5 Ways to Grow Your Referral Business


Referrals are the holy grail of customer acquisition. Referral leads close faster, buy more and stay longer with significantly less effort than non-referred prospects. So how can you start increasing your referral lead generation? Here are 5 ways to grow your referral business. 

1. Create a Wow Offer:

Why? Because being realistic is crucial when you are developing your referral program. Your customers are busy with lives of their own and unfortunately you are not the first thing they think about when they wake up nor before they go to sleep... unless they’re currently dealing with a nail lodged into their tire (hi there). Make your brand and store memorable with an offer that STICKS. A sticky/enticing offer lays the ground work for memory recall. Promote an attractive reward for referrals and the next time they overhear a co-worker or friend discussing that they "are in the market for a vehicle", your customer will do the work for you. The goal of a referral program is to turn your customers into your most powerful sales channel and simultaneously create a fun and gamified way to re-engage and retain with these customers.

Don't think you need a motivating reward?

  • 88% of Americans say they would like some sort of incentive (money, product or service, loyalty points, early access, swag) for sharing a product via social media or email. That number jumps to 95% among 18-to-34-year-olds.

  • What’s the reward of choice? 77% of Americans say they prefer money.

Now that you’ve got your offer you need to make sure that it’s reaching your customers where they frequent. Think of the places you have the most engagement and traction with your customer base and start promoting there. Did you know that, in the 30-60 days after your customer has purchased their vehicle, they are going to show off their new vehicle to up to as many as 150 friends and family members? That is 150 potential leads you could have coming through your door, all thanks to 1 customer. How many salespeople do you have pulling in 150 potential leads in 60 days? Here are some more great touch points for promoting your referral program:

  1. Service Waiting Area

  2. Your Website

  3. Social Media Channels

  4. Email Campaigns

  5. Review Sites

  6. Other Local Businesses

  7. Schools

  8. Local Sport Groups

  9. Mobile App

Pro-tip: A one sided offer is great but a double sided offer is twice as good, it can significantly raise your referral leads submissions. A double sided offer allows your brand advocate to feel confident that their friend or family member is receiving a great deal and the care they deserve. What’s a good starting point? Give a $25 test drive to your friend or family and we’ll send you $100 if they purchase! 

2. Make it Quick & Easy: 

So now that you’ve enticed your customers to refer with an attractive offer, how do you want them to send you these referrals? Which avenues are open for referral submission to your customers, how do they know about them and how are you going to track these submission methods? There are a ton of ways that your customer can submit their referrals information.. such as:

  1. Call their Sales Rep

  2. Call the Store

  3. Email

  4. Walk them in

  5. Fill out a form

  6. Have their referee mention their name.

You want to ensure your customer has to do as little as possible to submit their referral but you also need to create a unified method of referral submission for your own tracking purposes. A lack of direction on “how to refer" combined with too many “avenues” for referrals can easily deter even your most loyal customers from sending referrals. If they have to look around your website for 5+ seconds, they’re going to abort mission… why? because they’re busy and nobody enjoys being confused on the interweb.

A great way to capture referral leads efficiently is by creating a referral form, you’ll need to embed this form on a landing page (mobile friendly landing page that is!). This landing page should simply and quickly highlight:

  1. Your Offer.

  2. How Your Program Works.

  3. Any tools for referring or other related offers and reminders.

  4. The submission form with required fields.

This landing page and form should be promoted and linked through all of the touch points mentioned in step one. Don’t forget to have a strong mobile focus. We’re busier than ever now and constantly on the go, (smartphone in tow) you’ll want to ensure your customers can refer from anywhere. Embedding this form into your smartphone app will allow your customer to do just that.

Imagine, one of your customers, Sarah, is a waitress and she’s talking to a customer who mentions they are in the market for a new vehicle, Sarah had a great experience buying her car with you & knows that your store has an attractive incentive offer, so she definitely wants to refer him. The issue is that, she isn’t going to remember their name and information when she gets off work in 8 hours and sits down at her computer. Thankfully since your referral form is embedded in your mobile app, Sarah can send her customer’s information in 3 clicks right from her restaurant.

