Word-of-Mouth and Referral Marketing Blog

Promote Your Referral Program Without Sounding Desperate

referral program

Asking for referrals is really important.

So is referral marketing.

Many people think the job is over after they set up their referral program. They put in all the effort to choose the right referral program incentives, to write great referral emails, and even got the referral messaging just right.

And then they stop and wait for the magic to happen.

Setting up a referral program is not enough – you still need to promote it like a campaign!

Airbnb’s referral program, for example, discovered that their first referral program was woefully under-promoted – even their own employees didn’t know about it!

Don’t fall into that trap yourself.

It would be a shame if your business referral program didn’t get you the referrals you deserved because your customers and would-be advocates simply never realized you had one. Refer-a-friend marketing is still marketing — it needs some effort to get going, like a snowball.

So what do you do?

(NOTE: Want to set up a referral program? Try ReferralCandy free for 30 days here.)

Once you’ve got the basics in place, you want to promote your referral program to as many people as you can.

As you can see from the following chart – you could have the best conversion rates with the most enticing offers, but the success of your referral program is still ultimately going to be limited by the raw number of people who know about it.

On the other hand, a well-promoted referral program feeds back into your marketing funnel; just ask Girlfriend Collective or Tesla.

But don’t you worry — we’re right here to answer your questions about where to share referral links and how to market a referral program.

How to promote your referral program and get more referrals:

  1. Invite existing customers to join your referral program
  2. Feature your referral program call-to-action prominently on your website
  3. Post about your referral program on social media
  4. Use post-purchase popups to get your customers on-board while they’re still ‘warm’
  5. Send smart email reminders to your advocates
  6. Show your referral program to all your visitors using a referral widget
  7. Teach your customers how to share your referral program
  8. Invite influencers to join your referral program

1. Invite all your existing customers to join your referral program (yes, all!)

Reaching out to as many people as you can is probably the single most important factor that will determine the success of your referral program.

The more people know about your referral program, the more likely you are to get new referral customers and referral sales.

But where can you get a pool of ready and willing participants for your new referral program? You already know the answer.

Your customers.

Your existing customers are a great source for referrals since they’ve purchased from you before. If they enjoyed your products, they are more likely to recommend it to their friends. 

Plus, the reward could also encourage them to make another purchase.

(It goes without saying that you should also enrol your new customers into your referral program)

You can inform your past customers of your referral program by sending them an invitation email.

With ReferralCandy, this process is pretty easy. If you’re using Mailchimp, simply hit “Invite instantly from Mailchimp”.

Inviting 1000 customers is just enough to kick off your referral program

This will bring you to your Mailchimp log-in page:

Once you log in, you’ll be brought to this page where ReferralCandy has identified all your email lists:

Hit “Invite list” on the email lists you want to invite, and you’re done! ReferralCandy will now send invite emails to your selected lists, and invite them to join your referral program.

Pro-Tip: Invite as many people as possible to join your referral program, that’s a great guarantee of success.

If you’re not using Mailchimp, don’t worry. We got you covered.

Go to your email marketing system (e.g Klaviyo, AWeber, etc.) and download your email lists in a CSV file. Then, head back to ReferralCandy, and click “Upload a CSV”:

You’ll be brought to this page where you can upload your CSV file:

Make sure your CSV file is properly formatted and cleaned up (e.g Column 1 should be first_name, Column 2 should be last_name, etc.). Once that is done, drag and drop your CSV file into ReferralCandy!

Then, ReferralCandy will send invite emails to your customers and get them to join your referral program.


2. Feature your referral program call-to-action prominently on your website

It’s a common myth that referral programs are only for people who have purchased from your store.

Nuh uh. Nope.

Referral programs are for everyoneEven people who have never bought from you before.

After all, they might not be in the market themselves, but they might know someone who would be! And why not reward them for referring a friend? 

That’s why you should feature your referral program prominently on your website. You could do it like Kurgo, and use a hero image (shown above-the-fold) to promote it:

Or you could do it like Amuze, and feature it prominently in the header:

You could take a leaf out of Threadbeast’s playbook, and add a link to your navigation bar:

Or you could copy Thrive Causemetics and place it subtly in your footer (but still visible from every page of your website)

The trick to doing this well is to add an embedded page from ReferralCandy. Look at the example from Thrive. Once you click the “Refer+Save” link on the footer, you’ll be brought to an embedded sharing page created using ReferralCandy:

This way, customers can immediately join your referral program right after clicking, and you can boost your refer-a-friend numbers. Cool, huh? 

Wondering where to share referral links on your website?

It’s worth thinking about where to place your refer-a-friend call-to-action. We made this question multiple choice with 10 great examples of prominent referral CTAs in this blog article: 30 Easy Call To Action Examples That Boost Conversion And Sales.

Pro-Tip: One ingenious thing I want to point out about Thrive’s embedded page is this:

By adding a simple “Opt-in for Offers + Beauty Tips” checkbox, Thrive also ensures that these people enter their email lists for further remarketing. Smart.

3. Post about your referral program on social media

Where else do you own audiences besides your email list?

That’s right – social media.

As an ecommerce store, you probably already know social media is a great marketing strategy. And thus, you probably have already amassed a large audience either on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

Use it!

Use those channels to let your followers know you have a new referral program – and invite them to join.

Here’s a great example from Boxed:

Focus on the benefit to your audience. You don’t have to be spammy.

If you don’t promote your own referral program, who will?

