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With the rise in Digital Technology, Marketing experts have got a new frontier which they need to take advantage of to be able to get the most benefits for their Business in the form of returns from current clients as well as look for new clients. The same applies for both product and service sectors either digital or non-digital.

When the IT boom started in 2000, people were only getting used to this new technology. Post-2010, new concepts of online and offline marketing strategy started to line up in the market. A time there was when word of mouth publicity was crucial. Today, Social Media has come into the picture and is playing a big role in connecting current as well as potential customers to Businesses, Small or Big.

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Referral Programs have become a huge traditional strategy now. It is word of mouth publicity by one person through a social media or community forum about the program or product the person uses. IT has huge importance for the Business simply because of the “trust” factor. When you come across people who have used the service or product and have good things to say about it, it increases your confidence that the product or service can be trusted. Verizon report says that 85% of clients attracted by Small Businessmen are through word of mouth publicity. You can visit  Web Marketing 123 – digital marketing and SEO blog to know more about the world of referral marketing in the current trend.

Following are some of the prevalent types of offline referral programs you will find in the market:

1. DIRECT REFERRAL PROGRAM

Perhaps the most common of all. Best way to remember is when you are using a scanner app which offers you free 150 MB cloud storage if you recommend the app to your friends and social network via WhatsApp, Facebook or Text messaging. What’s more impressive is how the app builds the message for you along with a link to access the app before you send it to your friends. Cool huh?

Not only apps, but even certain MOOC forums are also willing to provide you monetary benefits if you can refer them to your friends for additional Education. The benefit gained from this that such Small startups/Business owners can penetrate communities without additional help through their loyal customers who can recommend them to their friends and in return get either Barter type of benefits like Free courses or cloud storage or monetary benefits like additional miles (in Aviation Sector) or scholarship (in Education Sector).

2. IMPLIED REFERRAL PROGRAMS

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Such programs are conducted on an example basis as opposed to Direct ones which are done on an active basis. The Owner or Management of Business needs to take steps to let their target customers know the kind of work they do for their current clients and how their loyal client base has been benefiting from them without directly asking for a referral.

On a local level, examples can be that of firms who do refurbishing and painting work on Big Buildings in Metro cities. Whenever you travel to big cities with skyscrapers, there is always a possibility you will come across a Building undergoing paint job with the workers putting up an ad printed cover over the building which says: “This Building is being repainted by X Enterprises.” This is because so that people may know who the people are behind the “great” work, earning some brownie points for the owner of the refurbishing Business.

Implied Referral Programs are mostly done in the Infrastructure sector where Regulatory Authorities announce some project and who will be building it (HCC, L&T, Tata whoever). Through this, the contractors get indirect publicity, brownie points if their work ends up to be perfect as well as a reduction in hiring costs as their Brand gets stronger.

3. TANGIBLE REFERRAL PROGRAMS

A very common example can be found in the Automotive sector. Companies willing to sponsor any reality TV show are ready to provide the winner with the latest car from their gallery which has just arrived in the market. (Eg: Mr. X won the latest SUV for doing dangerous stunts at a competition). Indirectly, the company is making the winner their Brand Ambassador who can refer the car to his friends if it suits their requirement.

4. COMMUNITY REFERRAL PROGRAMS

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The benefit of such a program is that it gives your Business a much needed positive publicity as you stand for the good of society. With CSR getting a mandatory clause in National Companies Act around the world (including India), it gives companies a challenge to come up with a campaign that can both project their Brand as standing for the environment as well as let the people know how their Business can help them.

As an example, BAJAJ Finserv tied up with SMILE Train India Foundation to fund cleft lip surgery of 10000 kids in the country. It encouraged NGO to promote the company across the world. Axis Bank Foundation in a tie-up with Sony Entertainment donated money equivalent to money won by KBC participants in Season 10 for their CSR projects in different parts of the country and had uplifted around 80% of people living in such project areas.

So these are some of the best offline referral program types visible in the market. Let me know what you think and in case you come up with anything I missed.

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