Email Referral Program Ideas to Get Your Customers Talking

Referral Email Ideas to Get Your Customers Talking


Running a successful business isn’t just about having the best products or services.

If you want to thrive in today’s competitive world, then you need to earn the love and respect of your target audience. That means using your exceptional service and email campaigns to create advocates for your company. Remember, word-of-mouth referrals are responsible for 20-50% of purchasing decisions.

Though some of your happy customers will refer you to their friends because they’re excited about what you can do, or what you have done for them, most of the time, you’re going to need a plan. Giving your customers a reason to get out there and refer you to other users will work wonders.

Referral email programs engage your customers and push them to act on your behalf, without being overly aggressive. And doing this successfully can upgrade your word-of-mouth results and get people excited about your brand.

Excellent Referral Email Programs: 5 Rules to Get You Started

As with most things in the marketing world, you’ll accomplish much more with your referral emails if you have a strategy in mind.

92% of consumers trust referrals from people they know. So how do you make sure you’re getting people talking about your company to their friends?

Rule 1: Identify your Advocates

First, you need to figure out which of your customers are willing to speak on your behalf. About 58% of consumers share their positive experiences with a customer. If you can determine which people on your email lists are most likely to respond to your requests for advocacy, you can save yourself a lot of email marketing time and avoid potentially wasted budget.

NPS surveys are a good way to pinpoint your potential advocates. These surveys ask questions like, “How likely is it that you would recommend our product/service to a friend?” after a consumer has made a purchase.

Respondents in an NPS survey rate their answers on a scale of 1-10. Responses of 9/10 are where you want to focus on your email referral programs.

Taylor & Hart NPS survey

Rule 2: Work on Attention-Grabbing Subject Line

As with any message to a customer, it’s essential to make sure that your referral emails capture the attention of your target audience and get them engaged. With referral programs, you’re asking your clients to give you their valuable time. That means that you need to give them something in return.

A subject-line that focuses on the value you can offer is more likely to drive the right results. For instance, you could try:

  • Share the earn freebies
  • Invite your friend for a free [product]
  • Spread the love and get 25% off

The “Give $10, Get $10″ headline from ZooSho lays the full benefits of the company’s referral program out there for customers to see. Not only do you get $10 every time you refer someone, but your friends earn something too!

Give 10 get 10 campaign from ZooSho

Rule 3: Make a Lasting Impression with Visuals

Referral email programs are unique.

You’re not just asking people to click on a link or read something you have to say. You’re also requesting crucial action from your customers. That means that once you’ve got your customer’s attention through a great subject line, you’ll also need to generate excitement through the images and content you use inside of your email.

Hero images are particularly useful for referral emails, as they showcase the benefit of what you’re offering, and make your content more memorable. For instance, the Munchery image below lets people know they can get $20 off their dinner when they invite a friend.

The background image shows some of the food that you can get from Munchery, which is enough to get any reader’s mouthwatering.

Munchery referral email campaign with hero image

Rule 4: Don’t Give Up Too Fast

Sometimes, you’ll need to give your audience multiple opportunities to get involved with your email referral programs before they take you up on the offer.

Don’t just send one email then give up. Remember, word of mouth improves marketing effectiveness by up to 54%! Wait a little while, then get back in touch to double-check whether your customer wants to be a part of your advocacy list or not. Some of your users will want a few extra days to test out their new product or service before they decide whether you’re worth advocating for.

When you get back in touch with your reminder email, make sure that you remind the person of the value that they’re going to receive by getting involved with your referral program. Re-state the offer you’re providing and show your customer how to get started.

Leonisa referral email reminder

Rule 5: Use Your Email Signatures Too

Sending too many reminder emails could be dangerous for your email referral programs. If your audience ignores your first few messages, then you’ll need to assume that they’re not interested in advocating for you. Keep pushing them, and you risk losing a customer or even generating bad reviews.

The good news is that you can always keep information about your referral campaigns subtly lingering in your emails. In your email signature, add a simple link reminding people that they can always sign up for your program if they decide they want to earn a little extra cash or get their hands on a reward.

