Spreading the word

26Sep08

Many websites and web-based applications have a “Tell a Friend” feature. The idea is to make it easy for people to share content or products that they enjoy, without the hassle of drafting a separate email and then copying in the info. However, most of the Tell a Friend features I’ve seen are buried at the bottom of the page, or listed among many other options on the sidebar.

Actually, I don’t think the location of the feature matters that much. People who want to find it will probably be able to do so. But that’s the problem: a customer has to think about using the feature and then seek it out on their own. There’s a much better approach: automatically asking people if they want to tell a friend after certain events have taken place.

For example, a site might show the Tell a Friend box after the customer does any of the following:

– Registers for a free trial
– Signs up for a newsletter
– Converts from a trial to a paying account
– Completes a purchase
– Reaches a certain usage milestone, e.g. 25 reviews submitted

As you can see, the goal is to automatically prompt people to spread the word about the product or service at the very point that it’s fresh in their mind. By focusing on trigger events like the ones above, you can be virtually certain that people will be at their most receptive. After all, they have just taken actions that prove their engagement level with the product.

What should the notification look like? Nothing too fancy. Perhaps the screen could say: “Congratulations on placing your first order. Would you like to tell a few friends about our site? Just enter their email addresses below, and we’ll send them a $5 coupon towards their first purchase.” No matter what form the message takes, this event-driven strategy should lead to vastly more new customers than the old, passive approach.



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