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I've been following the general topic of Growth Hacking for a few months, both here and on Quora. During this time, I've learned about the value of viral loops and referral programs. It seems to me that most techniques are focused on products (apps), and not services (such as a User Experience audit). I was hoping that someone could point all of us service based companies to some of their favorite resources, case studies, articles, videos, etc that discuss successful viral loops and referral programs! For a bit of background, my partner and I run a User Experience Agency (http://gobysavvy.com/) that focuses on a somewhat "productized service", a User Experience Review, as well as more in-depth design services. We've set up tons of marketing funnels from ads and social media, through email, through actual sales outreach. However, this takes a lot of manpower and a personal touch. Is there another way, utilizing principles of growth hacking? More specifically, utilizing viral loops and/or a referral program?

  • GV

    George Vasiliadis

    over 4 years ago #

    Hey Ryan! Well-put!

    Depends on your goals, short term and long term. A quick intro, I run Growth in Viral Loops, our goal is to help people like you, run hassle-free referral programs and build viral loops.

    I'll try to be as unbiased as I can. Virality, is a huge channel for me and requires a ton of work to make it effective. Andrew Chen nails it in this post http://andrewchen.co/whats-your-viral-loop-understanding-the-engine-of-adoption/.
    Also, it's a channel that helps you understand the power of your brand and how good your service/product is, because if it's not, you won't have virality, that simple.

    What I'm suggesting is to find some incentives that you can offer to users for referring their friends and build viral loops around them e.g. Invite x friends and get a free ux consultation. That way, you'll have x more qualified leads to convert and you'll hook referrer ;) This is what Dropbox did, they went from 100k registered users to 4M registered users in just 15 months. It's a different business model, but you get the point. In Viral Loops we have a template that helps you create referral programs like Dropbox and it's so damn easy. You can build powerful loops and grow your leads organically.

    I hope I helped! Check this link https://viral-loops.com/startups if you're interested in using our Dropbox template and don't hesitate to hit me at george@viral-loops.com

    may the force be with you,

  • ZG

    Zach Grove

    over 4 years ago #

    Damian Thompson from Saleability has a cool tip to boost client referrals. (I heard this on a podcast; I can't remember which.)

    Basically, he has an email sequence for nurturing clients... and one of the emails says:

    "Hi [NAME], We're able to get awesome results for clients because we're focused on you; we're not out there pounding the pavement in search for new leads. But to maintain our level of service, we depend on client referrals to bring in new business. Is there anyone you know who might also be interested in [XYZ]?"

    I think it'd be a little weird to send this email to a client straight up... but maybe in the context of a monthly newsletter for clients, you could add this to a P.S. or something.

  • SZ

    Savvas Zortikis

    over 4 years ago #

    Hi Ryan,

    I've made a presentation around Virality, Network Effects and Word of Mouth, in which I also share the process we followed to design virality for our own product.
    You can take a look here: http://www.slideshare.net/viralloops/how-to-build-your-product-for-viral-growth

    I read a lot about it, so I think you might be interested in my favourite books:
    1) Platform Scale: How an emerging business model helps startups build large empires with minimum investment by Sangeet Paul Choudary
    2) Viral Loop: From Facebook to Twitter, How Today's Smartest Businesses Grow Themselves by Adam L. Penenberg
    3) The Viral Startup: A Guide to Designing Viral Loops by Andrew Chen
    4) Contagious by Jonah Berger

    Let me know what you think!

  • TV

    Tamir Vigder

    over 4 years ago #

    Hi Ryan! I have a good answer for you. Although I'd need more details. Could you please contact me via email and id be able to tell you more about viral loops and referral programs in service based products. I'd also be able to Skype you for 10-15 minutes if you need.

    My email address is tamirvigder@icloud.com

    • RO

      Ryan O'Connor

      over 4 years ago #

      Sure thing Tamir, I just emailed you. I really appreciate you offering to help, and would be happy to schedule a Skype call!

  • TG

    Tariehk Geter

    over 4 years ago #

    Hey Ryan,

    Taking my cue from George, I'll also try to be unbiased.

    My name is Tariehk Geter and I'm with Omnistar Tell. We help businesses go viral by creating referral programs and viral loops.

    Yes, you can create a referral/viral loop for a service business.

    All you need is an app to track your referrals and great offers.

    You need offers for your customer that will start the word of mouth. You also need offers for their friends and families that will make them come and sign up for your service.

    Dropbox managed theirs from the user dashboard; users saw and promoted the offer from the dashboard. Do you have something similar with your business? If not, you can still have a page that has your offers and all your customers will promote that page. Everything should be tracked by the referral app.

    For example, we've seen a fencing club, spa, and a salsa dance studio use viral loops to get more business. All three businesses created a page offering customers discounts for a promotion. The friends also got a discount. You don't have to give out a discount, you just have to find a great offer for your customers.

    It is probably easier if we jump on a call so that I can fully understand how you want to set up your referral program. If interested, send me an email at tgeter@osiaffiliate.com and we can schedule time.

    Watch the video on this page to see how you can work with your customers to create a viral loop.


    This video will also explain how you can give incentives to make users promote you on Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin.

    Hope this helps :)

    Best Regards,
    Tariehk Geter

  • RK

    Richard Kuwahara

    over 4 years ago #

    Not to get too much into semantics, but a referral program does not equal a viral loop. A referral program could be part of a viral loop, but just because you have one doesn't mean you have a viral loop.

    The reason viral loops are talked in relation to product is because being "baked in" to the product is what makes it a viral loop. More you use the product, more opportunity for new users. The Hotmail footer is a viral loop. Having the incentive be tied to the core use/benefit of your service is key to getting it going. Think LinkedIn, the incentive to upload your contacts and invite people is core to the benefit of that platform.

    All that being said, referral programs are great if you can get them to work. Be sure the incentive is tied to your core value as a business/service. I'd stay away from any sort of credit/money situation if at all possible.

    If you haven't done it yet, do some sort of NPS or survey customers first. Worst thing you can do is launch a referral program for something not yet ready to be referred. If your current customers aren't already trying to promote you, something is wrong and you need to address that first (liking your service and being willing to promote are two different things).

    The reason Dropbox, Paypal, Uber and all the other programs worked is because the product experience was awesome. No amount of slick referring could fix that.