Nothing beats the power of referral marketing! Referral programs are still considered one of the most explosive forms of marketing.
Billion-dollar brands like Dropbox and Paypal built their companies with successful referral programs.
The one downside with referral programs is that you and your customers need to be in it for the long game. It can take a long time for some referral programs to show promising results.
If you are looking for a massive amount of referrals within a short space of time, then hosting a referral contest might just be the way to go.
Read on to find out more about referral contests (interesting case study included) and how you can host your very own campaign.
What is a Referral Contest
A referral contest is a campaign designed to generate the maximum amount of referrals within a short time.
Users compete with each other by referring new leads to your business. The person that refers the most leads wins the contest.
The brand hosting the contest sponsors prizes for the winner. In some cases, brands will offer prizes to the top 3 (or more) contestants.
Who are Referral Contests For?
A referral contest is ideal for brands that are looking to acquire a massive amount of leads fast. For example, a SaaS brand can use a referral contest to boost free account signups to its service drastically.
Let’s use an example. Imagine Spotify using a referral contest to get more users onto its platform. They can ask current premium subscribers to get people to open a free Spotify account. The user with the most referrals wins a prize.
The ideal prize for the campaign above is a Spotify enhanced wireless speaker. Spotify Premium members will leap at the opportunity to win a wireless speaker that perfectly integrates with their membership.
Editor: In actual fact, Spotify did run a referral program! Here’s why they shut it down.
Testbook Case Study
Testbook, an online learning platform, hosted a referral contest that achieved impressive results. Their campaign netted them over 57k new email leads!
Testbook also saw an increase in app downloads and social media engagement during their referral contest campaign.
So, how did Testbook achieve these results? Here’s a breakdown of their referral contest.
As an educational platform, acquiring users in need of exam preparation is vital to Testbook’s business. Testbook’s primary goal was to structure a campaign that would create opportunities to get people to sign up for their platform.
Instead of hosting a giveaway, Testbook went with a leaderboard contest that would get people to compete with each other for first place. A contestant completes a specific action to earn points. The person with the most points wins.
The main area of focus for this contest was referrals. Contestants earned points for every new user they referred to the Testbook platform. They tirelessly brought in new referrals with the hope of winning a prize.
Testbook also allowed contestants to earn points from additional tasks like downloading the Testbook app or engaging with Testbook on social media.
Testbook’s referral contest resulted in a viral campaign made up of contestants referring people they think are a good fit for Testbook’s platform.
How to Host Your Own Referral Contest
The beauty of a referral contest is that it has the potential to turn into a viral campaign. A single user can refer 5 new users to your referral contest. And those 5 referrals can potentially refer 5 new users each (25 new users in total!).
However, achieving this kind of virality isn’t easy or certain. You will have to plan and structure your referral contest carefully.
The best place to start is by determining the following:
- Your goals
These three crucial aspects of a referral contest can make or break your campaign. Let’s take a closer look at how you can expertly plan and execute your referral contest.
1. Choose a Goal
The objective of any referral contest is to increase the number of new referrals to your brand rapidly. However, you will need to determine what counts as a referral. Is it an email address, a social media follower, or a new sign up on your website or app?
Source: Testbook Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/testbookdotcom/
For the campaign above, Testbook requested users to follow them and tag 2 friends to enter. Their goal being to boost their followers, engagement, and increase referrals by getting people to tag their friends.
After determining your primary goal, you can now set the entry method for your campaign. Here are a few examples:
- Email entry – Ask entrants and referrals to submit their email addresses to enter the referral contest.
- Social follow entry – Ask users to follow your social media page or profile. This is an ideal opportunity to increase engagement on your channels by requesting users to like, tag, and share your posts too.
- Sign-ups and downloads – Ask users to create a new account on your website or app to enter your referral contest.
Selecting a single entry method (like email entries) will keep things simple and straightforward. The contestants of your referral contest will continue to refer new leads (who will submit their emails to enter). In this scenario, the contestant that helped bring in the most emails wins.
You can, however, host a more complex campaign with multiple goals. Similar to the Testbook referral contest mentioned earlier.
