5 Ways to Boost Customer Referrals for Your B2B Software Company

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I love referrals. When I’m excited about a product or the latest Taylor Swift song, I want to share my joy with everyone around me. Today, for instance, I referred six people to StitchFix, because my last interaction with the company was so overwhelmingly positive that I just had to share. (Full disclosure, I used my referral link there. Please sign up and enjoy the service as much as I do!!)

customer referrals copy

StitchFix makes it super easy too! They give me a link to share, and $25 for every referral. So for me, it’s a win-win-win. In fact, I found out about StitchFix via referral. My boss was so excited about it that she shared it with me and several other people in my office. Now there are quite a few devoted StitchFixers in our office thanks to her initial excitement.

Wouldn’t it be awesome if you could harness that kind of word of mouth for your B2B business? Turns out you can! Referrals are equally as powerful and possible in the B2B world. A 2015 study we conducted at Capterra showed that 76% of software buyers have asked a friend or colleague for business software recommendations, and this likely could be applied to other B2B products. With that many people seeking referrals, there’s absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t have many, many clients who were referred to you. So all that’s left is to figure out how you do it…

1. Make it easy.

Customers may be excited about you, but they’re not going to do much to refer you if you don’t make it easy for them. Create a page on your website that you can easily share with your happy customers containing the details of what you need a customer to do for you. This page should contain, at bare minimum, a referral link and simple instructions/details on what the referral program is and how to share the link.

Referral link: Any solid marketing team keeps track of where leads are coming from. Giving customers a link with a source code makes it easy for you to track the success of your referral program. This is a must.  There is also referral software out there to create and track such links, or you could use a third party service like Commission Junction.

Instructions and other details: This could be in the form of a straightforward list. Or it could be in the form of having your referral link attached to social buttons (which tells your customers visually how to share). For instance, refer to StitchFix’s page below. (They’re not B2B, but their page is laid out very well, and you can easily replicate it for a B2B site.)

StitchFix Referral Instructions

Stitchfix gives a brief statement letting me know how the referral process works. Then they give me the social buttons and a “copy link” button to make it clear how I share the link. They also make it clear when people have signed up so I can keep on top of them to purchase a box. There’s a list at the bottom of the page with their names that I’ve cropped out for privacy.

Like StitchFix, you can get creative on this page. Give a list of the people who have signed up so customers can track their incentives. Perhaps gamify your referral system. You could offer different incentives for reaching different “levels” of referrals.

Below you can check out a few creative B2B companies’ referral pages for inspiration.

elance referral program

Digital Ocean Referral Page

2. Incentivize your referrals.

I’ve touched on this point briefly, but incentivizing might just be the best way to get referrals. There are multiple different ways to incentivize customer recommendations, and you should definitely test out a couple incentives to determine what works best for your business.

You may want to incentivize with cash, gift cards, or products/services your business offers. Cvent, for instance, incentivizes with $250 for every referral you make. But they could also incentivize a referral with a $250 Starbucks gift card, or a free consulting session.

Additionally, some businesses only incentivize the referrer, while others incentivize both the referrer and the potential new customer. For instance, Constant Contact offers a $30 credit to the referrer AND a $30 credit to the new customer.

3. Ask for referrals.

It’s really that simple. Both salespeople and customer service reps should be trained to ask for referrals. For salespeople, in particular, this can be rather awkward, so it’s good to have a script. At a moment towards the end of the sale, if a client expresses happiness with the way things have been going, have your salespeople say something like, “I’m happy that you’re pleased with my work. I’m always looking for referrals – do you know anyone else who might be interested in my work?” Again, with incentivized referrals and an explanatory webpage, asking for a referral gets easier. A salesperson can say, “I’m so glad you’re pleased with our service. Do you know anyone else who might be interested in our service? If you do, you’ll get [incentive]! Isn’t that awesome?”

Customer service reps should also be trained to ask for referrals when they have positive interactions with customers you’ve had for a while. Again, it’s always easier with an incentive.

It should be noted that these moments are also perfect times to ask your customers to leave reviews on 3rd party websites for you, and you should definitely train your salespeople and customer service reps to ask for those too. Leave it up to their discretion whether they ask for one or both, but do ensure that they know whether a review or a referral is more important to your business if they decide to only ask for one.

4. Automate referrals.

Put your email marketing or marketing automation system to good use and send out some emails to your customers with a link to your referral page. This is a great way to hit up all your customers and make sure everyone has a chance to use your referral program, as typically customer service reps will be more focused on sharing the program with the dedicated customers they’re hearing from.

Additionally, there is software created specifically to develop a referral program, as well as track all your incentives and those who have shared and those who have signed up. For a fully developed, robust referral program, referral software is definitely the way to go as it can fully run your campaigns without practically any work from you.

Having incentivized referrals is handy for automation as well. It makes for the perfect subject line. An email that reads “Want $25?” is a lot more compelling than “Will you refer a new customer?”

5. Partner with a complementary business.

There are a lot of businesses out there that serve your clientele with a product that’s different from yours. You’re not competitors, and you serve the same pool of customers, much like how the ice cream truck and the local pizza food truck are not competitors, but both serve the same pool where their customers swim. You need to find one of these companies and set up a mutual referral program.

For instance, we here at Capterra have a referral program set up with a landing page creation company called Unbounce. Unbounce offers a free, 30-day trial to anyone who signs up, but they also offer an additional 50% off the next three months to all customers referred by Capterra. In return, they refer customers to us through a badge on their website. This is a great partnership that ensures Unbounce gets more customers, we get more customers and, more importantly – our customers are more satisfied because Unbounce’s service actually helps them perform better on our website! Partnering with a business who can not only share their customers with you, but whose service actually enhances your customers’ experience with you is optimal.

There are a lot of ways to get a customer referral. You should definitely make sure to have simple explanatory page to make things easier for yourself, and you should certainly consider incentivizing referrals. If you don’t have the budget for cash, provide your own services. Most importantly – don’t be afraid to get creative. These are only our top five ways to get more customer referrals. What ways work for you?

Header by Abby Kahler

Looking for Referral software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Referral software solutions.

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About the Author


Cara Wood

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Cara Wood is a marketing associate at Capterra and a graduate of Mary Washington! When she's not hard at work at Capterra, she can be found horse-back riding, reading and just generally having a good time at life.


[…] There’s nothing better than getting a sales lead from a happy customer. Referrals are often the most qualified leads you can get because individuals tend to know a great deal about the needs and personalities of their friends, which saves you a lot of leg work and research. A 2015 study conducted by Capterra found that 76 percent of software buyers have asked as friend or colleague for recommendations before buying. “This likely could be applied to other B2B products,” they conceded. […]

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