Here Be Referral: Discovering Pirate Metrics for Growth Marketing

Last Updated April 26, 2021

This post is part of a blog series, “Here Be Metrics,” breaking down the primary aspects of the so-called pirate metrics for growth marketing. Keep up with this series and others by subscribing to our blog!

The legends of famous pirates are known today largely because people told the tales of their conquests, and the pirates themselves even encouraged the retellings so that they’d be more feared on future attacks. 

Captain Jack Sparrow scene gif

Companies today don’t want customers telling horrid tales that lead to fear and fleeing, but they do still want customers to share their stories. Specifically, companies today want customers to share stories and experiences that lead to referrals of friends and family (or followers and fans). 

Image Credit: 500 Hat

That brings us to talk about referral, our final R in the pirate metrics model. (Actually, referral can happen at multiple points in the customer lifecycle, so it's not really the final R, just the last R we're covering. Savvy?)

Referral is a Specialized Awareness

Referral itself is the act of one customer recommending a product or service to someone they know, but it’s best viewed as a specialized form of awareness. Awareness, of course, is the increasing of brand recognition—and this is what referral seeks to accomplish. When a customer refers a company to someone they know, they’re increasing the person’s awareness of the brand and (hopefully) starting that person along the path of the customer lifecycle.

In utilizing a current customer to increase awareness among others, referral completes the pirate metrics loop. The marketing course turns about, so to speak, and begins at the first stage of awareness with a new potential customer. 

Referrals Must Be Actively Pursued

One of the most common mistakes companies make is not actively pursuing referrals. While a Net Promoter Score, for example, might indicate that customers are willing to recommend a product or service to other people, willingness and action are not the same. Marketers and salespeople must strive to move that willingness into action, so referrals are actually made.

Getting customers to make referrals to their friends and family can be difficult and feel like sailing upwind, but there are a few tactics that may help. Depending on a particular company’s situation, marketers might:

  • Ask customers for leads of people they know that might want the product or service
  • Request online reviews from customers
  • Suggest that customers recommend the company to others, such as through social media callouts 
  • Share how important referrals are for the company’s business as a “soft ask”
  • Provide referral bonuses to customers who do refer others

Referral isn’t something that’s passively accomplished; it’s something to actively pursue through multiple methods.

Here are some valuable tips to remember about referrals:

⚓ Referrals are especially important in digital marketing.

Referrals are especially important in online marketing, where many people rely on reviews and recommendations to make their purchasing decisions. Whether running an eCommerce store or a service-based online business, ratings, reviews and even actual referrals are essential to every business in this space.

⚓ Actual actions reveal true referral rates.

Because willingness and action aren’t the same, metrics that show actual actions are the most accurate stats to measure referrals by. Net Promoter Score and overall customer satisfaction stats are insightful to an extent, but metrics like social shares, review rates and referred business provide a more precise assessment.

⚓ Actively pursue referral. 

Don’t relax and hope that your company’s customers will refer others. Instead, actively pursue referrals using some of these tactics. Your business could grow significantly as a result, and you’ll complete the pirate metrics customer lifecycle.

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