12 Referral Program Examples (& the Referral Marketing Strategies You Can Steal)

Logos of referral programs

What is a referral program?

A referral program is a growth marketing tactic that seeks to encourage existing customers to recommend a brand to their friends, family, and colleagues. Often called word-of-mouth marketing, it seeks to supercharge natural or latent word of mouth with easy-to-use sharing tools such as referral links or codes and referral rewards.

Finding the right method to acquire new, valuable customers for your business is hard work. That’s where referral marketing companies come into their own.

Due to the fact that 9 out 10 customers trust peer recommendations, a figure much higher than that achieved by traditional advertising, more marketing leaders are turning to conversational, trust-based marketing, and continuing to adopt new marketing technologies to reach new customers.  However, the proven tactic that continues to bring in more loyal customers for titans like Dropbox, Slack, Uber and so many more is referral marketing.

Customer referral programs have helped each of these leading businesses grow by engaging and leveraging their brand’s biggest assets: their customers. What started as great ideas for growing their business became well-executed referral systems that supercharged customer acquisition and growth with the right referral program software and strategy.

Like all marketing programs, referral marketing is most effective when managed efficiently and optimized to attract the right customers. But building an attractive referral marketing program is only half the battle; ensuring that your marketing actively encourages the referrals — meaning that your loyal customers recommend your business to their friends and family — is the real challenge. Like other marketing programs, you can build it, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they will come.

So, to inspire you, we have put together a list of twelve leading referral programs to highlight the ideas and tactics they have used to get their customers referring. You can think how these can fit into your own referral marketing template to generate more and more customer referrals.

Here are examples of some of the best referral programs:

  1. Koodo Mobile Refer a Friend – C$25 off the first/next bill
  2. Tesla Referral Program – up to US$1,000 discount
  3. Airbnb Refer-a-Friend Program – US$18 credit per qualifying stay
  4. Harry’s Refer a Friend – free shaving for a year
  5. Evernote Rewards Program – 10 points for 3 referrals
  6. T-Mobile Stock Rewards – one T-Mobile Share for each referral
  7. Revolut – varying time-limited cash payments
  8. Robinhood – random stock drawn from a pool
  9. Gousto – £18 account credit
  10. SMARTY – simple, honest and straightforward
  11. IG – using referral for a complex product
  12. Google – scaling rewards with referral value

Here’s Who Got it Right: Notable Referral Program Examples

These brands have tapped into the perfect blend of understanding their audience, offering rewards that their customers will value, and streamlined user experiences.

1. Koodo Mobile Refer a Friend

A desktop screen featuring the dashboard of Koodo's referral program(Image source: Buyapowa)

Though Koodo Mobile was voted three years in a row the wireless provider with the “Highest customer satisfaction rate” by JD Power & Associates, the telecommunications company’s decision to look at referral marketing was driven by the fact that it was facing ever increasing acquisition costs per new customer. Koodo needed a way to bring in new customers at less cost, all the while keeping their current member base satisfied and happy. So they decided to build a referral program which offered:

Referrer Rewards: C$25 off your tab

Referee Rewards: C$25 off your first bill

Result: Through their program, Koodo reduced their cost of customer acquisition (CPA) by 167% and a return on investment (ROI) of more than 10X in 2019 alone.

What they did right: Koodo was able to provide a seamless program experience for their customers through single sign-on and kept their fun, bright branding consistent throughout their program design. It worked so well, in fact, that Koodo made referral an integral part of their marketing mix; rolling out regional campaigns across Canada and making it available in different languages to maximize accessibility and engagement.

More about Koodo’s referral program and other telecoms referral schemes can be found here.

2. Tesla Referral Program

An image of a Tesla electric vehicle with the company logo imposed over the front(Image source: Buyapowa)

To this day, Elon Musk and Tesla Motors are rarely out of the news. Tesla is a ubiquitous name in tech and energy circles. Like their namesake, Nikola Tesla, Tesla Motors is futurist, forward-thinking, and divisive. Though critics have labelled their methods as aggressive and controversial, Tesla’s customer satisfaction rate is a staggering 89 out of 100, putting it ahead of all other car manufacturers around the globe. In 2016, Musk capitalized on his customers’ loyalty and launched a referral program that provides a great example of how to reward referrals with something other than pure product discounts. With its resounding success, Tesla closed out Phase 9 of their referral program and introduced a new referral program in March 2019; continuing to make referral a key part of their growth strategy.

