A Guide to the Best Referral Programs in Action: Mastering Growth

Referrals remain a cornerstone in effective marketing strategies, proving instrumental in fostering robust customer relationships and driving business growth.

Forrester reports that 61% of martech decision-makers anticipate a remarkable 21% enhancement in revenue sourced from referred business opportunities.

The significance of customer referral programs cannot be overstated, as they not only amplify customer acquisition but also cultivate enduring brand loyalty. Sometimes, you don’t even have to encourage referrals – the refer-a-friend program works by itself. 
Initiating one of the best referral programs signifies tapping into a powerful avenue for organic growth, leveraging satisfied customers to organically attract new, highly engaged leads. These referral program ideas will help you plan and strategize how to create your client referral program one day.

Key Takeaways

🎯 Transparent rewards boost participation in a referral program effectively.

🎯 Easy-to-understand rules encourage employees to refer effortlessly.

🎯 Varied incentives in referral campaigns deepen customer commitment and brand advocacy.

🎯 Tailored experiences elevate referral program success rates significantly.

🎯 Advancements offer more seamless and personalized referral experiences ahead.

Types of Referral Programs

Referral Discounts

A referral discount is a financial incentive offered to existing customers for referring new clients, typically in the form of discounted prices, exclusive offers, or credits toward future purchases.

They serve as powerful motivators and encourage customers to advocate for a brand while simultaneously rewarding their loyalty. Often, customer referral programs use discounts, and it helps to make refer-a-friend programs more successful. 

Businesses can create a straightforward system where existing customers receive discounts or benefits once their referred friends make a purchase or sign up for services, thereby fostering a mutually beneficial relationship between referrers and referrals.

Email Referrals

Email referral program involves encouraging existing customers to refer friends, family, or contacts through email. This method capitalizes on the personal touch of a direct message, often allowing customers to send personalized referral invitations to their contacts.

Implementing email referrals requires a user-friendly interface that enables customers to easily input email addresses or select contacts from their address book.

Additionally, embedding unique referral links within the emails ensures proper tracking of referrals and facilitates seamless sign-ups or purchases for the referred individuals. These referral marketing programs can be incredibly effective. 

Reputation Referrals

Reputation referrals occur when a brand has cultivated such a strong and positive reputation that individuals feel confident and compelled to refer its high-quality products or services to others. However, a well-designed referral marketing program can incentivize and amplify these natural recommendations. 

This referral program stems from the trust and credibility associated with the brand, where satisfied customers willingly advocate for it based on their positive experiences. 

It involves consistently delivering exceptional products or services, actively engaging with customers to build trust, and fostering a reputation for reliability and excellence.

This reputation becomes a catalyst, organically prompting customers to refer the brand to their networks.

Direct Referrals

Direct referral program is among the most effective forms of advertising for any business. Referral marketing is not an exception here. This age-old method relies on personal recommendations from satisfied customers to their friends, family, or acquaintances. It’s a cost-effective and powerful way to organically grow a customer base, leveraging the trust and authenticity embedded in personal endorsements.

The referral process itself is straightforward. Businesses can incentivize referrals by offering rewards to both the person referring and the referred customer. This can be a discount, a free product, or even loyalty points. The referral reward serves as a “thank you” for the referrer’s advocacy and an incentive for the referred customer to try the product or service.

These referrals thrive on genuine experiences shared directly between individuals, often resulting in higher conversion rates due to the inherent credibility associated with personal recommendations. 

Affiliate Program

Affiliate programs are strategic partnerships between a business and individuals (affiliates) who promote the company’s products or services in exchange for commissions on successful referrals or sales. 

Any affiliate program includes a network of affiliates who utilize various channels such as websites, blogs, or social media to market the products to their audience.

It requires establishing a structured system with unique affiliate links or codes for tracking referrals and attributing sales. To create one, you need to involve affiliate marketers to choose the right terms for the program and pick a proper referral software. 

Businesses provide affiliates with marketing materials, support, and transparent commission structures to encourage active promotion and maximize mutual benefits. 

