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Referral Marketing: 7 Ways to Promote a Referral Program


Referral marketing is vital

Referral marketing and referral programs have become THE thing for healthy customer acquisition. Since we kicked off Viral Loops, we’ve helped people to implement and promote some fantastic referral programs. For example, we managed to bring 35K leads in 20 days with a Messenger referral.

Here are some numbers from those 20 days:

34819 Messenger subscribers in total.
1208 out of the total, subscribed during the pre-launch.
31515 out of total participate in the giveaway, with a conversion rate (from a subscriber to a participant) of 90%.
1232 total unsubscribes.

The last piece of data shows us that 48.8% of participants came to the giveaway from a referral!

Referral programs can bring serious results for your campaigns.

There is one more thing though. For your referral program to work, you have to promote it first.
And these are 7 ways to do it!

1. Leverage existing customers through referral marketing

It’s only natural for happy customers to have a higher probability of referring your product or service to a friend.

Buying from you in the first place is a sign that what you offer made them stick. I don’t know how many times I’ve said this in the past, but customer loyalty and retention are two of the essential elements of growth.

“83% of consumers are willing to refer after a positive experience—yet only 29% actually do.”

— Texas Tech University

[clickToTweet tweet=”83% of consumers are willing to refer after a positive experience #referralmarketing” quote=”83% of consumers are willing to refer after a positive experience—yet only 29% actually do”]

There are 2 things you can do right now, to get your customers in your referral program:

  1. Set up an automated email
  2. Add them in a retargeting flow

In both occasions, relevancy is key!

A. Automated Emails

If you run an eCommerce store, chances are that you use a marketing automation tool. This allows you to build automated flows that include dynamic content, according to your customer’s purchase history.

A nice trick would be to add in the email a product that the customer visited in the past but never bought, as an incentive to sign up for your referral program.


A nicely designed email including the picture of an amazing pair of sandals with the message: “Refer your friends and get 20% off for everything you crave!”

There are a lot of myths surrounding email marketing. Yet emails being time sensitive is a fact.

You have to understand when is the right moment to trigger your campaign. The best time is when customers experience their “WOW moment,” which usually is:

  1. When they complete a purchase.
  2. When they receive their order.

[clickToTweet tweet=”The best time to trigger your email campaign is when customers experience their “WOW moment”#referral ” quote=”The best time to trigger your email campaign is when customers experience their “WOW moment”#referral “]

B. Retargeting

Apart from your existing customers, you can use retargeting as a method to capture the email addresses of people that visited your store and left without making a purchase.

For this example you have to keep in mind the same principles that apply to automated email campaigns:

  1. Relevancy
  2. Timing


Let’s say you have a vaping store. People will definitely have to make a recurring purchase (vaping liquids etc.). You can use data from other people as for how often people tend to buy their vaping liquids, to trigger retargeting campaigns for these products, incentivising people to get in your referral program in exchange for discounts on their liquids.

You can also try to create a retargeting flow for those that you failed to onboard to your referral program, post-purchase. Try mixing things up!

2. Step up your paid advertising game

Organic traffic is great and everything, however, it shouldn’t be your only source of traffic. In the SEO vs. PPC war, you shouldn’t really pick one side.

Picture this: Putting an ad, instantly gets you in the first page of search engines (which means instant traffic). If you treat your message and targeting with care, it’s very likely that the right people will get on your landing page.

Google AdWords

In Google AdWords, bare in mind that you have to be very careful about your long tail keyword research and keep the message very clear.


Get involved and get 20% discount!”

Try to keep your message as consistent as possible with the content of the landing page that you’ll send visitors to. That way you increase your chances for greater conversion rates, as people will get what they expected when they clicked the ad.

Facebook Ads

Facebook, being a personal data monster, gives us the ability of amazing targeting for paid campaigns.

Since I already talked about utilizing your existing customers with retargeting, now we have to get one step forward by creating ads and audiences that will help you acquire new users.

A cool trick is to insert in facebook the email addresses of your existing customers and create a lookalike audience. That way you ensure that your ad will be served to people that share the same interests with your customers, resonating that way to their buying habits.

7 Ways To Promote Your Referral Program

As Facebook advertising mastermind, Jon Loomer says:

“People are more likely to perform an action — like a page, click a link, comment on a post, buy a product, etc. — if a friend did, too. That’s social proof in action”

– Jon Loomer

[clickToTweet tweet=”People are more likely to perform an action if a friend did, too! @jonloomer #referralmarketing” quote=”People are more likely to perform an action if a friend did, too! @jonloomer #referralmarketing”]

That means that an opportunity lies for you with the friends of your Facebook fans. Although that audience has an intention to engage with your posts, it’s highly advised to use some extra layering to that audience to ensure that your ads resonate to their taste.

TIP: Create a mind-blowing creative (something that can catch the user’s eye while they scroll their feed endlessly). Keep your message as clear as possible and use some cool emojis (grab more eyeballs). A video ad is also cool, but since most people will probably watch it on “mute,” add some subtitles!

Also, keep in mind not to make these 8 rookie Facebook ads mistakes.

