referrals for several reasons - to help others, and to drop more coins in their piggy bank. But customers really do not care about adding mass to your bottom line. They do care, however, about improving the lives of their loved ones. Therefore, as a business, it is paramount that communication with customers regarding referrals focuses on the reason why they refer. In other words, don’t make it sound like they are doing you a favor - rather that you want to do them a favor by providing awe-inspiring service. This is the referral mindset for you, the business.

The Tactics

A quick tip on how to put a positive spin on the language: make your customers feel like they are part of a growing community or family. Keeping it personal and exclusive will ignite their emotional spark plugs and motivate them to actively refer you. An example would be to send a welcome card with a message including “would love to grow our family” and “extend our hand to your friends and family, we will take extra care”.

The next step is to actively develop a referral mindset in the heads of your customers - right from the get go. Using language that conveys the significance of referrals for your business, subtly, yet consistently, will ensure that you are referred when the time is right. In this approach it is very important to do so by only playing on the emotional reasons why people refer (to help others) that I highlighted above. There are a several ways you can engage your customers that will be effective - and it starts right after they sign up.

Send a welcome email with a couple sentences explaining how your business values referrals and that they are important in growth. Emphasize that this growth is important because you love to extend your service to their trusted ones, to extend your family. This will convey the message that you are referred often and therefore must be doing something right. Follow it up by saying you trust they will find reason to refer you in the near future, because you care that much about what they think of you.

Find a reason to follow up with your customers as often as possible. Each time, give them thanks and let them know you are here to help with anything they need. Remind them that you are interested in extending your service to their loved ones. Over time, referring you will become second nature to your best clients.

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