Referrer Rewards: Ranked by amount of qualifying referrals (“QRs”), the car manufacturer’s early referral program ensured Tesla owners were able to obtain an invite to tour Tesla’s factory and attend the grand opening party (5 QRs), then the right to purchase a Founder Series Model X, which wasn’t available to the public (10 QRs). The first owner to achieve 10 orders in North America, Europe, and Asia received a free Model X SVU.

Referee Rewards: Each Tesla owner can give friends up to 10 US$1,000 discounts.

Result: By Tesla’s second referral program, they were making a return multiple in excess of 42x on every dollar spent towards their referral program, with 25% of their sales in Q4 2015 coming from their referral program. Since 2019, Tesla’s switched up their referral program to allow successful referrers to earn 1,000 miles (1,500 kilometers) of free Supercharging with the purchase of a new Tesla car by anyone using their referral code. But, if that wasn’t tantalizing enough, Tesla is also giving successful referrers a chance to win a Model Y every month or Roadster supercar every quarter based on the number of successful referrals.

What they did right: Tesla has generated a relentless spirit of evangelism around their vehicles. The referral program targeted Tesla owners – who are already ecstatic with the brand and their vehicle’s performance – with rewards that their clientele would find truly valuable. Their current program not only offers a meaningful reward for each successful referral in the form of free Supercharging, but they cleverly use tiered rewards that drive repeat referrals.

3. Airbnb Refer-a-Friend Program

A smartphone with a mobile version of the Airbnb referral dashboard(Image source: Buyapowa)

It’s difficult to find someone who hasn’t heard of Airbnb or even used them themselves. The internet lodging titan that we know today as Airbnb started out when the founders rented out an air mattress in their living room and the rest is history. Now, Airbnb is one of the defacto examples people cite when they think about a startup unicorn. While Airbnb’s referral program is currently no longer open for new referrals, we have summarised the information below from before it was closed.

Referrer Rewards: US$18 per qualifying stay and US$10 per qualifying experience

Referee Rewards: Up to US$46 account credit

Results: In some cases, Airbnb’s referral program increased bookings by over 25%, and the last version came in even stronger than before, boosting referrals by more than 300%.

What they did right: Their approach was successful for two key reasons: they streamlined the sharing and shopping experience, and leaned into their users’ desire to help, using A/B testing to prove that positioning the reward as a gift to a friend produced better results than a message emphasizing receiving a reward for yourself.

If you want to know more about how using prosocial or friend benefiting rewards can improve the performance of your referral program, then this recent research from Harvard Business School, Olin Business School, and the University of California should interest you.

4. Harry’s Refer a Friend

A tablet with Harry's refer-a-friend program
(Image source: Buyapowa)

Harry’s isn’t your average shaving brand. The shave accessory giant boasts a billion-dollar subscription service through their e-commerce store and a barbershop in Manhattan. A large part of that 10-figure success has their referral program to thank.

To accumulate buzz about their brand’s launch, Harry’s executed a week-long pre-launch referral program designed to collect the email addresses of as many potential qualified customers as possible. In this great example of a referral program that incorporates other elements of a digital marketing strategy, they offered incremental tangible rewards to those who were willing to refer their friends through email, Facebook or Twitter.

Referrer Rewards: Accumulating rewards: Refer five friends, earn free shave cream. Refer 10 friends, earn a free razor. Refer 25 friends, earn a free premium razor. Refer 50 friends, earn free shaving for a year.

Referee Rewards: 10% off their first purchase.

Results: As the week-long campaign wrapped up, the results surpassed all expectations. They generated 100,000 leads within the first week. Supported by a stellar referral program, Harry’s grew into a billion-dollar unicorn and became a household name. More recently, though, they’ve dialed back their referral program to a simple $5 credit each way, abandoning their more high reward program of old for a more stripped version.

Graph of Harry's referral program results
(Image source: Buyapowa)

What they did right: Harry’s being the only non-purchase-based reward referral program on the list, it wasn’t difficult to find internet cruisers who were willing to share the brand with their friends in exchange for free products. There’s also something to be said about tangible rewards; in Sujan Patel’s post he notes that “physical product rewards can provide an opportunity to create a concrete connection to your online experience”. While their latest referral program lacks the aggressiveness of that initial scheme; their venture into the world of referral was undoubtedly a fruitful one.

