Creating Referral Campaigns for Your Membership Site
When some membership marketers think about how to further profit from their existing members, they think about backend sales. That’s great – but if you stop there, you’re thinking too small.
Well, how about getting testimonials or even doing case studies with existing members? Again, that’s another solid idea that should be part of your overall marketing strategy. But again, if you stop there, you’re still thinking too small.
Here’s what you need to think about doing: recruiting your happy members to become your brand ambassadors. In other words, you want to get your existing members to refer their friends, family and followers to your membership site.
Makes sense, right? People like to do business with those they know, like and trust. However, not everyone knows you. It takes time for you to build those relationships and convert prospects to members. So, what you do instead is get your members to tell their friends about your site. And since these referrals trust their friends, they’re going to land on your site with an open mind – and likely an open wallet, too.
Some marketers simply ask their members to refer their friends. And yes, some members will do this based on a simple ask. But if you want to maximize the number of members who actively work to recruit new members, then you need to incentivize these members. You can offer them discounts, free products, gift cards, cash and other valuable and desirable rewards to take part in your referral program.
Take note: Offering to give your existing members rewards for their referrals is considered a one-way referral program. If you want to further kick this strategy up a notch, then you’ll want to set up a two-way referral program. This is where both the existing member and the referral both get a reward once the referral becomes a paying member. For example, you might offer each party a free month in the membership site.
A two-way referral program is an extremely effective way to grow your business. Indeed, some of the biggest companies in the world use or have used this very strategy. Examples include companies like PayPal, Capital One, Airbnb, DropBox, Uber and many more. It’s definitely something you’ll want to test as well.
So, how do you set all of this up?
For starters, you need to think about how you’re going to incentivize your existing members to refer their friends. And one of the best rewards you can offer is something along the lines of free products or discounts in your business.
See, you don’t want to just offer cash. If anyone wants plain cash for referrals, they can join your affiliate program. Instead, you want to offer your existing members something that will get them coming back to you to purchase more products.
To that end, you can offer items such as:
· Free months in your membership site.
· Free trials of your other products or services.
· Discounts on existing products.
· Free products, especially those that promote related offers and have a good track record of strong backend sales.
The point is, you want to give away something that’s valuable and highly desirable to people who’re making referrals. But ideally you also want the “reward” to naturally lead to the person doing even more business with you.
Secondly, you want to offer something similar to the new member who’s signing up. You might offer them a free month (buy one month, get one month free), a discount on related products, a free product or similar. Again, the point being is that you want the referral to come back and do more business with you – so give them a reward that naturally leads to them purchasing additional products and services.
Note: Be sure to put a good onboarding sequence in place for your new referrals. They may purchase a membership because they trust their friend’s recommendation, but it’s up to you to make sure that this new referral is a happy member who sticks around for the long term. A good onboarding sequence that encourages consumption and use of your membership materials will go a long way towards accomplishing that goal.
Take note that creating a viral contest is a great way to build your prospect mailing list, FAST. However, as mentioned, some folks will join just about any contest. As such, you’ll want to segment (separate) your contestant entries from the rest of your list. That way, you can send out a careful follow-up sequence designed to nurture these list members and develop a good relationship with them.
The key is to build brand awareness as well, so that these folks come to recognize your emails – and they eagerly open them, as you’ve trained them to expect high-quality information inside.
Building Your Membership with Other Viral Campaigns
While a direct referral program is perhaps the most powerful way to recruit new members, it’s not the only way to leverage your existing members. Another way to do it is by starting a viral marketing campaign, and then incentivizing members to share this viral content.
You’re likely very familiar with viral campaigns and have probably even participated in them – perhaps without even knowing. For example, every time you share something on Facebook, Twitter or some other social media platform, you may be participating in someone else’s viral campaign.
Now imagine if that was YOUR content. Imagine having hundreds, thousands or even millions of people viewing your content and sharing it with their friends.
While offering an incentive for sharing your viral content will go a long way towards getting your campaign off the ground, bear in mind, your content needs to be shareworthy!
Let’s talk about some of the factors that create truly shareworthy content…
For starters, your campaign will get more traction if you’re sharing something that’s unique/novel. Researchers have found that the “pleasure pathways” in people’s brains actually light up a bit when they see something new. They get a hit of that happy dopamine when they see something that’s both new and pretty darn awesome.
Get that? Our brains are actually hardwired to appreciate novelty. So, if you can put something in front of your audience that they haven’t quite seen before, that’s going to help your viral campaign immensely.
Secondly, and on a related note, people share content that arouses emotion, especially strong emotion. And in particular, they share content that arouses positive emotion. The most effective emotions tend to be surprise, delight, happiness, joy, inspiration, motivation and similar.
Do people share content that arouses negative emotions? Sure.
For example, someone might see a video of an animal being abused, and this person might get so angry and disgusted that they share the video to raise awareness and perhaps raise money for an animal charity. But a lot of people are going to scroll right by – they don’t want to see something sad, something frightening, something offensive, something that makes them angry and so on.
Point is, stick to arousing positive emotion, as you’re likely to get more traction for your viral campaign if you do this.
Now you can think of some of the successful viral campaigns you’ve seen in the past, and I think you’ll agree that the ones evoking positive emotion tend to do really well. For example, all those viral cat videos that cross your feeds – yep, they’re funny, they make us laugh, they make us happy – and so we share them.
Or look at some of the most popular videos on YouTube. Most of them leave us surprised, show us something really cool that makes us say “whoa,” makes us laugh, or otherwise entertains us and leaves us feeling good.
So, likewise, you need to think of what kind of content you can share to make people feel good in your niche. For example, if you can share a really cool yet virtually unknown strategy that’s going to impress the heck out your audience – and you can do this in an entertaining way – you might just have a successful viral campaign on your hands.
Let me give you an example.
Let’s suppose you’re in a dog training niche. You could create a video showing your dog doing a really cute, cool or awe-inspiring trick. Maybe it’s a video of you and your dog running up a wall together and doing backflips.
That’s something you don’t see every day, so your audience is going to share it. And then once they get over their shock of the very cool trick, they’re going to be interested in you – the trainer who can train a dog to do this. Boom, you’ve got a targeted audience who wants to know more about your products and services, because they want their dogs to do cool and awesome tricks too. That’s when you introduce them to your dog-training membership site.
The point I’m making with this example is your viral campaign is going to work best if it’s centered around attracting a targeted audience. It’s going to work best if the content somehow showcases your expertise. The people who are impressed by what you’re revealing in the viral content will want to know more. So be sure your content is designed to attract a targeted audience.