I got an invite for a service called ReferralKey a few days ago and seeing as I think the service is interesting but has some weaknesses in my opinion I thought I’d review it and offer suggestions.
ReferralKey’s business concept
Referrals are the business concept for this service which has been around since 2007. It’s trying to monetise a behaviour which people exhibit anyway, and also to drive more focused and more frequent referrals through offering a functionality which supports the behaviour. A user can offer a bounty to others who refer leads. It’s also nosing at the reputation management space and, at least in my opinion, they need to integrate these two things more tightly and better if they want to succeed in the long run.
They’ve built a decent seeding platform which allows users to invite their networks on LinkedIn, Twitter, Gmail and other services to the ReferralKey service. It could be a little smoother but works and will provide a growing user base. There are also some nice social elements to promoting yourself. The Send a Referral function is quite basic to start with and also works, as does the Ratings function. I give my views on those below.
What I would review or change
The actual way the service works is a little fuzzier with the titling of some features a bit off such as the “Brief” function. This is actually a messaging function with private/public functionality which could function as a way to give another user a brief in the business-sense, which one assumes is one of the actions the platform intends to enable. But seems to be primarily a messaging function in the way it is presented and so is misleading in the way it’s described and used, or needs to be fine-tuned somewhat.
For Sending referrals there’s quite a lot of work to do to streamline the process. For instance, if I’m importing my contacts to the ReferralKey service then I would expect to be able to send referrals between those contacts with a couple of clicks but there’s no integration of this when I’m trying to send referrals. I instead have to fill in fields by hand. However, there is a feedback loop to indicate how a referral went and that, provided it’s used, will provide value over time. I think this should be built into user ratings to show the reliability of referrals and other related info of value.
On that note, similarly, if I am to send a referral then the actual Rating ascribed to the person I am referring will be pretty important to the person receiving my recommendation. At the moment this has a very rudimentary star rating system and the functionality doesn’t really fill any role besides very vaguely supporting my personal recommendation. And, is extremely easy to game as there’s no insight into who did which rating, no comment functionality and because you’re inviting people from your professional network in it’s quite likely that you will be positively rated. In my opinion it’s here that ReferralKey can leverage the network created and start to drive referrals. The more reliable they can make the ratings on each professional and their services, the more likely people will be to use their service and trust referrals via the network. Trust can also be generated by building the outcome from referrals into the ratings features. In general, the more transparent, communicative and bi-directional the ratings become the more the relationship grows between rater, ratee and the referrer and that starts to make the site sticky.
The Pro portal is a nice idea to offer non-referred leads but this also feels and looks very basic and maybe is something that should be offered by a third party? Or should be done later once the integration of some of the features in the primary service is working the way it should.
ReferralKey has great potential and has built a good platform for gathering an initial seed user base. The service itself at the moment is very basic and needs tighter integration, transparency of ratings, a tighter feedback loop for referrals feeding into ratings and possibly the dropping of one or two activities to other players or to a later timeframe . If anyone reading this has an opinion then please share it!