5. Evernote Rewards Program

A smartphone with the Evernote referral program featured on it(Image source: Buyapowa)

Evernote has come a long way since their launch in 2008. The note-taking app has collected over 100 million users worldwide and a $1 billion valuation with a modest $0 budget for user acquisition. Evernote’s focus has been on creating a great product that their customers love, knowing that word-of-mouth would be their greatest marketing asset. Without spending on SEO or advertising, Evernote’s referral program is primarily responsible for the company’s sizeable growth and financial success.

Referrer Rewards: Earn 10 points for your first three referrals – enough for three months of Premium or 3 GB of additional monthly upload, then whenever a referred friend buys Premium, earn 5 points.

Referee Rewards: A free month of Premium.

Results: Out of the 225 million users of Evernote, 13% were referred by other users.

What they did right: The freemium model, which we’ve talked about before, has been a big success factor for referral programs like Dropbox’s, Uber’s, and now Evernote’s. Their simply designed program also encourages customers to keep making referrals to sustain their free trial of Premium.

6. T-Mobile “Stock” Rewards (now T-Mobile Referral Program)

T-Mobile offers stock for referrals
(Image source: Buyapowa)

Wireless uncarrier T-Mobile decided to break the referral program mold and offer actual shares in the company in return for referrals.  While the program has been quietly discontinued since then, and T-Mobile has returned to offering a more standard $50 MasterCard, the stock reward program generated massive amounts of press for T-Mobile and presented an opportunity for their CEO to promote their referral program example as something truly differentiated and groundbreaking across the wireless industry.   Referrers could earn up to 100 shares in T-Mobile. And customers who had been with T-Mobile for more than five years were offered two T-Mobile Shares for every successful referral.

Referrer Rewards: Earn one T-Mobile share for every successful newly activated T-Mobile Line.

Referee Rewards: One T-Mobile stock after being referred and staying with T-Mobile for at least 15 days.

Results: T-Mobile hasn’t shared the results, but the share price rose from US$40 range to over US$60 in early 2018, resulting in an added bonus for successful recipients of share rewards, making the program a win-win for T-Mobile and their referral program’s participants.

What they did right: The highly differentiated program generated millions of dollars worth in free marketing as a result of the extensive press coverage. And, by diversifying the rewards offered to include actual company stock, rather than a financial incentive, credit or discount; T-Mobile was able to offer something with more unique and special for their referrers and their friends.

7. Revolut Uses Limited-Time Offers to Boost FOMO

A smartphone with the Revolut referral program and one of their popular banking cards(Image source: Buyapowa)

Revolut is a London-based fintech that’s working towards being the world’s first truly all-in-one financial super-app. Today, they boast 15 million personal customers and 500K business customers worldwide, and the Revolut platform supports more than 35 countries and over 28 currencies and offers everything from bank accounts and debit cards to stock trading and cryptocurrency exchange. Revolut now joins a band of cutting-edge fintechs looking to disrupt the financial services industry with innovative, customer-centric solutions. Key to their continued success and growth is a need to reduce customer acquisition costs; enter their referral program.

Referrer rewards: Each campaign can offer different cash rewards for each referred-in friend that orders a physical card and makes 3 card payments — for example we have seen €45, £50, and US$10 being offered. Also, where the offer is more generous, the number of friends that a customer can refer is typically capped (e.g. 5 friends), and in each case, the referred friend must be eligible for a Revolut account and not already be a customer.

Referee rewards: As above, the conditions can change for each campaign, but often a cash reward is also given to each referred-in friend who orders a physical card and makes 3 card payments.

Results: Revolut has reported a reported 700% increase in the number of customers acquired through their referral program between 2018 and 2019, alone.

What they did right: Unique and vital to Revolut’s referral program success is how they trigger a FOMO response and create immediacy in the minds of their customers by making it a sporadic, limited-time offer and by sending regular email and in-app reminder messages that the customer only has a certain amount of time left to earn the rewards. By creating a situation in which potential referrers have a short window of opportunity to refer and collect a reward, customers are spurred into action, and potential issues surrounding customer apathy and lethargy are cleverly mitigated. And so as to reinforce the effect, at the end of a campaign, the offer no longer appears in the app.

