Ross Marzarella wanted a referral program that would stick. That is, he wanted one that would make happy customers think seriously and often about suggesting All County Exteriors, in Lakewood, N.J., for a roofing, siding, or window job.
“We used to just fill out a form and give them $25. I wasn't impressed with those kinds of referral programs,” says Marzarella, vice president of operations. “They were out of sight, out of mind. After the salesperson or the job foreman asked for the referral, there wasn't anything to keep it in front of the customer.”
Marzarella expects the company's recently launched referral program, which is based on an All County Exteriors-branded Visa debit card, to do a lot better at keeping the company top-of-mind with customers.
HOW IT WORKS
Every All County Exteriors customer automatically receives a card when their project is completed. When a customer makes a referral that results in a sale, their card is credited with a cash value that varies with the size of the job. The card can be used virtually anywhere for any kind of purchase, Marzarella says.
The card program was set up and is managed by Ecount, a Citi company based in Conshohocken, Pa., that provides customized prepaid programs to businesses. Marzarella calls it an “extremely convenient” turnkey program that demands little from his company.
“You set it up with them, do a data dump, and provide a spreadsheet of information,” he says.
“They take care of notifying homeowners, sending out the cards, and reloading the cards.” In addition, Ecount provides a Web site interface where customers can check balances and see when payments are made to the card.
WHAT IT COSTS
Marzarella estimates that, in his case, it cost about $5,000 to set up the program. He describes as “modest” the various administrative and issuance fees involved.
According to Theresa Wabler, Ecount vice president of marketing, “Typically we are able to replace most check-based [referral] programs for a lower cost” because the cost of issuing and handling electronic payments is much less than for checks.
So far the company has issued 75 cards, but the initial feedback has been “great,” Marzarella says. Now he plans to launch a debit card program for realtors who, in New Jersey and other states, are restricted in the ways they're allowed to reward referrals.