Referral Drawing

Referral drawings can be an innovative way to add excitement to your customer referral program. These programs engage customers by offering them opportunities to win prizes or rewards through a lottery-style system based on successful referrals. 

In a referral drawing program, the person referring earns entries into a draw for each successful referral. 

This type of referral program starts by setting clear guidelines on how referrals translate into entries, defining the prizes or rewards, and establishing transparent rules for participation. Make sure to choose the right referral marketing strategy to start similar activities and find reasonable value per referral for your business. It can be based on your Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC).

Online Reviews

Online reviews are reflections of existing customer opinions and experiences regarding a product or service they have purchased.

These reviews, shared on platforms like Yelp, Google, or industry-specific forums, provide valuable insights for potential customers. 

You should deliver exceptional customer experiences, actively seek feedback, and make the reviewing process convenient for customers. Your referral incentives can play a vital role here. 

Word-of-mouth marketing strategy works perfectly in online reviews as well. 

Positive reviews serve as endorsements that influence purchasing decisions, building trust and credibility for the brand among potential customers.

Whether positive or negative, engaging with reviews demonstrates responsiveness and a commitment to customer satisfaction, further enhancing the brand’s reputation and attracting new customers. Overall, your answer may be the factor that encourages customers to look at what you offer and drives your performance marketing.

Here’s an example of how you can calculate a value per referral in a tiered referral campaign: 

TierMinimum ReferralsValue Per Referral
Bronze1 – 2$5 discount
Silver3 – 510% off the entire purchase
Gold6 – 10 Free product (up to $25 value)
Platinum11+Free subscription month (or equivalent)
Tiered Referral Program Example

Note: For your campaigns, you can use either a referral code or a referral link. We don’t recommend using a referral code, though, because it is less convenient for your customers. Instead, opt for a unique referral link.

What Makes A Good Referral Program Great?

When you see Wise’s referral program, what do you think makes it successful?

best referral program wise how it works

What about PayPal’s referral program or other referral programs that proved to be efficient?

best referral program example paypal earn up to 100 how it works

Here’s a very simple answer – the most successful referral programs are driven by both a reward and an incentive. People feel good about getting a reward when they know they are giving something to their friends, too. 

Here is a short summary of factors that make a great referral program:

  • Double-sided referral programs. They reward the person referring, and their friends are often more effective in gaining mass adoption than single-sided referrals. These referral program examples give incentives to both parties, making it more appealing to continue sticking with the company. 
  • Rewards in your own currency. Try giving your customers cash rewards in your own currency. Coupons, store credit, or discounts that are spent back into your business are the best at getting customers to make repeat purchases, improving customer retention, and increasing the lifetime value of your customers.
  • Simplicity. Clear, simple, easy to understand, and straightforward to join, uncomplicated referral programs are almost always certain to attract the most users. The easier it is for users to understand how your referral program works and how they get and give a reward will result in the maximum number of users signing up.
  • Tailored approach. Personalizing your referral program and following through with this personalization at each step of the referral journey go a long way in increasing credibility and user adoption. Plus, it can significantly boost sales. When a referred friend is invited to a referral program by a name, they know they are more likely to join than if they received a referral link with no reference to where it comes from and why.
  • Usability of the referral software. A referral program that uses referral software to share and track referrals without needing to log in to a dashboard view is most effective in motivating users to keep referring to their friends. It brings more referrals and referral earnings as a result. Having a single view of how many people they have referred and the option to forward their referral link to even more friends is pure jam. Similarly, it is crucial to choose a referral program that easily integrates with other CRMs such as HubSpot, Zapier, Shopify, and much more. Ideally, your referral tools should become a referral marketing platform for you to create, track, and optimize every referral program you have.
  • Juicy and clear copy. Great content matters. From the message and call to action to the way your referral program looks, the more effort you put into content, the better the result. A referral program that uses catchy copy and communicates clearly and in the same tone as your brand makes a world of difference in encouraging more users to refer their friends.
  • Generosity. The best deals are built off the principle of “give and take.” Understand the art of negotiation and the idea that to “get,” you must be willing to “give.” Asking your referring customer to spread the word about your business is not to be taken lightly, and rewarding them for doing so should be as valuable as possible. It will bring you another qualifying purchase, which is harder to get from traditional marketing channels. 
  • Effective promotion. Your referral program is not going to market itself. While most happy customers are more than willing to refer their friends, if they don’t know about your referral program, they won’t know how to spread the word. Make your referral marketing program visible by telling as many people about it as possible at every opportunity you get. Find 30 ways to promote your own referral program and get users referring fast.

