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How to Get Your Referral Messaging Just Right

Si Quan Ong
Si Quan Ong
May 4, 2018
2 min read
How to Get Your Referral Messaging Just Right

A good referral program is memorable.

A good referral program is one that will compel your customer to tell her friends about the product.

A good referral program should be able to help your customers do several things well:

  • Easily think of friends who might need the product when she’s prompted
  • Get her excited and bothered - and want to share about the referral program
  • Recall the referral program easily later on when a friend mentions having a problem that could be solved by the product

And this likely boils down how well you’ve gotten your referral messaging down.

What is your referral messaging?

Your referral messaging is the message that is communicated to your customer’s friends when your customers share about your referral program.

Whether it's your referral email template, referral incentives, or referral rate, the message should be clear, succinct, memorable and believable. It should also convey a benefit that would wow your customers’ friends.

Sounds difficult to get right?

It is.

But it is the CRUX of your referral program. When you get this right, you’ll be able to see your referral sales double, triple or even 10X because it becomes much, much easier to spread the word about your referral program.

Take for example Circles.Life. Circles.Life is a digital telco based in Singapore, selling no-contract mobile plans.

Circles Life

Circles.Life is in a competitive industry. And by competitive, I don’t mean there are many players in the game. There are only a few, but they are gigantic corporations backed by the Singaporean government. These giant corporations need not even compete; they can simply drown Circles.Life with cash.

Yet, Circles.Life is succeeding. Despite entrenched customer behavior and the humongous competition, Circles.Life has managed to ensnare users, and convinced them to make the switch to a young upstart.


A wildly successful referral program.

There are many reasons for the success of their referral program. But for the sake of this post, let’s focus on their referral messaging. Here it is:

Referral messaging: Circles Life

Their referral messaging is loud and clear. It’s easy-to-remember, believable and conveys tons of value.

Free, bonus data… every month?

Sign me up!

Wait a moment… I know your concern. Like DropBox, Circles.Life can give away tons of free data because well… it costs them “nothing”. As an ecommerce store, it’ll be difficult for you to replicate the same thing.

But there is always something to learn from the big, successful players. Instead of looking at specific tactics to emulate, we should extract important principles that drive their success.

In this specific case, we can clearly see that your referral messaging = your value proposition. Circles.Life’s value proposition is more data for less cost. So their referral program reflects that value proposition: more data for less cost.

So, that’s the lesson.

Your referral messaging should represent your brand’s value proposition.

There’s a reason why your customers buy your product. They’re looking to solve some sort of problem. They care about solving that problem.

Your customers care about helping their friends, and to earn their friends’ approval and validation.

Your referral program messaging should address both of those motivations. Your referral messaging should represent your value proposition.

So, how do you craft a strong value proposition, or a good referral message? Unfortunately, there is NO one way, but according to ConversionXL, here’s what you need:

  • Clarity
  • Communicate the concrete results a customer will get from buying or using your products/services
  • Say how it’s different or better than competitors
  • Avoid hype, superlatives and business jargon
  • Read and understood in 5 seconds

Pro-Tip: Here’s a value proposition worksheet from MarketingExperiments that you can complete.

Looking for some examples of effective messaging in referral programs? Here’s a list for you get inspired by:

1. Trunkster – Who doesn't want to earn a free smart luggage worth $350?

Trunkster Referral Program CTA on Homepage

It's true that advocates will only get a free Trunkster when they have referred 12 friends, but the chance to earn a free product is a powerful hook to get customers' attention.

2. Dropbox – Stand to earn up to 16GB worth of free storage space.


Dropbox had one of the most successful referral programs of all time, and it did it with a very simple promise– GET FREE SPACE. Sometimes the simplest promises are the best.

3. GoldieBlox allows customers to give the gift of building.

GoldieBlox Referral Program portal ReferralCandy

It's not just about a toy– it's about a movement. GoldieBlox taps into its advocates and customers' motivations by reminding them of the core mission of the brand and what it stands for.

4. Love With Food wants you to help your friends snack smarter.

Love with Food referral page

People who have felt the health benefits of good nutrition are very likely to want to share those benefits with their friends and loved ones. Love With Food appeals to that with "Help a Friend Snack Smarter".

5. Thrive Causemetics isn’t just a normal referral program - it also helps women thrive

Thrive Causemetics

Thrive Causemetics gives away one cosmetic product for every Thrive product purchased. Likewise, they carried over their value proposition for their referral program. You’re not only referring your friends to purchase - you’re helping other women thrive.

6. Flat Tummy Co. wants you to tell your babes

Flat Tummy Co

Flat Tummy Co. doesn’t want you to refer your friends - they want you to tell your babes, your BFFs, those that you love. If you want to lose weight, detox or reduce bloating, don’t do it yourself - do it together with your friends!

7. Pitaka wants your friends to charge your phones too

Pitaka referral program

How dare you charge your phone yourself? Pitaka wants your friends to wirelessly charge their phones too while driving. Pitaka consciously reminds you that if you have friends who drive, you ought to tell them about Pitaka.

8. Noobie Box goes straight to the benefits

Noobie Box referral program

Noobie Box doesn’t hold back. Instead of a hopeful, mission-driven approach, Noobie Box goes straight for your greed glands. They lay out everything you need to know about winning, and tempts you.

9. VaporDNA taps on your motivation to earn your friends’ approval

VaporDAN Referral Program

Friends who vape together stay together. If you don’t vape with them, they might not (love) you. VaporDNA taps on that motivation - and suggests that if you want them to love you, you should share.

10. Toplace knows cash is king

TopLace Referral Program

Cash is king. Of course, Toplace knows that. So they don’t play around. They tell you straight up - refer and you get $50 in cold, hard cash.

BONUS: How To Change Your Referral Messaging On ReferralCandy

Inspired by these tips and want to make some changes to your referral messaging? That's fine and dandy. Here's how to do it on ReferralCandy. From your dashboard, click "Edit Referral Program", then Emails & Pages:

referral messaging

You'll see this page:

referral program

If you're on the Autopilot theme, you won't be able to make the change (this is because Autopilot is designed to help you get started FAST!). Instead, click Edit on "Simple Theme".

Then, click "Content" and "Join Page". Then "Edit":

referral program marketing

Once you're done, make sure you go back and click "Select" on the Simple Theme!

Final Thoughts

Don't think that you have only one chance to get your referral messaging right. Like marketing slogans and blog post headlines, you should always be testing to find the perfect one.

Don't be afraid to try multiple value propositions and referral messaging when one doesn't work. Sit down, craft a new one and test again.

Alternatively, if you have the budget, it pays to create 2 or more referral messaging candidates and then run a A/B test, or send some paid traffic to it.

See which performs better, and that might just be your winning referral messaging.

Si Quan Ong
Si Quan Ong

Si Quan is ReferralCandy's Content Marketing Manager. He is also the co-founder of BreakDance Decoded, an online breakdance training company. He loves standup comedy, and has a dream to visit at least 100 countries in his lifetime.

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