How To Build A Referral Program For Your Web Agency

Learn how to scale your web agency’s lead generation, and sales process with a robust affiliate program.

Web agencies are so well equipped to create a robust referral program, and yet it’s not as common of a practice as you’d expect. If you’re running a web agency, and are trying to get more sales, and want to create partnerships with other people to have them help you promote your business, you’ve come to the right place.

It requires some adjustments to how you may view your agency, but when you do it well, the opportunities will start coming in, and you’ll be booked solid before you know it.

Most importantly, this approach scales really really well, and gives you a great way to transition your sales process from being a one-person sell-a-thon to a team of people selling on your behalf – all without hiring a single full-time employee to do the sales.

Offer Things That Are Easy To Sell

It’s definitely possible to create an affiliate program that sells expensive things online, but generally-speaking, you want to have as few barriers to a conversion as possible.

By offering your affiliates a simpler thing to sell, you’re making their job a lot easier. Which, honestly, is like 90% of running a good affiliate program. If it’s easy for your affiliates to make money with your program, they’re going to keep doing it. So, make it easier!

A side benefit of doing this is not only does it make it easier for your affiliates to sell your product, but it also makes it easier for you to sell your own product. By doing this, you’re developing a better sales pipeline that will allow you to convert more sales, and also scale your business so that other people can do it, too!

Use An Actual E-Commerce Solution To Sell These Offerings Online

One key way to make it easier is to create an actual online store to sell pre-packaged services online. By doing this, you get a very clear scope, and the customer gets a very clear understanding of what they’re buying. The affiliate also gets something consistent to sell.

Some common things that I’ve seen agencies sell online include:

  • Website Audits
  • Consultation Services
  • Single Page Builds
  • Smaller Scope SEO services, like Keyword Research, single page optimizations
  • Initial Website Setup
  • Vertical-specific pre-packaged websites

This Can Convert To Bigger Projects Later

A mermaid with brown hair, green eyes, and human ears, presenting to a group of other mermaids and mermen underwater. She is pointing at a chart displaying a graph trending upwards, captured midway through her explanation. She is not looking at us but is instead focused on her audience, showing her engagement and leadership. The mermaid's clothing is scaly and green, blending with her underwater environment. Her posture is confident and authoritative as she uses one hand to point at the significant upward trend on the chart and the other to gesture towards her attentive audience. The scene is framed with underwater elements like corals and bubbles, emphasizing the setting.

As a former agency owner, I know that we all want that “big website build”, but those things require a lot of salesmanship, and a lot of manual effort to accomplish. This is because big custom website builds have several barriers before you can actually sell them.

  1. The customer has to trust you, and that takes time.
  2. You usually need to do a fair bit of discovery before you can actually work on the site
  3. It’s expensive.
  4. The price varies from site to site.

I think the best thing about selling easier to sell things first is that it actually helps break down a lot of these barriers, all while you’re getting paid for your expertise in the process.

  1. The customer starts to build a working relationship with you
  2. You’re getting to know their website, and how they use it.
  3. You’ll usually be able to make smaller-scoped projects because you understand their site better. These are easier to sell.

If you think about your less-expensive offerings as a start of a relationship instead of the end of a relationship, it makes the process a lot more attractive. After all, who do you think they’re going to call when they need something if you’ve knocked their socks off with something before?

Another side benefit is that you also get to vet them. If you do a small-scope, less-expensive thing for someone, and you really don’t think the relationship is working, you only have to work with them for the rest of that small scope item. If all-else fails, you can give them a refund, and move on.

Create Vertical Specific Offerings

Once you have a set of different offerings you can sell, start creating optimized landing pages that are specific to different verticals. You will probably be able to sell the same offerings to these people, but you can create optimized landing pages that specifically talk about what you’re offering through their lens.

For example, a vertical focused on breweries would be a lot more focused on event marketing and local SEO, but record companies are probably more interested in deeper integrations with music platforms, and merchandise stores.

Since these offerings are specific to a niche, not only will they resonate and convert a lot better than a generic offering, but they also give your affiliates more options on how to get people to visit your site, which again makes it easier for them to sell your product. (Seeing a pattern, here?)

Create Vertical-Specific Whitepaper

Take some time to set up at least one free resource for people in the chosen vertical. This should be a healthy mix of really great information on how to solve the common problems they have. The more specific the problem is to the vertical, the better. These resources will naturally have plenty of opportunities for you to talk about your business, sprinkled throughout the resource, and the entire time they’re viewing the content you’re earning a credential as being a great resource for them.

Build Out Landing Pages

Create landing pages for every offering you have. Ideally, these landing pages are tailored to each vertical. It’s a lot of extra work, but if you can take the time to put together a well-optimized landing page that caters specifically to a specific vertical, that page is going to perform better.