How To Promote Your Referral Program

how to promote referral program referral marketing strategies

Referral marketing is a powerful tool for customer acquisition. By creating a successful referral program, you incentivize happy customers to become brand ambassadors (almost). The key is making your referral program easy to participate in, right? You can offer a unique referral code or referral link that customers can share with friends and family.

And yet… How exactly do you promote your campaign to new customers to make it really one of the most successful referral programs? Let’s take a look at how to promote your referral marketing program effectively: 

⚡ Landing page: Create a central hub (a referral page) on your website outlining the details, rewards, and instructions for your referral program.

⚡ Website integration: Feature prominent referral program links and icons throughout your website, particularly on high-traffic pages like product descriptions and shopping carts. It will help you start the referral process at the early point of the customer journey. 

⚡ Social media integration: Promote the referral program across your social media platforms. Utilize eye-catching visuals and clear messaging to pique interest. Consider social media ad campaigns to target a wider audience. At the end of the day, the best referral program examples include powerful social media campaigns. 

⚡ Referral program button: Integrate a dedicated “Referral Program” button within your app or user dashboard for easy access. It is one of the vital features of the most successful referral programs. 

⚡ Social sharing options: Make it easy for users to share their referral links directly on social media platforms.

Remember – asking your referring customer to spread the word about your business is a big deal, and rewarding them for doing so should be as valuable as possible. Use referral software to make the whole referral making process more streamlined. 

5 Best Referral Programs

While there are many referral programs you can find online, not all referral programs out there use the best practices. That’s why we’ve found some of the best referral program examples to learn from that will help you build a top-performing referral campaign of your own. 

Referral programs have become the number one way that marketers are finding new customers and generating highly qualified leads.

Whether you are just starting your journey with referral software or looking for inspiration to launch a new referral program, learn how different brands are using word-of-mouth referrals to grow their business. Besides, when you choose referral programs to learn from, make sure they are in your business niche. 

The Loom Referral Program

Loom did a great job at creating a straightforward, successful referral program that drove more users to sign up for their video recording and screen-sharing solution. They added single-sided referral rewards. Even though it’s since been discontinued, Loom’s referral program is certainly one of the best we’ve seen.

👉How It Works

Loom asks its existing users to invite teammates to join their Loom workspace. For every invite that gets accepted, Loom will give the referring user additional storage space to record another 25 videos.

Following this, if the referred friend goes on to record their own Loom video after signing up, the original referrer will get even more storage for another 25 videos.

So if a user invites up to five referrals and these referrals sign up to Loom, the referrer will get an extra 125 videos and up to 250 additional videos if each of those friends records a video.

📈 Why Does It Work?

A straightforward single-sided referral that drives growth through user word of mouth, the Loom referral program not only aims to get more users to join but also drives to get those people actually using their product.

Increasing brand awareness, credibility, and customer loyalty, Loom has a winning formula that can be easily recreated by other brands with similar objectives.

loom best referral programs

Sixt Car Rental Referral Program

The referral program to get customers coming back again and again and again.

The Sixt referral program shows us how word-of-mouth referrals can decrease the cost of customer acquisition and increase lifetime value, all at the same time.

👉How It Works

Double-sided rewards and incentives to drive customer acquisition and loyalty: Sixt offered a referral program that both existing and new customers benefit from.

For every new referral, Sixt business customers and the friends that they referred receive Sixt car rental vouchers. That’s a very good referral marketing move, applied by the best referral programs.

Why do they have many loyal customers? The referrer and the person they refer to both receive vouchers valued at 60 Euros in total. This is a powerful marketing tactic that many brands can learn from to optimize the referral program they run.

