How To Write Great Emails Asking For Referrals

July 30, 2015 by Visakan Veerasamy in Optimizing Your Referral Program

HowtoWriteGreatReferralEmails

Great referral emails grow your business and give you more happy customers.

It’s quite simple, really:

  1. Customer referrals bring you better customers who spend more and stick around longer.
  2. The more referrals you get, the better your business does.
  3. One of the best ways to ask for more referrals is by emailing your existing customers to ask for them.

This post is written to help you do that, and as effectively as possible.

So, what do you need to do to get the most out of a referral email?

(Click to jump to the relevant section)

  1. Focus on the subject line
  2. Keep the email simple
  3. Make your call-to-action impossible to ignore
  4. Emphasize the motivation for purchase
  5. Highlight the benefit to Friend AND Advocate
  6. Include any additional conditions for the referral

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1. Focus on the subject line: a higher % open rate gets you more referrals.

Image credit: Retargeting.biz

Image credit: Retargeting.biz

How important are subject lines exactly?

People are really busy and overwhelmed with information. If you can’t immediately answer the questions “Why should I read this email?” and “What’s in it for me?”, they’re going to either ignore or delete it.

As David Ogilvy said about headlines, “When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”

The same applies to email subject lines today.

Okay, so how do we improve the effectiveness of our subject lines?

# Be clear, not clever:

A 2011 case study conducted by AWeber Communications found that a clear subject line gets 541% more clicks than one that’s clever. (Check out the study for examples of clear vs clever subject lines.)

That means you could be getting potentially up to 5 times more customer referrals from your emails, just by improving your subject lines!

# Be personal:

Speak directly to your customers and prospective advocates. Use “you” and “your” over “we” and “our”.

read-write-intercom

Image Credit: Intercom

Put yourself in the shoes of your recipient. What would THEY really like to receive, independent of your goals and interests?

For more good reads about writing better subject lines, I recommend:

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2. Keep it really simple – “Give $20, Get $20″ works!

referral-email-eg

A skeletal template of what a referral email can look like.

 

The more effort somebody needs to put into making sense of whatever you say, the less likely they are to do something about it.

In general, you want to make sure that you have:

  • 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

Here’s a guide we’ve put together on how to make your writing succinct, focused and punchy: How To Write Good (For The Interwebs): ReferralCandy’s Internal Copyediting Guidelines

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3. Make sure the call-to-action is impossible to ignore.

Intercom has a great blogpost about email open rates where they discuss this. Here’s a visual they used to describe the phenomenon:

call-to-action-links

Image Credit: Intercom

It’s self-explanatory: If you’re emailing somebody to ask them to do something, make sure that you make it super obvious to them what the next action is!

Again, remember that people are busy. The less cognitive load, the better.

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4. Understand the main purchase motivation and play that up (e.g. Goldieblox is to help girls get comfortable with science and engineering)

goldieblox-referrals

It’s a well-established fact of psychology and marketing that people act in ways that are consistent with their identity.

If you want somebody to do take an action, one of the best ways to get them to do it is to help them see that it’s consistent with what they already believe.

You already know something about why people care about your products, why it matters to them, and so on. Tap into that. Emphasize it in your copy and in your visuals.

Learn more about the Commitment and Consistency effect: A Foot In The Door: 7 Examples Of Commitment and Consistency in Marketing

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5. Highlight the benefit to the Friend AND Advocate: It’s easier for everyone to say yes if everybody wins.

double-sided

Double-sided incentives make it clear that everybody wins.

 

Reciprocity is at the heart of social behavior. (See: The Norm Of Reciprocity, and countless studies) We’re conditioned to reciprocate, sometimes even when we don’t really want to!

As such, rewarding both the advocate and the friend is often the most efficient way to persuade advocates to make referrals. (You could offer a huge referral reward without any friend offer, but that’ll cost you.)

  1. It taps into their natural desire to help their peers
  2. It persuades them that their self-interest isn’t entirely selfish
  3. It gives them an easy proposition to share with their friends. (“We both win!”)

Win-win-win.

Learn more about the power of Reciprocity: Giving Before You Get: 10 Examples Of Reciprocity in Marketing

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6. Include any conditions that they might have (i.e. Friend has to spend $50 or more, etc.)

dappertime-referrals

If your referral program is set up to include minimum orders and/or other conditions, state it upfront.

You don’t want people to get excited about something and then later get upset because they weren’t clear about what you meant.

This might seem like it’s a mistake on their part, but it’s your responsibility to address it if you want to get repeat referrals from happy customers!

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Read next: How To Set  Up Your Referral Program’s Incentives (With 12+ Examples)

 

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Visa is ReferralCandy's Blog Editor. He also co-founded Statement.sg, a fashion ecommerce label selling witty t-shirts. He's been thrice named a Top Writer on Quora. He hopes to enjoy a glass of whiskey onboard a commercial space flight someday.