In addition, by limiting the number of referrals a customer can make, Revolut creates a scarcity effect. In the example, the offer is limited to 5 referrals of new customers. Revolut tends to reduce the number of permitted referrals when the reward offered is higher.

And finally, to avoid paying out for low-value customers, referrals are only confirmed once the referred-in friend has made three payments.

8. Robinhood offers shares of variable value for successful referrals

A smartphone featuring Robinhood's referral program that offers shares as rewards
(Source: Buyapowa)

Robinhood Markets is a US financial services company, best known for pioneering commission-free trades of stocks and exchange-traded funds via their innovative mobile app. So pioneering, in fact, that after announcing plans to offer commission-free cryptocurrency trading in early 2018, their waitlist exploded to more than 1.2 million customers within a single day. They already offer the ability to trade in Bitcoin, Ethereum, Dogecoin, and Litecoin and plan to offer full support for cryptocurrency wallets, allowing deposits and withdrawals. Today, the fintech, which recently completed an IPO on Nasdaq, boasts more than 31 million customers and has aggressive plans to acquire more with its referral program playing a key role due to its “lower direct expense rates as compared to other marketing methods.”

Referrer rewards: The referring customer receives a stock drawn from a pool of stock, which can have a value ranging from US$2.50 to US$225.

Referee rewards: Like the referrer, the referred-in friend also receives a stock drawn from a pool of stock, which can have a value ranging from US$2.50 to US$225.

Results: Even prior to Robinhood’s actual launch, their referral program brought in more than 1 million people who signed up to the waitlist. And due to the success of their referral program, they have increased investment in it compared to more traditional marketing channels, slashing their paid media budget to just 32% of their overall marketing costs, compared to 72% in 2019.

What they did right: Their referral program is fairly simple; both the referrer and the referred-in customer receive a stock drawn from a pool of stocks at random. As the value can be anywhere between US$2.50 to US$225, this adds a gamification aspect to the referral reward. But as the value of a stock can rise or fall over time, the value of that reward can also rise or fall, and a referrer or referred-in friend who receives a lower value stock may be tempted to hold that stock to see if the value rises over time. By stipulating that the stock may have a value up to US$225, even if only 2% of referral participants receive anything above a $10 valuation, Robinhood is framing the mind of the referrer to think what the reward could be, rather than what it actually will be.

Another interesting point is that by crediting the referral reward, i.e. the stock, to the customers’ Robinhood portfolios, they are encouraging use of the trading platform, as well as potentially making a customer aware of a stock that they were previously unaware of. This is a good example of using rewards to encourage use of their core product, rather than offering rewards that can draw the customer away from the platform, like a voucher or cash reward.

9. Gousto perfectly matches brand marketing with referral

A smiling woman stands in the doorway holding a box with the Gousto brand on it.
(Source: Gousto)

Gousto is a popular British meal kit retailer headquartered in London. The company delivers their subscribers with recipe kit boxes that include fresh, pre-portioned ingredients and easy-to-follow recipes for delicious meals. The rapidly growing company first got its start on the BBC’s Dragons’ Den in 2013 before going on to receive extensive investment from multiple venture firms, including Unilever Ventures and BGF Ventures. Despite their rapid growth and success in performance marketing, they eventually hit a ceiling and needed to find a broader brand-led approach to help them push past it, which included a transition from performance marketing into direct response and branded TV and, of course, their referral program.

Referrer rewards:

The referrer receives a one-time £15 credit per referred friend added automatically to their account.

Referee rewards:

The referred friend receives a 60% discount on their first Gousto box, and 30% of all other boxes ordered in their first month.

Results:

Gousto has seen enormous success from its investment in brand marketing tactics and, according to the company’s VP of Brand, Anna Greene, who recently discussed how when she first joined, performance marketing drove 80% of sign-ups. Whereas now the opposite is true, and a whopping 82% of acquisition comes organically and through referrals. The company’s CMO added in a recent interview:

 “At Gousto, [the referral program] got bigger than we thought…trust me, it’s worth putting time into.”

