With the abundance of marketing strategies today, you may wonder what can my business do to stand out from the rest?

The answer - SMS referral campaigns.

Many businesses invest in social media campaigns, influencer marketing and content creation but miss the golden tool for staying in touch with their customers. Compared to the new wave of marketing options, referral marketing may seem outdated but SMS is as viable as ever.

Learn more about SMS marketing in our expert's guide!

Today, most referral marketing campaigns will send a referral email via a bot and risk losing their customer base. SMS is a great way to communicate with customers and referral marketing can be done in a non-robotic form to entice new audiences.

What is a referral marketing campaign?

At its core, referral marketing is encouraging an existing customer to tell their peers about a product or service that you offer. This is often confused with word of mouth referrals.

Choosing a referral marketing campaign over options is the way to. It's a win-win for your business and your customer. Your company will receive free marketing and your customer will get rewarded for recommending your product or service to a wider audience.

A recent study found that 92% of consumers trust recommendations from people they know.

In reality, most customers will forget to tell their friends about you when it comes to word of mouth but there is a modern method to use. This method combines SMS with referral marketing to create an easy-to-recommend system where the customer has the power to send a link to their friend or family member and the domino effect can result in the link being passed on from person.

What is the difference between referral marketing and word of mouth

Word of mouth is done without the input from a marketing team thus it's hard to measure. A new customer might reach your company via a conversation with a friend who recommends your company.

This is the traditional way of increasing the awareness of your company but not the most effective.

Referral marketing provides a referral link to equip your customer with the tools needed to recommend and share your product. This can be done via other platforms but the most effective - SMS.

It is referred to as "refer-a-friend" marketing and considered one of the best referral techniques in the industry.

The value of SMS in marketing

Despite new media platforms blooming every day, more and more companies are finding it increasingly difficult to tailor a campaign strategy that is personal to each customer.

Contrary to popular belief, an SMS referral campaign can contribute to the success of a business by retaining and engaging their customers.

Here are some insights of SMS statistics:

  • About 50 million people confirmed they are open to receiving SMS messages from businesses.

  • The vast majority of the public love their phones so it's no surprise as a marketing campaign, SMS is a good option. SMS messages have a 209% higher response rate than email or social media messaging, and a 98% open rate.

  • Consumers trust SMS messages more than emails - According to Tech Jury, only 10% of SMS messages are labelled as spam whereas email holds the spam title with 50%of all emails being organised into the spam folder.

Are you wondering how you can use SMS in a referral messaging campaign? - we have you covered.

This is an exciting process with a lot of flexibility for new and existing businesses alike to boost their sales and take one step closer to success.

Consumers redeem SMS-delivered coupons 10 times more often than coupons delivered by email or other means of communication.

SMS is the recommended platform for this marketing tactic and will reap the most rewards if done correctly.

Referral messages and links are the key ingredients in a successful SMS referral campaign so let's familiarise ourselves with what a good referral SMS message looks like.

What is a referral SMS message or link?

Think of the referral message as your introduction - it gives people an idea of what your business offers. It is a great way to stand out from your competitors.

The referral message is vital in drawing in new audiences and expanding your reach.

To pull off a successful referral campaign, the contents of the message matter. The way the message is composed will impact the open rate and click-through rate (if the SMS contains a link). A jumbled SMS that gives off an unprofessional vibe will fail to attract new customers.

We recommend using all the SMS tools at your disposal to make your referral message stand out from the rest. This could include; emojis, links, images and even memes if you really want to make your customer feel like a friend.

Let’s look at the best ways to craft an SMS referral marketing campaign:

Option 1: Using the non-promotional method

Many new customers will discard your SMS if it looks too much like an advertisement. The majority of the public have their guard up to repetitive ads and boring promotions so use a less intrusive method.

Remember, you are on the same side as your customer and ads in SMS messages might cause your customer annoyance. Reportedly, 91% of consumers don’t like ads so keep it personal and avoid long drawn out paragraphs about deals.

So, if you want to target some of your consumers with a referral campaign through an SMS message, we recommend starting with a non-promotional promotion.

What does a non-promotional referral SMS look like?

Keep it relevant to your target audience and make offers short and sweet.

Start with rewarding consumers for their loyalty. Free offers can give your brand image value and encourage a customer to spread the word. One-off rewards for new customers or recurring gifts for existing ones both give the impression that the customer is at the heart of your business. Commemorating a customer's birthday is personal and a nice touch:

SMS example of a birthday reward for a customer

When the customer responds to your first SMS, you can send them an offer to refer your service to a friend or family member in exchange for more benefits. The chain can remain unbroken too and you can even offer new members a reduced fee if they share a link and so on. 

Upon the referral being clicked on, your new customer has now been introduced to your company with a spectacular first impression. This is an example of a successful referral.

SMS example with an offer to refer a service to their friends

Customers respond to loyalty with loyalty and the proof is in the pudding.

For customer satisfaction, it's a no-brainer.

So, if your company is using SMS for your referral marketing campaign, this less intrusive approach will fly under the radar and encourage your customers to stand by your brand and refer the link to their friends.

Option 2: Expressing gratitude for the loyalty

While the first approach is cautious and avoids making your SMS too promotional, you can also directly invite your customers to participate in an exclusive referral marketing campaign as a thank you for their loyalty.

Expressing your thanks to a customer that has stuck by your side for years not only makes them feel like they are using the best business out there but also projects your company image as a good bet for the future and one that looks out for its customers in the long term.

We recommend addressing each customer by name to make the offer more personalized:

Example of a personalised SMS message

Adding a friendly vibe by personalizing your messages is crucial to draw the attention of your customers.

Building that close bond with your customer base will make your ratings skyrocket. It also benefits customer retention, as you make the move to build stronger relationships with your customers it is natural that you will want to stay around and even subscribe to new opportunities.

Option 3: Building an army of advocates

Ultimately, the end goal of an SMS referral campaign is to grow a force of loyal people who will advocate for your business and proudly represent your brand to new customers.

Among the brands that do it best, Airbnb stands out from the rest. They currently have several ongoing referral marketing campaigns, notifying their customers via SMS. As of now, anyone interested in promoting their services can become the advocate of the brand:

SMS referral campaign example used by Airbnb

Your business can follow in their footsteps and launch a campaign, even if your company is small, it can still benefit in many ways.

Combining the best practices of the top-performing companies using SMS marketing is a surefire way to success.

Airbnb collects the phone numbers of its users for sign-up reasons and then uses them for referral offers and other promotions. Rather than sending a follow-up email asking customers for more information, they bypass hassling the customer and use the information for referral reasons.

You can find useful information about each customer just from the sign-up screen. You have their name and maybe even occupation. Combining these factors can make for quite a personalised text message.

If your company utilises the access to information available, you too can create a database of customers ready to be introduced to a new offer for one of their friends.

This is a great way to strengthen your referral marketing efforts and make them run on an ongoing basis, leading to an army of advocates who will bring you new leads.  

Create your first SMS referral marketing campaign

The most successful companies around the globe use SMS referral marketing campaigns to stay in touch and relevant to their customer base.

SMS referral messaging is an unrivalled way to reach out to customers and notify them about offers.

The main strength of this type of marketing over other options is the ability to make your SMS super personalised. You can make your offers and discount pack an even greater punch by encouraging your customer to forward a link to more than one friend.

We already know that referral messaging has an excellent click-through rate so why not give it a try yourself. It might just be the vital tool that your business is missing to blow up.

Keep on top of your competition and start your SMS referral marketing campaign now to attract new consumers and retain existing customers in a tried and tested method.