How to Write Great Emails Asking for Referrals!

December 21, 2012 by Alvinl in Optimizing Your Referral Program

Whether you sell products or services, whether you run a store or a consulting shop, whether doing enterprise sales or doing B2C, the principles of asking for referrals are the same.

We’ve run thousands of referral campaigns here at ReferralCandy and we’ve generated millions of dollars in sales for our retailers. So to help you write better referral emails, we analyzed the best-performing emails from our customers and put together the top takeaways.

#1 – Keep emails short and sweet

If you’re asking for a referral, you want to minimize friction. This means that you want to be as direct as possible. Get to the point; there’s no need to do an elaborate sales pitch.

For example, in the sample email below, we’ve kept the email short and made a simple call-to-action “forward this coupon link” in a prominent colour and position at the bottom of the email.


Keep your referral emails short and sweet with a clear CTA.

The above is an example of our automated referral program, but if you’re doing 1:1 manual emails, then here’s the general template to consider:

  • Personalized greeting with name
  • Reminder that they use your product
  • Ask what you want them to do
  • Describe benefit
  • End with a clear, concrete call-to-action


#2 – It’s all about the customer, so use “You” more than “I”

A simple rule in marketing is to demonstrate value to the customer. In other words, it should be about “You”, not “I”, “Me” or “We”. Demonstrate how your customer can benefit (e.g. get $10 cash!). As a general rule, if your email contains the words “I” or “we” more than the words “you” or “your”, you might want to look closely at rewording it!

Put yourself in the shoes of the customer. If you were reading your email as a customer, would you like what you are reading?

This is easy to say, but hard to do. That’s because we live in our heads and it takes practice to not do that. Here’s an example that shows the stark difference between “You”-centered writing and “I”-centered writing:

“Hi Bob, I wanted to know if you would refer a friend to buy our orthopedic shoes?”

And in contrast:

“Hi Bob, do you want to help your friends have less knee pain when running?’

The beauty of “You”-centered emails is that the benefits come out naturally.


#3 – The Email Has To Sound Like You

Using templates or copy-pasting emails you find on the internet are great ways to save time. And frankly, it’s great that you don’t have to re-invent the wheel. We have a lot of customers who just use the default templates and have effective programs.

However, if we’re talking about the best-performing campaigns, they almost always adapt their emails ot suit their brand.

It’s about continuity and authenticity. Asking for a referral is another touchpoint with your customer — don’t miss an opportunity to reinforce why they bought from you in the first place.


Bonus Tip: Be specific in what you ask for!

Finally, here’s an advanced tip that requires a bit of creativity and judgement. Referrals are often more effective if you are making a specific ask. For instance, instead of asking

“Do you know anyone who wants these nutrition supplements?”

You can ask,

“Brad, can you think of 3 friends who would want to get ripped with these awesome Bion-X supplements? Forward this coupon to them today!”

In our experience, the second sentence leads to better conversions. It encapsulates all the tips we’ve discussed today: it’s short and direct. It’s about them and how they can get props from their friends. And it speaks to them in their language. Boom.

Want someone to generate referrals for you…automatically?

If you have an online store, come see what we’re doing at ReferralCandy. We’ve helped thousands of retailers amplify their word-of-mouth through automated referral campaigns.


If you liked this post, you might also like: 47 Examples of Referral Programs To Grow Your Business

List of 47 Referral Programs ReferralCandy


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Alvin loves geeking out on technology, psychology and economics news.