What they did right:

Gousto’s referral program is relatively straightforward and easy to understand, offering credits and discounts as rewards and incentives that encourage those referred-in to give the service a go and encourage referrers to keep using Gousto’s service.

But what’s really impressive about their referral program, other than the results, is how they promote their program. Firstly, they regularly communicate about their referral program with their customer base, not just via email but also in their app and on their website. And, moreover, those messages are strategically timed to arrive when their customers are most likely to refer, such as after a good experience, having given a positive rating, or just after joining. And they also follow up with referred-in friends that hesitated on signing up to remind them of the benefits of their service and the introductory referral offer available.

And finally, Gousto also understands the power of limited-time offers to encourage action (or booster campaigns as we like to call them). In Gousto’s case, they double the offer from £15 to £30 for a short period, which creates a sense of urgency or FOMO (fear of missing out) to encourage potential referrers to act now rather than miss out.

10. SMARTY keeps it simple, straightforward, and honest

A capture of SMARTY's refer-a-friend program main page
(Source: SMARTY)

SMARTY, a wholly-owned MVNO in the UK telecoms group Three, was launched in 2017 as a SIM-only, contract-free mobile network targeting a young, tech-savvy demographic. Pledging to remain simple, straightforward, and honest, they uniquely offered to ‘buy back’ any customer’s unused data at the end of every month. And, understanding that their target audience was both super connected and marketing adverse, far more likely to listen to real-world advocacy from trusted peers than to generic marketing messages, SMARTY wisely incorporated a referral program right from the beginning.

Referrer rewards:

One month of free service.

Referee rewards:

One month of free service.

Results:

SMARTY’s super impressive growth, fueled by its very successful referral program, continues to this day, with revenue growth of 154%reported in H1 2021, and with over 550,000 subscribers. Thanks to its digital-first and highly automated business model, it’s reportedly achieved this with just 40 employees, an incredible ratio of 13,750 subscribers per employee!

“Successfully launching a brand like SMARTY relies on getting the basics right. In today’s market, a first-rate referral program is one of those essential basics.” — Elin McLean, General Manager, SMARTY

What they did right:

Firstly, SMARTY perfectly aligned its value proposition with its target audience, and provided exceptional value and service for its customers, as seen from their Trustpilot rating of ⅘, one of the highest NPS in the industry, and the fact that they have won multiple accolades, including Best PAYG Network and Best Value SIM-Only at the uSwitch Broadband and Mobile Awards. 

Everything about SMARTY is lean, and the network itself went from concept to reality in just six months with its website and self-serve mobile platform being built by just four engineers. Staying true to this philosophy meant that their referral program also had to be simple, straightforward, and honest with easy native sharing straight from the mobile app, a referrer dashboard, and easy-to-understand rewards of free months of service. However, they don’t let their campaign become boring, and regularly freshen up their offering with booster campaigns with time-limited additional rewards to get customers referring again and again.

11. IG offers scaling rewards to match the value of their referred-in customers

Two laptops with images of IG plc's referral program opened in the browsers(Source: Buyapowa)

IG is the world’s leading online spread betting and CFD provider, providing their clients with access to opportunities across more than 17,000 global financial markets. The company’s intuitive, user-friendly platforms and apps enable clients to trade on indices, forex, shares, commodities, and much more. With the explosion of fintechs offering investment, trading, and wealth management services, IG decided to build upon the passion of their existing clients by investing in a strategy with a great return on investment: Referral marketing.

Referrer rewards:

US$100 when the referee completes 5 qualifying trades within 3 months, with an opportunity to earn up to US$1,900 more based on spreads/commissions paid by the referee.

Referee rewards:

US$100 when they complete 5 qualifying trades within 3 months, with an opportunity of up to US$1,900 more based on spreads/commissions paid.

Results:

IG Group celebrated a 13.5% increase in revenue in Q3 of its 2022 financial year. The popular fintech singled out a record increase in the number of active clients (hitting 292,000 in the quarter, up 32.3% year-on-year) as a driver of the results.

