The Referral Multiplier Effect

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This post is a special Make a Referral Week guest post featuring education on the subject of referrals and word of mouth marketing and making 1000 referrals to 1000 small businesses – check it out at Make a Referral Week 2010

David Meerman ScottAfter I read an early copy of John’s terrific new book The Referral Engine, it got me thinking about how really great online information makes the job of referring a friend, colleague or family member to somebody a simple process.

Think about your own referrals. How many of them happen via an electronic mechanism (email, Skype, Instant Message, LinkedIn, Twitter, and so on). If you’re like me, nearly all of your referrals happen this way. Somebody will email or tweet me something like: “Hey, I’m looking for a great Web designer, do you know anyone?” How easy it is to just send a link to a Web designer’s work and some contact information!

Most businesses aren’t like Web designers, though. We don’t have our stuff available for easy access. But this problem is easily solved. All you need to do is create something amazing on the Web—a YouTube video, a blog, an ebook, some photos, graphs or charts—something that people are eager to share with others (something that makes referrals easy).

Make it free with no registration gates of any kind

There is no doubt that free information made available on the Web creates a referral multiplier effect. When you make it easy for people to point to something interesting that tells your story for you, many more people will talk you up with their friends, colleagues and family members.

Sadly, most people put brakes on their referral engine by requiring an email address (and other personal information) prior to permitting people to download content (such as a white paper). The thinking is that with a gate, each person downloading becomes a valuable sales lead.

When you remove the gate and allow the completely free flow of information with no registration required, immense value comes from many more people consuming and spreading your content and referring you to others.

For example, my most popular ebook The New Rules of Viral Marketing: How word-of-mouse spreads your ideas for free has been downloaded over one million times.

Every week someone contacts me to say that they learned about my ideas first when someone referred them to one of my free ebooks. There is no doubt that if I required registration, I would not have a referral engine.

I’m always interested in metrics from other organizations. For example, John Mancini, President of AIIM—a non-profit organization representing the users and suppliers of document, content and records management technologies—released an ebook called 8 Reasons You Need a Strategy for Managing Information — Before It’s Too Late. AIIM also made their ebook totally free, with no registration required.

In just the first month of release, the ebook was downloaded 5,138 times. In addition, AIIM also created a presentation version of the book and posted that, also with no registration, on SlideShare. This version has had 3,353 downloads for a total of 8,491 downloads in the month. Pretty darned good result, for the first month of an ebook, I’d say, and each one a potential for a simple and easy referral.

“Making the e-book available for free and totally without registration was a new approach for us,” Mancini says. “These results for unfettered access are particularly impressive when considered against a couple of more traditional examples (i.e., content requiring a registration on our website).”

So create some great content, make it totally free with no registration required, and encourage people to share. Your referrals will multiply immediately.

David loves it when people refer to his keynote speech video

David Meerman Scott is a marketing strategist, keynote speaker, and seminar leader and author of the best selling book The New Rules of Marketing and PR. The book is a BusinessWeek bestseller published in 24 languages.


make a referral week, New Rules of Marketing, Referral Engine

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