Tricks of the marketing trade

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The power of referral marketing for eco-friendly challenger brands

Ethical, sustainable and organic are more than trendy buzz words. Concern for our planet is heavily influencing consumers’ buying decisions - from the clothes they wear, to what they eat and how they invest.

It’s not just millennials and Generation Z driving this shift to conscious capitalism, according to our recent annual Customer Advocacy Report - 49% of all consumers are more likely to recommend brands that address environmental concerns.

But with more and more brands claiming (often dishonestly) to go green, it can feel tough to cut through the noise to acquire - and keep - target customers.

Against this backdrop, it's become even more important to find a marketing channel that can stand out as a way to cost-effectively grow your eco-friendly business.

Refer-a-friend campaigns can deliver remarkable results for eco-friendly challenger brands. But why? Recommending ethical businesses makes us look & feel good.

Social capital is the biggest driver of referrals. More than getting a great discount, complimentary gift or free delivery, customers want to look good in front of their friends. That’s the psychology of referral.

And what looks better than caring about the planet?

By telling others about environmentally-friendly brands, we’re also telling them we’re in the know and doing our bit to make a difference.

Plus, it’s an easy way to drive positive change. Taking on a zero-waste lifestyle feels daunting, but encouraging friends to cut down on single-use plastic with brands like Wild is straightforward. And it can cause a ripple effect far more powerful than anything you could achieve alone.

Allplants, for example, ran a campaign vowing to plant a tree in Zambia for every successful referral. So its customers helped the planet in a number of ways: eating vegan, encouraging their friends to do the same, and adding a new tree to the world. Not bad for taking a few seconds to share a referral offer.

Sustainability is topical and on-trend

There’s no avoiding it: conversation about climate change and sustainable living is everywhere. It’s both topical, permanently in the news and social media, and on-trend, with eco-friendly brands being the coolest way to shop.

Rather than despair at melting ice caps and burning rainforests, telling friends about environmentally-friendly brands makes us feel like we’re taking a small bit of action to positively contribute to the conversation.

It also provides a trigger for your brand to come up in conversation. Whether that’s watching the news, chatting about eco-friendly living, or telling someone your new dress is a rental piece from one of the many emerging clothes hire companies.

 

Everyday life triggers brand recommendations

There are now ethical and sustainable brands across every sector. Though some are more visible than others - red lipstick, for example, is more likely to spark a comment than your heating supplier - there’s still a strong chance of acquiring referred customers via less obvious topics of conversation.

A sector that may not immediately spring to mind when considering sustainability is finance. Yet a number of emerging financial brands are rooted in this very consideration. tikr, for example, lets users easily invest in global companies that are both making a profit and solving social and environmental problems.

Meanwhile, in the utilities sector, brands like bulb are making energy simpler, greener and cheaper - and has grown exponentially to become Britain’s biggest domestic supplier of renewable energy.

There’s brands out there to make every part of our lives more eco-friendly. The trick is to get your brand’s message to the right people, at the right time. And referral can do just that.

There’s undoubtedly a strong (and growing) appetite for sustainable living. By implementing a referral programme that encourages, tracks and rewards those customers recommending your brand to others, you can fuel long-term, sustainable growth.

Unlike traditional or digital marketing campaigns, encouraging happy customers to spread word of your brand is cost-effective, with measurable return on investment and a lasting impact. An effective refer-a-friend programme will spark continuous organic growth as referred customers refer their friends, who refer their friends, who refer their friends… you get the idea.

Referred customers have twice the lifetime value and are three times more likely to recommend their friends than customers acquired via other channels.

People genuinely want to make a difference. Your brand helps them do that. A referral marketing programme can make it easy for more people to discover it.

 

Courtney Wylie, VP of product & marketing at Mention Me.

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