13 Recommended Loyalty or Referral Programs to Use for Your Business

What successful loyalty or referral program have you used that you would recommend?

Loyalty program

The following answers are provided by members of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

1. Predict When Customers Will Need to Order Again

At Company Folders, we have tried many loyalty and referral programs over the years. However, one has stood out above the others. We estimate the time when a customer will run out of folders, then call them at that time and offer them a discount to reorder with us. This works well because it’s personalized to each customer, rather than being a mass marketing effort.

Vladimir Gendelman, Company Folders, Inc

2. Follow a “Buy Three, Get One Free” Model

Some of the best referral programs come with a good jingle and make it as easy as possible for the referrer. Living Social has a good “Buy Three, Get One Free” program that is as easy to participate in as sharing a deal on social media with a unique trackable URL. You can set up your own similar system by generating unique URLs for a user that shares. Then reward them after X redemptions are achieved.

Andy Karuza, FenSens

3. Offer Two-Way Incentives

Make sure that not only the person doing the referring gets compensated, but also make sure that they can offer their leads a nice incentive as well. It should be a win-win. For example, we offer bonus VIP memberships for both the person that does the referring and for the person that accepts their referral. They each get something free that we normally charge for. It motivates everyone.

Nicolas Gremion, Free-eBooks.net

4. Form Partnerships With Similar Companies

As a B2B company, it’s important to develop and foster healthy relationships with competitors. While this may seem counterintuitive, it’s quite valuable. Larger companies can refer clients that are too small, and you can refer clients that are too small for you to smaller companies. You can incentivize by giving and getting a commission as well. It grew our business by more than 150 percent year to year.

Anshey Bhatia, Verbal+Visual

photo credit: Charlie / Flickr

5. Open a Freemium Model

We spent too much time and money cold calling and emailing leads. We prevented interested users from using our product until they signed contracts. And then one day, we opened up a completely free, limited version of the product. Within 12 months, we went from 100 customers to over 20,000. Make your product easy to use, try and buy, and consider whether freemium might make sense for your business.

Ben Jabbawy, Privy

6. Use Referral Candy

I like Referral Candy because it is a seamless, easy-to-use online system for leveraging the power of referrals. It allows for custom referral and reward systems that fit your business and budget.

Angela Ruth, eCash

7. Have Ambassadors Compete

I host networking events for young professionals and one successful referral program we’ve created involves having our ambassadors utilize trackable links and compete against one another to refer the most people to attend. It piggy-backs on our loyal and excited attendees to spread our message while also leveraging their competitive spirit.

Darrah Brustein, Network Under 40 / Finance Whiz Kids

Sign up and keep up
photo credit: Howard Lake / Flickr

8. Capture Email Addresses in the Process

Capturing email addresses in the referral loop tripled the conversion of our referral program. We have an otherwise standard referral program: both customer and guest get credit when guest purchases. But for the guest to claim the referral credit, they need to provide their email address. This allows us to provide timely reminders and product updates, increasing conversion.

Fan Bi, Blank Label

9. Set Up Product Experience Sharing

Your loyalty program doesn’t have to be a pay-per-referral model. One of the best ways to make your clients feel valued and bring in new ones practically for free is by setting up product experience sharing. Let your client know that if they post photos or video of them using your product, they’ll get a discount on their next purchase. Shared experience sells better than shared opinions.

Brandon Stapper, 858 Graphics

10. Offer Recurring Referral Revenue

When a client or non-client sends us new business that our digital marketing company closes, the referrer will earn a monthly recurring revenue (10 percent) for as long as the referral remains a customer (we work on monthly retainers). That’s pretty good motivation if you ask me, and our referrers seem to agree.

Adam Steele, The Magistrate

Gift certificates
photo credit: Esther Perez / Flickr

11. Give Gift Certificates

We sent gift certificates to everyone who had worked with us for a full year to reward their loyalty. The gift certificates could be applied to any of our membership levels, and they were a huge hit that got people talking. We achieved a high retention rate, and we will definitely do something like this again in the future.

Natalie MacNeil, She Takes on the World

12. Use Tiered Programs

The core of our business is structured by using tiered programs. The tiers are set with milestones that a client must pass to move on to the next tier. Clients like to see where they stand relative to those in a group or similar situation. This exclusivity makes the client feel valued. Tiered programs are a great way to enhance a company’s client engagement by challenging them to reach new levels.

Anthony Pezzotti, Knowzo.com

13. Provide Personalized Attention From Senior Company Leadership

We run a service industry business, meaning that personal relationships with our customers are a critical component of our marketing efforts. Generally speaking, I’ve found that the most effective way to build and sustain a referral program is to invest some time with our referring customers. A lunch or a dinner goes a long way — and each person will refer customers for years to come.

Joel Butterly, InGenius Prep