The vouchers can only be used in 20 Euro increments, which means that to redeem all three vouchers, users need to hire a Sixt rental three times to unlock the full value. No matter if you are in the financial services industry or not, a successful referral will more likely come when there is a cash reward. 

📈 Why Does It Work?

Driving customer acquisition for a car rental business is not always the easiest thing to get right.
However, using a double-sided reward to grow their customer base and, at the same time, increase customer loyalty and customer lifetime value is a perfect example of how to use and optimize referral programs to the fullest. So, it’s a great tip to use in your own referral marketing campaigns.

sixt refer a friend program best referral programs

Yoco Referral Programs

Using two different referral approaches to drive maximum growth, Yoco, a card machine and online payment solution, aims to reach as many new customers as possible by incentivizing new and existing customers with referral rewards that work for them. 

The first Yoco referral program calls on Yoco’s loyal customers to refer fellow entrepreneurs, and when doing so successfully, they are rewarded with cash in the bank. Making this referral program work is quite easy due to the fact that it offers a reward inherent to the best referral programs. 

👉 How It Works

A double-sided reward is where existing Yoco merchants earn R500 cash in the bank for referred friends who go on to buy a Yoco card machine and transact over the value of R1000.

📈 Why Does It Work?

While existing merchants are not limited by the number of friends they can refer and the rewards they can earn, the more referrals, the more cash they can earn. Plus, new merchants who sign up will get R100 off their card machine if they buy it through a referral link.

yoco refer a friend and earn best referral program

The second Yoco referral program works as a tired competition where existing Yoco merchants can stand a chance to win tiered voucher prizes for referring a friend that converts.

How It Works
Yoco calls on their card machine merchants to refer their friends to Yoco. If a friend signs up and purchases a Yoco card machine, the referring merchant will be entered into a lucky draw to stand a chance to win one of the three-tiered value vouchers for a popular online store.

Why Does It Work?
With no limit on the number of people a merchant can refer, the more people an existing merchant refers to, the more entries they get into the draw, increasing their chances of winning.

yoco refer a business program b2b best referral programs

Evernote Points Referral Program

To drive mass adoption of their note-capturing and personal organizational tool, the Evernote referral program does exactly this by offering redeemable points that allow users to access premium Evernote products. 

👉 How It Works

A single-sided referral program that rewards existing Evernote users. If you invite friends, in return for every person an Evernote customer successfully refers, the person referring receives stackable points allocated to their Evernote profile. As these grow, Evernote users can redeem these points to unlock premium Evernote features. 

📈 Why Does It Work?

What makes this referral program great is that users are not just rewarded once but a second time if their friend upgrades a standard account to a premium package. This referral program drives customer acquisition, customer loyalty, product upgrades, and a greater lifetime value. Plus, if existing users are already premium account owners and don’t need to unlock additional features, referral points can be put towards subscription fees. Anyway, when a referral signs up, you get more benefits.

Copy their strategy with this Evernote referral program template.

Evernote refer a friend program best referral programs

Harry’s Tiered Referral Program

To help launch Harry’s men’s personal care brand, a tiered referral program was used to increase brand awareness and get more people to try their products.

👉 How It Works

Harry’s men’s care brand successfully ran a double-sided referral program offering incremental rewards for referring a growing number of users. It matters how many referrals you can bring. The more in, the more enticing the reward would become. Plus, friends who click on the unique referral link to join will also be incentivized to try the brand with a 10% discount on their first purchase. So, the value per referral is bigger, and with each new referral, it is increasing. 

📈 Why Does It Work?

What started as a way to get people talking about and buying this new men’s grooming brand resulted in more than 100,000 sign ups for the referral program in just one week, simply by offering incremental rewards for different referral milestones.

Copy their strategy with this Harry’s referral program template.

Harry's tiered refer a friend program best referral programs

Customer referrals are one of the fastest and most reliable ways to market and grow a business. It is already among referral marketing’s top approaches. And with loads of examples that prove this success, it’s easy to see how any type of business can get more customer referrals. You can add these best practices to your own referral program or consult with us on how to create a successful referral case in your specific industry.

Just start by asking!

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