3. Exploit all available channels for your referral marketing

You have to think your marketing channels not as individual units of a production line, but rather as a full ecosystem with an end-to-end communication.

That means that even if you can’t leverage a certain traction channel to drive direct actions, you can surely use it as a booster for another channel.

Let’s see some channels you can also use to attract more users to your referral program.

A. Newsletters

Probably, you already grew tired of hearing about how important list building is – well it’s 100% true!

You can use these acquired email addresses to distribute content related to your business. But just blasting generic newsletters to all your subscribers won’t do the job for you.

You have to invest some time to segment your lists properly (based on previous actions- like downloading an eBook or engagement with previous newsletters) and create something special for each segment.

Having the right message should turn into a habit considering the content you’re trying to promote!

B. Social Media

If you’re using social media for your business in the right way, you probably avoid spamming your fans with heavy promotions. People use social media because they like to react and engage with content.

Achieving high engagement on organic posts that promote your referral program directly, is nearly impossible. That doesn’t mean that you can’t use social media to make people get involved.

You should probably take a step back and brainstorm about post types that are highly engaging, aiming to add another step at the top of your referral program’s funnel.

The secret lies in capturing their email addresses. For example, you can run a facebook giveaway campaign, asking people to like and comment and then lead them into a landing page for the giveaway.

7 Ways To Promote Your Referral Program

That’s two birds with one stone; You fulfill people’s desire to engage, and you also grab their email address (plus, a post with higher engagement will make it to more people’s feeds).

From there on, you can use your other marketing channels to stream those people to your referral program.

C. Content Marketing

Like with social media, content marketing not a way of direct promotion of your referral – this would be somewhat lame and desperate.

Instead of trying to promote your referral through your content, you could instead approach other content creators that resemble your audience and ask them to promote your referral program (yes, “ask” means you’ll have to pay them to do so).

On the other hand, if you’re using your content to drive people to your website, you can make use of widgets set to work when people get in from your content, along with a special message.

4. Offline referral marketing still works

Even though digital is dominating, people still exist in the material world. People who still like to touch things and read books. Using offline practices to boost your referral program is something that only a few people do.

If you run a B2B business, there’s a high probability of attending events. Instead of just giving a business card, you can give prospects a scannable card that drives them directly to your referral campaign.

The same mindset applies for stickers, flyers or brochures!

7 Ways To Promote Your Referral Program

5. Website menus

If you want your referral to work, you have to make sure that everybody is aware of it! Referral became so popular in the last few years that people not only know about their usage but also search for them when they enter a website.

It’s a shame not having a menu item or a dedicated section on your website. This can spark the curiosity of the visitor increasing your chances of turning them into ambassadors.

7 Ways To Promote Your Referral Program

7 Ways To Promote Your Referral Program

On top of that, you can also put a top bar on the site containing information about your program and change the copy every two weeks to A/B test what works better.

6. Test your referral marketing program message

If you read the entire post, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve highlighted many times the importance of having a clear message.

When it comes to copywriting that converts, there are two things you must keep in mind:

  1. Clear Message
  2. Emotional Triggers

You must make it easy for people to understand what they have to gain from entering your referral program. You have to use terms they understand.


Everybody understands money value so that you could test changing your discount claim from percentage to actual money value; and vice versa.

“20% discount” vs. “10 dollars discount.”

Now, as it comes to emotional triggers, there are words that trigger spontaneous emotional reactions to people.

Words like:

  • You
  • Free
  • Because
  • Instantly
  • New

Again, A/B testing is essential to find the copy that best resonates with your audience.

7. Campaign Boosters for referral marketing programs

Once your program is live, these 3 types of referrers you are going to have:

  1. Ambassadors
  2. Plain referrers
  3. Neutral

Ambassadors are considered people that completed the referral goal at least once or more (if they had to bring one purchase using their referral code, they already made it).

Plain referrers are people that even though they shared their referral code, haven’t completed the referral goal yet.

Last, neutrals are people that entered your program but never took the initiative to share it with their friends.

Your goal is to turn neutrals and plain referrers to ambassadors, and those who are already ambassadors to continue spreading the word.

Since neutrals are a long shot, a simple email has a very low probability of changing anything. So, apart from emailing them, you can add them in your retargeting flow, giving them a reminder that they should share to get the reward.

For plain referrers, you can use automated emails that encourage them to keep sharing. You can share with them some data, like how many invited other people sent on average before they got their first referral reward.

Now, considering ambassadors: email is your weapon of choice once again. As those people are your top referrers, you should communicate this sense of exclusivity to them. Give them more as a sign of gratitude for the effort they put for you!

TIP: You can create banners that people can put on their websites in order to drive traffic to your referral program


A referral marketing campaign hardly ever works “on its own”. You have to be constantly on edge about it.

Be ready to optimize, test copies, reward people and talk with them.

What other referral marketing promotion tactics you know?

This article first appeared on Viral Loops.

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2 Responses

  1. This post gave me clarity and clear my all confusion about the referral program and referral marketing, Thanks for sharing this helpful article with all of us.

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