Along with that, you’re also going to create landing pages for your different whitepapers and free offerings.

Create A Lead Generation Program

Once you have the resources ready, put together a lead generation program. This is dead-simple with Siren, and we actually made a 1-minute video that shows you how to do it.

And, surprise! you’re going to create a vertical-specific landing page for your lead-generation program. The purpose of this landing page is to illustrate a few key things:

  1. You’re serious about this vertical, and can be trusted.
  2. You’re going to help them make selling easy.
  3. They can make a lot of money by partnering with you.
  4. Provide them with a form, allowing them to easily apply for the program.

You accomplish these things by doing a few things:

  1. Introducing yourself, preferably with an intro video kinda like what I did for Siren here.
  2. Clearly specifying the terms, and pitching how much they make for a sale
  3. Links to different optimized landing pages and whitepapers that they can direct traffic to.
  4. When you can, add testimonials from other satisfied affiliates in this program, or related programs.

This page should make anyone looking for a good affiliate program to earn money with their audience salivate. Really, you should be treating your affiliate program almost like it’s another product you’re offering to people. It’s just another way for you to be able to tap into your network. Siren makes it easy to add a signup form to your site, naturally.

And speaking of networking…

Go To Conferences, And Get Networking

If you go to an industry-specific conference equipped with business cards, and optimized landing pages both for affiliates and customers, you’ll almost always have a place to direct people when you meet them. Customers get directed to the various landing pages for your vertical-specific offerings, and potential partners get directed to the affiliate program landing page.

Go to conferences specific to these different niches. Talk to people and look for customers, but you should also be looking for partners who may be great people to refer business to you. Look for businesses that do services that compliment yours. Conferences are a great starting point because they give you a shortcut to penetrating into a vertical. You’ll meet a ton of valuable connections, lean where everyone hangs out outside of the conference, and discover where your presence needs to be afterward.

Keep a sharp eye out for podcasters, bloggers, and YouTubers, as they all likely have audiences that would be interested in your offering. It’s possible you can connect with them and get them moving to sell your product.

PS: If you can, try to get on the speaker panel for the conference! This usually gives you VIP status at the conference, can save you some money, and gets a ton of eyes on you in the process.

Shift Your Focus

Moving forward, a sizeable portion of your marketing efforts should go into optimizing your landing pages, and in-general nurturing your affiliate partnerships. Have frequent follow-up discussions with these partnerships, and spend time learning what is working, and what isn’t working for them. Listen to their advice, and give them everything you can to help them.

This includes landing page optimizations, and promotions, but also creating new whitepapers and other offerings that they can promote is a great way to re-invigorate your network, and give them a reason to talk about your brand again.

As your affiliate network grows, you’ll be able to begin shifting your focus more on converting leads, generating content for your network to share, and actually fulfilling the projects as they come in (which, by the way could be a whole different set of programs, but that’s another conversation for another day).

Next Steps

Once you get your affiliate network moving, you’ll probably start to notice some verticals, and some affiliates, do better than others. Eventually, you’ll probably find a handful of affiliates that you may want to offer an opportunity to join into a more-advanced super affiliate program, where they would work closer with you on some promotions, and start shouldering the responsibility of maintaining a relationship with the customer.

These “super affiliates” essentially become your salespeople, networking at conferences, doing talks, and webinars, and other things that are more focused on converting leads instead of generating leads. This transition is a key step in transitioning yourself out of the bulk of sales and marketing, and gives you a chance to focus more on other aspects of your business.

Conclusion

Building a referral program for your web agency can be a game-changer, driving growth through trusted word-of-mouth marketing. By leveraging the steps outlined in this guide, you can create a robust program that not only attracts new clients but also rewards your loyal customers and partners. Remember, the key to a successful referral program is simplicity, transparency, and genuine value. As you implement your program, continuously gather feedback and make adjustments to ensure it meets the evolving needs of your agency and your referrers. With the right strategy in place, your web agency can harness the power of referrals to create lasting relationships and sustainable growth.

Swim fast, dream big!

A mermaid in a moment of pure joy, closely zoomed in on their face, as they leap up in excitement under the sea. This mermaid has just successfully launched their underwater business. Their eyes sparkle with delight, mouth open in a victorious cheer, and their hands are thrown up in the air, capturing the essence of triumph and exhilaration. Bubbles surround them, and the background is a blur of underwater colors, symbolizing the vibrant future ahead for their business. This moment is one of achievement, hope, and the beginning of a new journey.

This 6-part series unlocks the secrets to drawing in the affiliates who will truly drive your program’s success.

Learn targeted strategies to identify, attract, and secure high-performing partners.