It is often said that no form of advertising is more effective than word of mouth. It’s credible, reliable – and often, free of charge. Just think about your own experience: if you are looking for a restaurant to check out or want to get opinions on the latest movie at the box office, who do you go first? The people you trust.


While that seems obvious – the statistics from Nielsen are striking. 92% of consumers will trust a referral from someone they know, and people are 4x more likely to make a purchase if they have been referred by a friend. One would assume that the rise in popularity of social networking and review sites like Yelp have only made referrals more important for businesses to pay attention to.


Marketers have worked long and hard to try and tap into the credibility of word of mouth advertising, and actually make it easier for their top customers to spread the word about their positive experience. Referral marketing programs are becoming increasingly common, and invaluable for companies needing to expand their reach while guaranteeing  a high rate of conversion from prospects into customers.


Simply put – a referral marketing program is any marketing program that provides incentives to current or loyal customers to share your company with their network in an effort to get new business. The most popular examples include AirBnb, who offers discounts and bonuses for bringing friends to the network, and Dropbox, who will increase your storage limits as you continue to refer friends and colleagues to their service.


Today, we are going to look at how to build a customer referral program – and what pharmacy marketers can keep in mind when evaluating if a referral program will work for you.


Question One: Is It Feasible?


You would be hard pressed to find a company that doesn’t think a referral marketing program is a good idea, but the truth is that not every business is ready to take on this type of initiative. Given how central a solid web and social media presence are to today’s marketing campaigns, these should be considered fundamental building blocks before embarking on a quest for a customer referral program.


Consider how your customers will connect your brand to their networks – is it email, social media, a landing page, an app, or through your website? Whichever it may be, it’s important that the medium is both well established and a key component of your existing marketing program.


The second thing to consider is cost. A referral marketing program is not the type of initiative that is likely to “go viral” all on it’s own. This is a vehicle that requires time, effort, and money to start becoming effective. It’s true what they say – you have to spend money to make money.


If marketing dollars are tight, or your pharmacy hasn’t yet started up their social media program – chances are there are some fundamental steps that should be taken before diving into referral marketing. That’s a-ok though, our team at Prizm Media is here and ready to help put you on the path to getting more referrals and strengthening your core marketing initiatives.


Question Two: What Do My Customers Want?


Let’s go back to the Dropbox example for a moment – if Dropbox offered their customers a free t-shirt when they referred the service to friends, their referral program would be a lot less successful. Customers want the added storage because it improves the quality of the core experience.


So it begs the questions – what is your pharmacy able to offer customers that will improve their core experience with your business? As a pharmacy, this might differ based on your customer base – perhaps its an incentive for families and kids (like a vitamin program), access to a special event with relevant health information, or a great deal on relevant seasonal items. Understanding your customer base well enough to deliver an incentive that will not only entice them, but improve their customer experience is absolutely imperative to having a referral program that really takes off.


Question Three: I Think I’m Ready to Implement. Where Do I Start?


This is a great question – and often one of the trickiest. Like with all marketing, our best advice is to start with what you already have. If you have a really fantastic open rate on your email list, start there! If you have a dedicated group of customers that attend events at your pharmacy, share the program with them in person. If you are just starting to really take your web and social media presence to the next level, a fantastic opportunity exists to build this referral program into the core of that experience – well placed ads, clear calls to action, and a consistent message across platforms.


Once you have a formula that works (i.e. a great value proposition and a growing base of referrals), you can try branching out to new forms of advertising to keep the program growing. This could involve new forms of media, attempting to reach new referral sources, and continuing to strengthen the relationship between your best customers and your business.


Question Four: How Do I Know If It’s Working?


Metrics! Metrics! Metrics! It is so crucially important to be able to assess the success of your program versus the amount of marketing dollars you are investing. Knowing your cost to acquire a new customer is imperative, and the goal of the referral program is to lower that cost over time. If you are using your website, email, or social media to facilitate your referral program, please be sure to make sure there are tracking options available to you to measure your success and adjust your campaign as necessary. It is not a “set it and forget it” kind of marketing program, it requires constant monitoring and adjustment to truly be successful.


If you’ve made it through these four questions and are feeling like a referral program is right for your pharmacy – fantastic! It really is a wonderful way to not only show your appreciation to your top customers, but to involve them in growing your business. Before you know it, you’ll have a quickly expanding network of referrals and you’ll be checking out articles on how to keep up with the demand!


If you have a few more questions about referral marketing programs, not to worry! Our team here at Prizm Media would love to answer your questions, and see how we can help you transform your marketing programs and grow your pharmacy’s business. Feel free to contact us today at or by phone at (604) 326-0096, you’ll be glad you did!😐