“Today, we have more clients and a broader range of products to trade than ever before in our history. But we aren’t stopping here – a new IG is emerging, and we’re excited by the opportunities ahead of us, building on our strengths and track record of delivery.” – June Felix, Chief Executive, IG Group

What they did right:

IG Group is an excellent example of how referral can be used in a more complex and sophisticated business.  While many referral programs opt for a one-time fixed reward, IG has intelligently designed dynamic rewards that scale based on the value of the spread/commission or trades placed by the referred-in friend. Their referral program allows referrers and their referred-in friends to earn up to $2,000 each when the friend places a spread/commission or trades worth $4,000 or more. And with a maximum of five successful referrals per customer, referrers can earn up to $10,000. Because IG is paying out such potentially large referral rewards, it was also vital to ensure that rewards were only paid out for genuine verified referrals. 

IG has placed their referral program behind the login for My IG, meaning that only existing clients can refer. Once they log in, however, referrers can easily access their unique referral code and share it using native sharing options, including email, text, Facebook, and Twitter.

12. Google Workspace offers rewards that multiply with users

An illustrated image of two people discussing Google Workspace applications as part of Google's referral program(Source: Google)

Google surely needs no introduction at this point, they’re the tech giant that everyone’s familiar with and most use on a daily basis, from their search engine to their suite of apps to streaming content to their smartphones and beyond. But one particular cloud-based solution that Google has been growing and supporting with the help of a referral program since 2014 is Google Workspace, formerly known as Google Apps and later G Suite. The collection of cloud computing, productivity and collaboration apps is popular among businesses and individuals alike and includes Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Drive, Google Docs, Sheets and Slides, Google Meet and Google Chat, to name just a few. Google’s referral program is a great example of both a customer and client acquisition referral program, as it’s designed to target both individual users and businesses alike.

Referrer rewards:

Up to US$23 per successful referral is directly deposited into the referrer’s bank account (note that this amount varies depending on the plan purchased by the referee and the country).

Referee rewards:

A 10% discount on their first year.

Results:

In October 2020, Google shared that Workspace had grown to more than 2.6 billion monthly active users, an increase from 2 billion in March of that year, and as of April 2020, they had over 6 million businesses using Workspace and another 120 million G Suite for Education users. Much of that growth is attributed to the transition to remote working during the pandemic which has helped boost business for cloud-based workplace productivity and collaboration tools.

What they did right:

One of the most notable aspects of Google’s Workspace referral program that’s helpful in boosting conversions is their offer of tiered rewards that multiply with the number of users referred in by a referrer. While a single user successfully referred in can bring in a US$23 reward, if the referrer is able to refer in a domain (i.e. a business or organization) that brings with them 10 users (i.e. employees), then they’ll receive up to US$230. And Google will reward these referrers for up to 100 users in a single referral (i.e. for a maximum single reward of $2,300), and they can refer up to 100 times in a single year.

Google have also laid out very clear instructions and guidelines on their referral homepage and has even included definitions, a step-by-step example of a successful referral, an interactive timeline, and testimonials from successful referrers to help reduce possible confusion and inspire confidence.

Finally, with a timeline that can take over 100 days to complete, Google ensures that referrers are kept up to date with regular status emails that can encourage them to chase referrals and nurture them, particularly those that are more lucrative. These emails include helpful information, as well as the number of In-trial Referrals who are currently completing the 14-day trial, the number of Potential Paid Referrals who have completed the trial but not the 90 days as a paying customer, and the number of Paid Referrals who have completed their 90 days as paying Google Workspace users who are now eligible for the reward. Users can also contact Google directly to know the number of users each referral has.

The Strategies you can Steal: Our referral marketing template

So you have a great product or service and you’re ready to get started with referral marketing. Learning from the success stories above, here are five ways to ensure that your referral marketing program will be effective in both the short and long term.

The Top 5 Ways to Make Your Referral Marketing Program More Effective

1. Analyze Your Customer

Before you start acquiring new customers, you need to make sure you’re targeting and attracting the right type of customer. A whopping 92% of customers trust recommendations from friends and family above all else, and referral has been shown to reduce the time to close, achieve greater customer lifetime value and improve conversion rates. But these kinds of results are most likely to happen when you encourage referrals from your existing loyal, satisfied and profitable customers. Make these customers the primary target of your program that promotes referrals. Targeting profitable customers brings a higher likelihood that you’ll attract more of the same.

