Zferral Wants to Help Businesses Turn Their Customers Into Marketers

1/4/11Follow @xconomy

“We think that your existing customers are your best advocates,” says Detroit area native and entrepreneur Jeffrey Epstein. His startup, Zferral, is looking to make it easy for a small- to medium-sized business to enable consumers to better spread the good word about its brand—and to reward them for bringing in business.

The Web-based Zferral software allows companies to offer discounts that entice current customers into promoting products to their friends, and to track the business that such affiliate referral campaigns bring in, Epstein says.

The software is designed to be very “plug-and-play,” without requiring businesses to do a ton of heavy coding or development work to integrate the referral campaigns into their websites, he says. Users design their campaigns through the Zferral dashboard, and the software pops out a line of code that businesses add to their site to get the marketing promotions up and running. Because the software can track which individuals are driving business, customers can also use the product to manage employees that are paid on commission, Epstein says.

Epstein returned to the Detroit metro area to create a business of his own after attending law school in Chicago, and started working on Zferral in late 2009. The Michigan State University graduate is also working after hours to help plump up the entrepreneurship and tech communities in the Motor City. He’s one of the curators of the just-launched Detroit edition of the entrepreneurship newsletter StartupDigest, and is also helping to organize the FutureMidwest conference on technology that’s coming to Detroit this April.

Zferral has picked up about 700 businesses as customers in the five or so months its service has been around, says Epstein. That includes Web-based bookkeeping software maker LessAccounting of Jacksonville, FL, and Kembrel, a daily deals website for college students that uses Zferral to track the activity of its campus reps and dole out their commissions accordingly. The e-commerce software provider Shopify also includes Zferral as one of the apps its customers can use to set up online shops.

Zferral runs on a software-as-a-service business model, charging a monthly subscription fee that varies depending on the number of affiliates businesses use Zferral to manage and the total commission they pay. Monthly costs for using the program range from $49 to $999.

The four-person startup is currently bootstrapped, but is looking to raise some money in the next several months to put toward a few new hires, Epstein says.

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