Building Awareness Through Referrals and Direct Outreach

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Building Awareness

The importance of word-of-mouth and personalized communication opportunities in regards to building your brand awareness cannot be overstated. The core component to a successful brand is trust between you and your customers. Without trust, the visibility of your brand cannot flourish as it should. Utilizing referral programs and direct outreach strategies are two ways in which you can capitalize on building trust with current and potential customers. In comparison to other awareness strategies, referral programs and direct outreach need less cash expenditure. They also have the added benefit of satisfied customers promoting your brand for you. However, you cannot rely on these opportunities happening naturally. In this article, we give you an introduction to these strategies and ways you can implement them. 

Referral Programs

Referral programs capitalize on the fact that when people need recommendations, they turn to friends and family first. The reason for this goes back to the trust factor. People trust those they care about. Think about the amount of times you see a social media post about your friends looking for recommendations on a certain topic. Rather than doing individual research, consumers tend to use a product or service someone they know is already satisfied with. In building your brand awareness, you can increase your chances for these opportunities by creating referral programs. 

Typically, referral programs are incentive and reward based for both the current customer and the potential customer and there are a variety of rewards to choose from. You could offer discounts, free gifts, complementary services or any other reward that fits with your product or service. Some brands offer a scaled referral program meaning that the benefits for the referrer increase with the more people they refer. Others offer a flat reward. 

For example, CashApp runs a referral program in which the referrer and the referred each get $5 when a new member joins using the referrers special code. For a company like CashApp, free money for both parties makes sense and is a great incentive. However, you have to be very mindful of the balance of incentives you offer. If you have a $20 dollar product and offer a $10 discount, that may not be the best choice for sustainability. Creating the right referral program for you involves balancing costs of production or services with the probability of returns. When you have decided the balance that is right for you, the next step is determining how you will communicate these programs. 

Referral Program Channels

Simply having a referral program cannot be effective without your current customers knowing how to refer friends. Which channels you use will depend on your target market and your objective with your referral program. 


Facebook’s strength as a share channel is with generating brand awareness. Facebook generates high levels of clicks and website visits. Therefore, it makes the platform a great way to serve as an initial contact with potential customers. It works better than general social media posts as the referral comes from a friend who has already endorsed the product or service. The downside to Facebook is that it is the weakest share channel for converting visitors. If your goal with your referral program is simply to generate brand awareness, it is a great channel for you. 


If converting more customers is your goal, email is the best share channel. Emails do have a lower rate of visits and clicks; however, those that do click or visit have the highest conversion rate. 


Text messages are the middle-ground approach for both brand awareness and conversions. Though it is lower in rates of shares, clicks, and visits than Facebook, they do generate more purchases than Facebook. 

Refer-a-Friend Softwares

If you have the monetary capital to purchase a subscription to a refer-a-friend software, this may be a good investment for your brand. The advantage to these softwares is that they offer one place for you to create advocacy through multiple share channels simultaneously. Many also offer templates for you to work from if you aren’t sure of the proper way to facilitate your referral program. Most softwares will also provide tracking and integration capabilities for you. Using one of these softwares, however, will require some research time on your part. Some prioritize share channels over others. Some differ in how they integrate with ecommerce platforms. If you would like to utilize one of these softwares, you will have to figure out which one offers the amenities you need for a successful integration of your referral program. 

Direct Outreach

Direct Outreach refers to ways in which you provide the word-of-mouth advocacy for your brand. When we reference direct outreach, we differentiate it from normal networking in that with direct outreach you know who you talking to and for what reason. While networking events can be beneficial for your brand awareness, it is also a toss up with how fruitful that event will be for you. With direct outreach you are having an intentional conversation with a defined objective. 

Much like the advantages of a referral program, direct outreach also has the advantage of being rooted in building trust. When you can directly connect with potential customers and have a personal, authentic conversation, you are increasing your chances of converting that person into a customer. Here are some of the most popular ways to engage in direct outreach. 

Engaging in Direct Outreach

Face-to-Face Conversations

While face-to-face conversations seem like the most obvious approach to direct outreach, their importance is vital. Not only are face-to-face conversations important for creating great first impressions, they are also the best way for you to showcase the value you place on your customers and your authenticity. People are much more likely to want to build a relationship and trust with someone who they have met in person rather than impersonal means of communication. Face-to-face conversations also offer the opportunity for you to display hospitality. If the person you are talking to feels like you have done everything in your power to make them comfortable and taken care of, you are immediately building trust and giving them insight into how they will be treated as a customer. 

Phone Calls

Sometimes face-to-face conversations will not be possible with schedules. In this case, a phone call is the next best option. Again, the personalization of hearing someone’s voice and taking time out of your day to talk to someone speaks volumes to potential customers. If in-person conversations aren’t your strong point, phone conversations can be a great alternative as authenticity can still be communicated, but you also have the advantage of having notes in front of you so that you can present your brand in the most eloquent way possible. Even if you are utilizing some mode of cold-calling, build ways into your conversation that you can learn about the other person first and adapt from there. The more you can make your phone call personalized to the person on the other end, the more you build a foundation of interest that leads to trust. 


Though phone face-to-face conversations have their advantage in commitment to personal time, emails shouldn’t be dismissed as an effective means of communication either. What matters in effectively using emails for direct outreach is how you use them. Avoid using templated emails as much as possible if you are using them as a means of direct outreach. Emails are great for introductions and then used as a means of setting up a more personal conversation. However, if you are in the situation where a template email is needed, take advantage of every opportunity you have to personalize it a bit toward the customer. People can tell when they have received a template email and they are simply a target rather than a person. If the correct attention isn’t paid to personalization, template emails could actually backfire rather than build awareness for you. 


LinkedIn direct outreach works in the same way as emails. The advantage to LinkedIn, however, is that it could be an easier means to finding people with a higher probability of finding potential customers. Since LinkedIn is a social platform for professionals, there is also less likelihood of being dismissed as spam. However, you cannot rely on the prestige of the platform alone. Even on LinkedIn, people are still turned off by template messages. Increase your chances of building your brand awareness by going the extra step to personalize your message for the recipient. Take some time to look at their profile and figure out which pain points might apply to them the most or take the time to say how you got their contact information and from whom. If you can connect to something that specifically applies to their life, your chances of engagement increase. 

Speaking Engagements

Speaking engagements may not apply for every brand; however, if you are offering a product or service that pertains to a specific industry, then looking for speaking engagement opportunities may be a great way to engage direct outreach. In industry specific events, you know you are already speaking to an audience interested in your product or service. It is also a chance for you to establish yourself as an authority in your field. Successful appearances and presentations at these events offer a great opportunity for you to build brand awareness and gain contact information for potential customers or partnerships. 

The Right Approach for Your Brand

Especially at the beginning of building your brand, it may be impossible for you to engage in all of these strategies. When you are deciding which approaches to referral programs and direct outreach are right for you, compare the time and attention needed to all the other aspects of building your brand. While these approaches may not take a lot of monetary capital, there is an exchange in time and social capitals. Make sure you are prioritizing how and where you are spending you time to make sure you are building a sustainable brand. If one approach is taking too much of one capital over the other, you will want to reevaluate to find a solution that is feasible for the success of the brand and your personal overall health. 




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