Putting a link to your referral program into your email signature is an excellent set-it-and-forget-it marketing tactic.

Mailer Lite referral email signature

Fun Referral Email Ideas That Stand Out

According to Google, Ogilvy, and TNS, 74% of customers currently say that word-of-mouth is a critical influencer in their purchasing choices. With that in mind, it’s safe to say that you’re going to have competition for your customer’s time.

Since there’s sure to be other brands just like you, asking your customers to advocate for them, you’ll need a little help with your referral program ideas to make your business stand out. Here are a few of the concepts you can try to differentiate yourself:

1. Do it for a Cause

One of the most obvious ways to get people involved with your referral program ideas is to show them they’re going to benefit from giving you their time. Rewarding someone with a gift or discount is great, but you may be able to develop a stronger reputation by showing your willingness to give something back to your community, rather than just individual customers.

For instance, let your community know that whenever they refer a friend, you’ll donate something to a popular charity that aligns with your organization. Think of how TOMS Shoes donates a pair of shoes to someone in need whenever a customer buys a pair.

2. Support Social Gifting

Human beings love getting free things for themselves, but they also enjoy giving things to people they love too. A 2-sided incentive is an excellent way to drive more referrals. For instance, when someone sends a referral your way, give their friend $10 off, and them $10 off too.

The win/win situation means that your customer doesn’t feel guilty about trying to encourage their friend to sign up for something just so that they can benefit. Today’s customers know that their friends sometimes need a little extra push to try a new service. Make sure that your email referral programs reward everyone who gets involved.

Social gifting referral campaign from

3. Use Referral Tiers

Getting a single referral from your most loyal customers is excellent.

But what if you could get the same consumers to keep sending new people your way?

Effective customer referral programs can deliver an average of 20,000 new email addresses every month. The more you build your campaigns, the better off you’ll be.

Set up a program that includes multiple tiers. For instance, you might have beginner referrals, then intermediate advocates, and finally VIPs. Your VIPs will get the best rewards, which saves you a lot of money doling out big prizes to every advocate.

Aside from being more cost-effective, a tiered system also adds a sense of competition to your advocacy program. Everyone likes to feel like they’re “winning” at something. A Tiered system makes your VIPs feel like the best of the best.

Tiered referral email from theSkimm

4. Give Incentives to Leads too!

Typically, the best way to ensure the success of your email referral programs is to focus your effort on people who have already bought your product or service. These individuals have spent time using the item or software you’re selling, and they know how trustworthy you are.

However, you can also use referral incentives with your leads too. If you have a lead-scoring system in place and you can see that a specific group of people in your email list are just on the cusp of buying, offer them an incentive if they make a purchase, and bring a friend along at the same time.

This could be a great way to engage people who aren’t sure if they’re ready to buy yet. What’s more, you’ll be attracting new leads at the same time.

5. Reward your Best Referrers

Finally, make sure you’re paying attention to which people are the most invested in your referral program ideas. These VIPs are crucial to the future growth of your business. In fact, according to the Wharton School of Business, the LTV (lifetime value) of a referral customer is 16% higher than other customers. Additionally, customers who are acquired through referrals spend up to 200% more than the average consumer.

Track the customers that send you the most referrals and add them to a select list in your email campaigns. Every time they send five or ten new customers your way, let them know how much you appreciate them with a gift or an exclusive discount.

Just remember to let them know why they’re getting the reward. If your advocates know that more referrals give them more exclusive benefits, they’ll keep looking for new ways to spread the word about your business.

Invest in your Referral Email Programs

Referral marketing could be the sales driver that your business is missing.

According to statistics, 65% of new business is generated through referrals. What’s more, referrals convert at a rate up to 5 times higher than other channels.

With email referral programs, you can let your customers know all about the benefits that they can unlock by advocating for your company. Whether you’re sending dedicated emails to specific segments in your audience, or just adding a link to your email signature, there are plenty of ways to drive more word-of-mouth through email.


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