July 28, 2014 | Posted By: Colleen Cassidy

You never get a second chance to make a first impression. An old adage that remains especially true when referred visitors (friends of folks who’ve shared your company) arrive at your web site. This is where you get to put on your conversion rate optimization (CRO) hat and put your best practices to good use!

When a user clicks on a referral link and visits your site, what’s the first thing you want them to see and what’s the primary action you want them to take?

Think of referred visitors as VIPs. They’re coming to your site because a friend is recommending your product or service. They’re already primed with ‘social proof.’ In that way, they’re special. Lay out a stellar referral landing page – your welcome mat – for these premium leads and they’re far more likely to turn into customers.

There are several options for engaging referred visitors. Let’s take a look at five tactics and real-world examples.

Tactic #1 – Direct referred visitors to your homepage

Sending invitees to your homepage is the simplest of strategies and a good place to start if you want to deploy your referral program quickly. We’ve recently seen a few startups looking to deploy refer-a-friend widgets in an afternoon prior to the day they received wide press coverage. Yup, some people are in a hurry!

While driving visitors to your ‘naked’ homepage is less elegant that the other methods covered below, it does carry the benefit of comparing the conversion rate of referred traffic versus other traffic (organic, CPC, etc.)

Tactic #2 – Present referred visitors with a welcome widget

Here’s a way to add some spice if you’re using your homepage as the destination for referral visitors – create a custom welcome widget that appears to users who click through a referral link. You can do this with a simple overlay widget. Feature your call to action and offer in the copy (obviously) to help move them through the conversion funnel.

MeUndies does this beautifully with a custom welcome widget that pops up over their homepage. It combines an enticing referral incentive and email capture functionality  for future communication.  Even if the user doesn’t convert, you’ve started a lead nurturing relationship – a win/win!

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Tactic #3 – Generate a dynamic message in your referral landing page

Prize Candle, using session-based information obtained from referral link UTM parameters, generate dynamic welcome messages that display the campaign incentive to the referred friend. What’s more, the incentive amount is deposited as session-based credit into the visitors shopping cart, “$10 of has been added to your shopping bag.”

This tactic reduces friction and keeps the carrot (offer) right in front of the prospect.

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Tactic #4 – Use a dedicated referral landing page

Sending referred users to a dedicated landing page – created specifically for invitees – is a sophisticated approach to welcoming potential new customers. The customized experience speaks to referred visitors differently than regular customers and the feeling of “special treatment” helps drive engagement.

Naturebox welcomes their new customer referrals with a custom landing page featuring a strong, clear call to action. Notice how easy it is to identify how to get started. The content is tailored for new users and efficiently introduces Naturebox’s membership process.

Furthermore, click-able elements like navigation, social media icons or other distracting elements that can suck users away from the conversion goal are eliminated. This is a true landing page with all the requisite best practices included. The toll-free number is a nice touch, too.

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Tactic #5 – Personalize the welcome experience

Dollar Shave Club serves up a customized welcome bar at the very top of their page that shows the name of the referrer. It reminds the visiting friend of their personal connection. Customizing the welcome experience keeps the process feeling intimate and exclusive.

This approach is also more advanced because it uses session-based info to generate the custom welcome bar – all of which can be tracked and evaluated to help you optimize your referral marketing efforts.

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Friendbuy gives you the ability to A/B test and track all of your campaign elements to determine which welcome experience is most effective in turning referred visitors into new customers.

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