Giving your customers easy to use “tools" like a landing page and mobile app with a referral form to make referring simple, efficient and engaging will make all the difference in our digital age.

3. Track Your Leads:

Awesome, your customers are now sending you referrals because your offer rocks and it’s easy to refer but what are you doing with those leads once you receive them? If a referral lead is 4x more valuable than a web lead and 36x more valuable than a cold call, you want to ensure it’s being handled with the utmost care, in a timely manner. Making decisions on these types of questions ahead of time will ensure no leads can slip through the cracks:

  1. Are you splitting these leads evenly between salespeople?

  2. How are you informing a specific salesperson of the new lead?

  3. How should the salesperson follow up? email/call? what does the referee want?

  4. How do you know the salespeople are following up?

  5. How are these leads being tracked, are they being pushed into your CRM for optimization and comparison tracking?

It’s also important to note that the follow through should not be an internal only effort, this referral submission allows you to engage with your brand advocate (referrer) to:

  1. Thank them for their referral.

  2. Promote more offers like downloading your smartphone app.

and to your new lead (the referee) to let them know that:

  1. Their friend Bob Joe referred them.

  2. A salesperson will be in touch shortly.

  3. Give them contact information if they want to be proactive.

Pro-tip: Once you are confident in your tracking methods and abilities, you can begin to review this data and optimize. Which salespeople are bringing in the most referral leads, who's closing the most? Which customers are sending you the highest quality referrals? These previously untrackable but extremely valuable data items can now be optimized on.

4. Reward Efficiently:

How many calls have you received from “Max”, an upset customer who’s been waiting 5 weeks for their referral check or reward? They referred Sue, and Sue bought a new vehicle 4 weeks ago!! Max has waited and waited for the promised reward but never received it.

How did that happen though? Human error most likely...

  1. Salesperson forgot to attach the internal referral form

  2. Salesperson was excited about the sale - they forgot to mention the referral.

  3. The referred customer didn’t know they needed to mention the referral…. which why should they? it’s not their job to remind your salesperson or your store of how they ended up there!

This is the most excruciating mistake a dealership can make when they decide to run their own referral program because it can deter a customer completely. It’s also the point where a referral program can become a bit tumultuous for a dealership. Without a tracking platform, there will always be manual effort on the dealership’s end and unfortunately manual effort can and does involve mistakes and errors but it’s most definitely manageable! You’ll want to follow the below procedure:

  1. Review your referral form submission.

  2. Ensure the referral was submitted before the sale took place.

    1. This can be confirmed by reviewing the DMS data and matching it back to your referral lead form report.

  3. Add stock and deal number information to your referral form submission sheet for your own records.

  4. Send out the Reward.

  5. Let the customer know their reward is on its way!

    1. The sooner the customer receives their reward, the sooner they feel appreciated and the sooner they’ll be willing to send you more referrals, because they know you hold up your side of the deal.

    2. This successful referral allows you to re-engage with your brand advocate (referrer) to:

      1. Thank them for their referral again.

      2. Give them the good news, their reward is on the way.

      3. Promote more offers.

      4. Remind them to keep referring and earning.

    3. BONUS: you can also engage with your new customer (referee):

      1. Invite them to your referral program for their chance to refer and earn

      2. Promote more offers like downloading your smartphone app.

Pro-tip: Automate all of your engagement communication so that you don’t have to worry about if your salesperson or even you remembered to thank your brand advocates.

5. Be Referable.

This seems so obvious that it’s silly that i’ve put it on this list, right? But it is important that you are first and foremost, worth referring. You can offer the most enticing reward and make referring easy than eating pie but if your product, employees, and process are less than satisfactory, nobody is going to put their friends and family members through a painful experience to earn a quick couple bucks. And if they would… they probably don’t have many friends left. I really love the idea of focusing on you culture and letting that show itself in improvements in general moral, attitudes and motivation which lead to more employee engagement & retention ... which THEN lead to - improved customer service experiences in all aspects of your store. Quality customer service and great employees are what your customers are ultimately referring, more than your brand and even your product in some cases.