2. Design and User Experience is Important

If you have ever tried to sign up for a complicated referral program, you’ll know how important design and user experience is. Simplicity is key and if your referral program is too complex it might falter right out of the gate. To guarantee success, the program must be easy to use; it must be crystal clear to your customers how the program works and what’s in it for them. The most successful referral marketing programs include the following:

  • Easy-to-understand rules
  • Appropriate benefits and rewards for both the referrer and the referee (see below)
  • Simple sign-up methods
  • Simple eligibility criteria
  • Fast reward payout

3. Select rewards that your customers will value – and that you can afford

Not all businesses can afford cash rewards in return for customer referrals. If you don’t quite yet have the margins that can justify a dollar or percentage discount off your list price, then consider offering different types of “currency” as rewards. Dropbox and Evernote both offered online storage space in return for referrals: a lot cheaper than cash discounts. Tesla offered branded experiences and entries into competitions. If your brand has a high affinity (your customers love you!) then consider sending marketing swag (promotional items). Rob Wormley puts it simply in this Wise Pops post: ask yourself “What are your customers motivated by? What incentives would make them more likely to share your [brand] with their communities online?”. Take a look through your inventory to see if there are low-selling items that could be used as promotional giveaways. Not all rewards have to eat into your bottom line.

4. Promote Your Referral Marketing Program

Effective referral marketing programs provide a program that is easy for your best customers to discover. All the key touch-points that your customers have with your brand should feature information about the referral program. Your customer-facing staff members can be the most important means to communicate the program, and effective training for these key team members is very important.

First and foremost, however, you should be sure to include information about your referral program on the following:

  • Website: Promote your referral program on your homepage (including your top navigation and even your footer), customer account page, and check-out page.
  • Email Communications: Email your customer list and your ambassador list the “refer a friend” offer and include information about your referral program in all email communication.
  • Blog: Create a blog and link to the offer. Also, look for guest blog opportunities and opportunities to promote the program.
  • Newsletters: Don’t forget to include program information in company newsletters and correspondence including receipts, invoices, and support tickets.
  • Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn: Announce your program on social media – share and link back to the referral program page.
  • PR: Create and issue a press release, and promote the program in conjunction with a newsworthy item.
  • Internal: Integrate mention of the program into your call center scripts and don’t forget to promote your referral program internally; your employees should be your biggest advocates!

Now, it’s one thing to offer advice on what to do, it’s also crucial to make sure you understand what not to do. In our breakdown of the common pitfalls in referral, we walk you through some of the most common things to watch out for when building and launching a referral program. Consider it essential reading.

5. Remarket Your Program

Once your customers have demonstrated an interest in the referral marketing program, and have signed up to participate, it’s important to ensure that they are reminded and engaged. It’s important to look for opportunities to generate additional reminders about the program, and it’s also valuable to periodically run promotions to offer additional incentives for referrers — perhaps adding incremental rewards for referring different product lines or add-ons. Some opportunities to engage brand advocates are:

  • When a customer makes a purchase or signs up with you and they’re excited about what they’ve bought/subscribed to
  • When a customer starts using your product and/or service, and they look forward to seeing results
  • When a customer gets amazing results from your product or service
  • When a customer signs up to refer but hasn’t sent a referral yet
  • When a customer has made a referral
  • When a customer has had a positive experience with the brand and has perhaps shared that experience online
  • When a customer hasn’t made a referral in a few months (reengagement)
  • When a new customer has signed up as a result of the referral program
  • When a customer says nice things about your brand

6. Measure and Tweak

As the adage goes, “If it ain’t worth measuring, it ain’t worth doing.” Along with the measurement, comes action. Effective referral marketing systems provide metrics throughout the lifecycle of the program. These metrics report on the program’s performance, providing opportunities for you to fine-tune certain elements of the system to improve your conversion rates. When measuring your referral marketing program, you should look at the following:

  • How effective your outbound marketing has been at attracting new members to the program
  • How many of your site visitors sign up to become referrers
  • How many visitors make referrals, how many referrals they make and through what channels
  • How many new customers sign up as a result of your program
  • How many members continue to refer over time
  • The cost per acquisition of your program

When you set out to plan your referral marketing strategy, the single most important thing to remember is to make it easy for people to share your content and easy for people to refer your product and/or service.

Are you interested in launching your own referral program and supercharging your customer acquisition? Reach out to one of our referral experts today.