The Pipeline Guest Post - Megan Totka
In the past, word of mouth was always considered the best form of advertising for business. The same is absolutely true now, but I’d say that the definition of word of mouth has shifted significantly. Word of mouth now consists of online reviews and ratings rather than actually talking to your neighbor (though that certainly does still happen). Another way that companies have been able to generate revenue from word of mouth type advertising is through referral and affiliate programs.
While affiliate programs are probably what you would think of a more typical sales pattern, referrals are person to person advertising at its finest. Many, many different companies and websites have referral programs now. Studies have shown that people who become customers through referrals go on to be more loyal and profitable than customers that are acquired through other sales channels.
There are really very few downsides to referral marketing. Typically, both an existing customer and their refer-ee are rewarded for giving your company business. Online referral links tend to be more one-sided. The person whose link is followed typically reaps all of the rewards. Some companies that have used referral links really successfully include Ebates, StitchFix, and DropBox.
Affiliate marketing is different from referral marketing, but the two types of marketing to increase sales share several similar qualities. Affiliate marketing allows a business to reward people who drive traffic to their site and purchase their products. For lack of a better term, affiliate marketing can be a little sneakier. Affiliates can bury links to products inside just about anything, from blog posts to paid advertisements. There are even entire “review” sites that are nothing but product plugs and affiliate links. Affiliate links can be great, though, if used the right way. Think of affiliate marketing as earning commission by promoting another company’s product.
Both affiliate marketing and referral programs are good ways to gain new customers – as long as you’re following sales referral etiquette. Referral programs have been popular for years and years, and have a great track record when it comes to acquiring and keeping new customers. Affiliate marketing is a somewhat newer tactic, but can also be considered successful when done right.
Image via Shutterstock
About Megan Totka
Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide.