5 Ways Software Companies Can Encourage Referrals

Photo: Kaboompics

As a software developer, the owner of a software company, or the leader of a marketing team in charge of generating brand awareness for the software company, there’s one thing you all have in common – you want more downloads, more installs, more copies sold, more subscriptions, more ad views, more everything. Well, one proven way to turn what you already have into more is to use your current user base to get new customers and users. The best way to do that is to somehow motivate your current users to recommend your software to other people. With that said, here are five of the best ways to convince your current licensees and users to suggest your product to others:

1. Use Software Escrow to Safely Give Licensees Source Code

This is often the last thing that developers think about after they’ve published their software. Are you going to give every licensee access to the program’s source code automatically? Will you make a download link available upon request? The problem with giving out source code to every customer like candy is that it is obviously the inner workings of the app, so it can be stolen and copied by future competitors.

In a sense, when you start giving the source code to every customer, there’s a good chance that a few of them will share it or upload it to the web somewhere. Once that happens, it’s only a matter of time before someone is using your source code to enhance their own app or create a clone of yours. On the other side of the pendulum, it’s completely understandable that licensees want access to the source code, especially in the case of businesses who depend on your software to continue operating as usual. A good way to share your source code with licensees upon request is to host it securely using a software escrow service online.

2. Start a Referral Program with Incentives

This is usually the first step that software companies take when trying to increase the amount of referrals they’re getting. Of course, it seems to be the most obvious route to getting instant referrals – just promise your user base something good in exchange for each referral. The cool part is that you have complete control over what the incentive is, so you can decide what each new user is worth to you and set up a simple yet profitable affiliate program based on that data.

The key to making your referral program successful is to make it well-known and make the referral rewards worthwhile. Many companies make the mistake of hiding their referral programs in the fine print and as a result they’re barely ever used. Send out a weekly newsletter to your users and be sure to mention the referral program every time in large text. Also, send out special offers via email and add a menu option within the app or software to make the referral program more prominent within the UI of your product.

3. Provide Excellent and Responsive Support

Great customer support experiences are common conversation pieces. People like to talk about the time they were helped by an excellent company when their friends or family members are asking for recommendations. Naturally, the best way to position yourself for referrals is to make your company the first thing that comes off the tip of the tongue when a person talks about your industry. Aside from developing a stellar product that speaks for itself, accompanying that with superb support and service is the best way to give your brand the word-of-mouth edge.

Providing extremely responsive and knowledgeable customer support should be one of the highest priorities for any company in any industry, especially in competitive software niches where your competitors may be doing a much better job of responding and addressing user concerns.

4. Offer Exclusive Discounts and Bonuses

This goes back to enhancing the referral program that you’ll be launching and promoting. Think of something really special and exclusive that you could offer users in exchange for a referral. Ideally, you’ll want it to be a digital product or upgrade that you can produce and distribute without spending too much overhead but which provides abundant value to the user. Something very desirable that regular users can’t get their hands on, unless they’re able to muster up a referral.

Setting up the “only way to get this is via referral” technique is a lot like cornering interested licensees into practically begging one of their friends to sign up. It’s also a good idea to offer different levels of bonuses for those who are able to get multiple referrals, so there would be more incentive to continue promoting the brand.

5. Honor New Feature Requests

Finally, don’t forget that the users themselves are the ones who will be in charge of referring your software to others, so treat them with courtesy and respect when they ask for a simple feature addition or amendment. While you’ll have to take into consideration the wishes of the user base as a whole, and the practicality of implementing certain features, most of the time you should be able to reasonably accommodate the request with something that will impress the person(s) who asked for it. In the end, it’s the little things, like adding a special button or menu option that someone asked for, that will not only impress your users enough to suggest your product but will also gradually enhance the feature set.

Growing a Good Reputation Organically

Ultimately, there are no special gimmicks or tricks that you can use to grow your user base and get more referrals. The above recommendations are proven fundamentals that you can put into place to ensure your current user base is satisfied and motivated to recommend your software. That being said, it’s good to go ahead and acknowledge that referrals will only make up a percentage of your new downloads and installs, so no matter how hard you push the referral game, you still have to allocate efforts to other forms of advertisement and distribution.

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