Roku’s Refer-a-Friend boosts both sales and awareness

The Roku product line isn’t new but the company wanted to raise brand awareness, as well as acquire new customers in new areas.

“Most of our early customers are early adopters and we want to have a mainstream product,” says Lomit Patel, senior director of direct marketing at Roku, Inc.

Roku is a digital video player that allows users to stream content, including Netflix, Hulu and live sports through subscriptions such as

Strategy: A Roku survey found that 24% of its customers found the product through family and friends.

“We wanted to boost that number,” says Patel. “Our number one goal was try to encourage more people to talk about Roku.”

The technology manufacturer turned to Extole, a marketing vendor previously called Tell-A-Pal, to set up a referral program that rewards its customers for sharing their enthusiasm about the product.

Recognizing that more than 80% of its customers are Netflix subscribers, Roku customized the typical reward in the Extole program to meet these interests, offering a free month of Netflix for every friend they refer that purchases a Roku product.

Customers that join the Roku Refer-a-Friend program can send referrals at anytime, not just after a purchase. They can do so through social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, a PURL or embedding a link into a blog or an e-mail. Extole technology allows customers to log in to a personalized dashboard that shows them how well their referrals are performing — how many they have sent and who has made a purchase.

“It’s an ongoing program that enables the Roku customers to share their excitement,” says Blake Hayward, cofounder and VP of products at Extole. “We try to make it really simple, but they also want to see that it worked.”

Patel says 45 days after purchase is the optimal time for Roku customers to be ready to evangelize about the product that they are now familiar with, so he automates an e-mail to go out at that point, promoting the program. He also promotes it on the product website and in a monthly newsletter.

Results: When the program launched in June 2010, it produced 30 to 50 sales each month. By November 2010, after additional promotion, it produced 500 sales in one month. More than 22,000 customers had registered for the program by early December. “It’s a really small percentage of our sales, but we know people are being influenced by this.

Directly we have 500 and indirectly we know it’s contributing, too,” says Patel. “We’re definitely happy.”

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