To achieve multiple goals, you can introduce a points system to your campaign and award contestants points for successfully completing tasks assigned by you. These tasks can be anything from liking a post on social media to subscribing to a podcast.
2. Select a Prize
The prize is the single most crucial element of a referral contest. People are most drawn to the prize, which, in most cases, is the reason they discovered your referral contest.
Ideally, you will want to select a prize (or incentives) that will attract your target audience. For example:
- Photo editing software brands can offer photography gear like gimbals, backpacks, and drones to attract photographers.
- Diet or fitness supplement brands can offer workout equipment, fitness trackers, or gym memberships to attract active and health-conscious people.
- Video game franchises can offer gaming peripherals like controllers, mice, keyboards, or game consoles to attract gamers.
It’s recommended that you spend some time choosing an ideal prize that will suit your brand and attract your target audience. Try and think of a product (or service) that your ideal lead will find valuable.
If you are having trouble deciding, you can perhaps prepare a shortlist of prizes and ask a few people they prefer most. You can even ask your current customer base for their opinion if you already have a good relationship with them.
Prizes to Avoid
You must avoid “general” or “popular” products when selecting a prize.
The perfect example – “Refer as many people to us and you could win an iPhone!”
iPhones are extremely popular and can potentially attract a ton of new referrals for you. However, a large number of those referrals will only be interested in the device and will have little to no interest in your brand.
It would be best to find an ideal prize within your niche.
3. Launch and Promote Your Referral Contest
Once your goals and prizes are in check, you can now plan a spectacular launch for your referral contest!
A referral contest is a campaign that’s also good for PR and brand building. Instead of just focusing on figures, think about the amount of reach and exposure, your brand can get from such a campaign.
So, go all out when promoting your referral contest on as many platforms as possible. Some examples include:
- Social media – Create a post announcing your referral contest. You can design social media content with your brand logo and product images. Getting people to like, tag, and share the post will increase engagement on the post and exposure for your campaign.
- Email – Your referral contest can be the perfect opportunity for you to email your current subscribers to let them know about your latest campaign. You can also send a second email reminding subscribers to enter before the contest is over.
- Blog – Blog posts allow you to fill in vast amounts of information about your contest. This is perfect if you want to host the campaign on your website while including all the contest and prize information. As a bonus, your website’s traffic will increase due to people visiting your blog or website to enter. If your website has chatbots, you can consider using your chatbot to promote your campaign. The chatbot can mention that a referral contest is live while supplying the visitor with a link to enter.
- Podcasts – Podcasts are increasingly popular, with some episodes receiving thousands of views or listens. You can sponsor or host a podcast for the duration of your campaign. In exchange, the podcaster will mention your referral contest and the link to enter. Alternatively, the brand owner can apply to be featured on popular podcasts as a guest to promote their referral contest.
- Influencers – Influencer marketing is extremely popular right now. Brands are getting influential people on platforms like Instagram and Tik Tok to promote their products. You can ask a social media influencer to help you promote your campaign on their channels. This is an ideal way to get the word out about your referral contest fast.
- Traditional media – Newspapers, magazines, and television still have a strong presence in some areas. If your target audience is part of those areas, then creating a newspaper ad might just be the right thing for your referral contest.
If you already have established marketing channels, then these channels will be the best place to start promotion. It’s always best to speak to your current audience first.
You can also pay a social network to boost your referral contest post. This is a great way to quickly get a ton of exposure for your campaign early on.
Referral programs are campaigns that are built to go viral and produce insane results. However, most successful referral programs are meant to be ongoing and can take a while to produce decent results.
Referral contests are run for a limited time and offer prizes to the contestants with the most referrals. This strategy encourages people to act fast so they can reach the top of the referral contest.
As a result, referral contests produce a massive amount of new leads in a short period of time. It’s also possible to structure referral contests to direct users to your socials or website to perform additional actions to benefit your brand.
What do you think about referral contests? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Jack Paxton is the co-founder of VYPER, a marketing tool that helps brands build email lists, social followings, and revenue using viral giveaways, referral, and reward programs. After millions of dollars spent testing different marketing strategies at his marketing agency. He then also co-founded Hyax a fast, conversion & design-focused course and funnel builder for creators.
Gravatar ID: firstname.lastname@example.org