7 Referral Marketing Tips for Your Certification Program
Your certification program can go a long way by word of mouth. Here’s how.
We all appreciate the power of a good recommendation.
In fact, most of us rely on our social networks to learn about the next book to read or TV show to watch. And for good reason: our friends understand and share our preferences. So, if they like something, it’s a good bet we will, too.
This is great news for your certification program. If you can convince your learners to spread the word about your program across their social networks, you will amplify your course reach exponentially.
After all, your users can use their knowledge of their network to target their recommendations much more precisely than you ever could.
However, if referral marketing were that easy, none of us would have to pay for traditional advertising. A referral from one of your users is much more likely to convince a hesitant buyer, but it still takes hard work on your end to achieve. Here are our seven tips to help you create a successful referral marketing strategy for your certification program.
1. Have a program worth referring.
This seems obvious at first glance. You know your program. You put your heart and soul into it. Why on earth would you sell something you didn’t believe in?
That’s all well and good, but how much attention do you pay to customer feedback? What does your completion rate look like? Do your certification recipients come back to recertify? Are you bringing in any referral marketing leads right now?
You may offer a great program, but your learners have specific needs. It could be that you’re almost there, but missing that extra something that puts your certification program above and beyond the competition.
So, start with your product. Address your customer needs. Your referral marketing efforts will be easier and more successful if you’ve done everything in your power to provide what your users are looking for.
2. Create a referral program.
How often have you seen a business offer a “refer a friend” coupon code? Have you ever taken them up on the offer? Most of us have, and for good reason: we like incentives.
That said, we also like transparency. If you’re offering a discount for referrals, don’t keep it a secret. In fact, do the opposite: advertise it. Your learners will feel better about making a referral if they feel open about any benefits they receive from it. You can even offer a special referral discount to both parties. Your users will hesitate less to refer a friend if they’re sharing both a great product and a great deal.
Of course, most of us still won’t refer a program unless we believe in it. But the right incentive can give us just the nudge we need to pass along our recommendation.
3. Address reputation risk.
When someone refers your program, they’re staking their reputation on behalf of your business. They might refer your program in the hopes of appearing like a savvy trend-setter. But they’re also aware that a poor recommendation will make them look bad.
Fortunately, a good referral program can smooth the way for many learners. Share your success stories so that your learners can use them to convince their network of your program’s quality. And make sure that the referral program is open to everyone, including those who have already made or accepted referrals.
4. Automate your referral program.
Automation can boost your marketing in a number of ways. You may already be using it as part of a drip campaign, or to reach out to learners who are due for recertification. How about including your referral program in the mix?
Let your learners know when they first sign up for your certification program that they can earn a discount by successfully encouraging their friends, coworkers, and acquaintances to join. Space out other reminders at key points in the certification program—like after the first month, or when they complete the course. Just make sure they can still claim their reward for recommending your program.
5. Make your certificate program shareable.
Your users can bring in referrals without directly pitching any of their friends by sharing your program with their social network. Given the size of social media networks, it’s easy for your users to be unaware of how relevant your program is to some of their more distant connections.
Social sharing is an indirect form of referral that can reach these unknown parties at very low cost to the person making the recommendation. You can encourage this with your program by offering easy ways to share achievements to social media.
6. Reach out to industry publications.
Not every reference comes from personal contacts. An article in a relevant publication or a blog from an industry expert can also be great references for your business, although it can be difficult to attract their attention.
You may have tried writing press releases in the past with little success. So, if you still struggle to find someone to write an article about you, try writing one yourself and see if anyone is interested in publishing it as a guest blog. It saves them time, and you still benefit from their reputation in the industry.
7. Ask for reviews.
As we said before, the best referrals come from people your users know. But reviews from strangers are valuable as well, and add credibility to your program. In fact, less-than-perfect reviews are more likely to convince a user to sign up for your program, because they appear more candid and trustworthy.
This means that you shouldn’t be afraid of asking your users to review your certification program, even if they leave behind some critical feedback. The best time to ask your learners for a review is right after they complete their course. You can prompt them to review your course right on your website, or on social media. Even a simple star rating can help boost your program.
Don't underestimate the impact that referral marketing can have on your business.
The reason referral marketing works so well is that it is built on personal relationships. Potential learners will always trust the word of your customers before they trust your own. And even your most reliable learners will go elsewhere if the quality of your program drops.
However, focusing on customer feedback and delivering excellent service year after year will build the kind of loyalty that no amount of marketing budget can buy.
Build an outstanding program and make it easy for your learners to share, and your course will be sure to grow.
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