Service Spreads E-Word of Mouth, a start-up that develops marketing campaigns for e-tailers, has introduced an integrated word-of-mouth marketing program to lower customer acquisition costs for its clients.

The company executes the referral message through three integrated programs that leverage customer touch-points to encourage the word-of-mouth process. This entails a presence on the client's Web site through buttons, links and pages placed strategically for visitors to recommend the online marketer's product.

For example, a customer, pleased with an item he has purchased, can click on a link, enter his opinion and e-mail it to a friend from that e-tailer's site. The e-mail referral also may take place during other types of communication, such as order confirmation or an e-mail stand-alone promotion.

To add value, takira conducts online surveys and identifies satisfied customers. These customers can then be targeted with referral opportunities. The purpose is to locate true enthusiasts who can give the retailer positive endorsements.

“We harness the natural desire to share a good thing and to help friends and family,” said Suzanne Van Spyk, vice president of marketing at takira, San Francisco. “Takira” is derived from the Japanese word for waterfall. “Facilitating customer endorsements reinforces the retailer brands with their current customers and extends that positive association to their friends and family.”

The referral pages are client-branded to match the look and feel of the e-tailer's site. Safeguards are in place to protect consumers and clients from the potential of spam, Van Spyk said.

Based on a pay-for-performance model and a subscription component, takira gets paid only when the program works, when the retailer acquires new customers.

“The pay-for-performance, or variable component of our fees, is applicable when a mutually defined success event occurs in one of our programs, such as the purchase of cellular phone services or the act of asking for an insurance quote,” Van Spyk said.

In cases where a retailer offers an incentive for an endorsement that results in a sale, takira can track referrals and pay the referrers. The company also handles customer queries regarding the referral program. In another extension to its referral program, clients have real-time access to click-through transactions and acquisition costs through an online client-reporting center.

“This online resource allows both and the client to monitor program effectiveness and use the results to continuously improve future campaigns,” Van Spyk said.

The marketer, which launched late last month, is targeting companies in categories for whom referrals provide substantial value, such as telecommunications, financial products, automotive and travel.

Clients include, Cellular One of San Francisco, Esurance Inc. and

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