4. Use post-purchase popups to get your customers on-board when they’re still warm

The best time to get somebody to take action is when they’re primed to do it: when they’re in the appropriate emotional state, and when there’s a right cue and context.

When it comes to saying or doing nice things about a brand, customers are much likelier to do it at specific trigger moments:

  • Immediately after making a purchase
  • Immediately after receiving the purchase, and
  • Specific instances when the product helps them solve a problem

Of those 3 instances, the first is the one you have the most control over as a retailer. They’re still on your site, and they just bought! They’re hot-and-bothered, and ready to do anything you ask them to.

Hit them with a post-purchase popup asking for a referral.

Here’s how to set it up with ReferralCandy. On your ReferralCandy dashboard, hit Edit Referral Program, then Widgets:

Once you hit “Widgets”, you should see an option to create a post-purchase popup:

Clicking the down arrow on “Add Code Snippet” will show you the step-by-step on how to add a post-purchase popup on your store:

It’s super easy! Here’s an example of a good post-purchase popup from Rothy’s:

5. Send smart email reminders to your advocates

Like a lot of things in life, referral opportunities don’t always happen with perfect timing.

Sometimes your customers might love your products enough to want to make a referral, but not recognize any referral opportunities when they first hear about it.

Referral reminder emails are a good way of keeping your referral program top-of-mind. Just make sure to…

  • Focus on the benefit for your customer (“What’s in it for me?”)
  • Space them out so it’s not spammy

(Ed: You can even sneak it into your regular newsletters to improve your referral email marketing with our new feature Mailchimp referral program integration.)

Here’s how to implement it. In your ReferralCandy dashboard, click “Edit Referral Program”, then “Settings”:

Once you’re there, you should be able to see an option on how often you want to send reminder emails:

You can choose between 1, 2, 3, 4, 8 or 12 weeks interval! We recommend sending one every 2 weeks, but the choice is yours.

To edit the content on the reminder email, go back to your ReferralCandy dashboard and click “Emails & Pages” under “Edit Referral Program”:

Select “Simple Theme” and click “Edit”:

Then, go to Content > Reminder Email > Edit, and change your copy!

6. Show your referral program to all your visitors using a referral widget

How do you let your potential customers know about your referral program… but in an unobtrusive manner?

Easy – use a referral widget.

A referral widget is a small widget that sits on your store page, which allows your customers to instantly sign up as an advocate. 

Here’s an example from Real Food Ready:

This referral widget is “sticky”, meaning it follows the visitors as he/she scrolls down your page. The biggest benefit is that a site visitor can convert at any time, whenever they’re ready.

Here’s how to add it to your site. Go to your ReferralCandy dashboard, and then go to Edit Referral Program > Widgets:

Scroll down, and you should see the option to add a Referral Widget to your store:

7. Teach your customers how to share your referral program

One of the biggest mistakes retailers make is assuming that customers know how to share their referral link when they sign up for a referral program.

The truth is, your customers will be asking the same questions are you are. And the answers are approximately the same:

How do I share my referral link?

  1. Share the link as a social media post and on your profile;
  2. List it under your YouTube (or FB) videos and in the comments;
  3. Forward it to friends you know in an email;
  4. Put it on a permanent page, like your website or blog;
  • Make sure not to be too push or salesy or spammy, and offer it when it’s relevant
  • And remember: you’re making a referral based on your reputation!

How to teach your customers to promote their referral link

Teach them how. Show them step-by-step on how they should be doing this.

A good example is Pavlok. Pavlok has a long blog post that teaches their customers effective sharing tactics, so they can get more out of their referral program.

They include referral program templates for sharing through emails and social media sharing, so that their advocates don’t have to rack their brains to come up with “brilliant copy” to wow their friends – but can simply copy and paste or follow a format.

Another example is Threadbeast. Threadbeast has a detailed step-by-step guide where they teach their customers how to share their referral link on Instagram:

Just a little effort, and you’ll help guide your best customers on how to share.

8. Invite influencers to join your referral program

Influencers are people who have amassed a huge audience on social media, and thus can have massive impact on your referral program if they tell their audience about you.

To create this kind of impact for yourself, invite influencers to join your referral program.

Here’s a good example of how Threadbeast does it. Threadbeast partnered with MMG, a YouTuber with about 600,000 subscribers on YouTube:

MMG did a video reviewing one of Threadbeast’s monthly boxes:

Where he also included a link to Threadbeast’s referral program:

Earbolts did the same thing as well. They partnered with Arlin Moore, a YouTuber with 100,000 subscribers, and did a video together:

And included their referral link:

YouTube isn’t the only place you can do this. You can also partner with Instagram influencers, like what Contact Lens Singapore did. Contact Lens Singapore partnered with an influencer, Melissa, and she added their referral link to her Instagram bio:

And that’s how you can get more referrals in your referral program!

Conclusion: Promoting your referral program is an important part of ensuring success

We’ve actually seen a retailer signup for ReferralCandy, have their referral rate flatline for a couple of months… then jump to hundreds in a single month and keep growing

What was the difference?

The difference was that they eventually got around to integrating their referral program into the rest of their marketing.

They added a link to their primary site navigation, mentioned it prominently in their monthly marketing email, and posted about it on their popular Instagram account.

The lessons is clear:

If you’ve setup a referral program and you’re getting some referrals, turbocharge it by promoting it.

You wouldn’t spend money on a new poster and not put it up, or redesign your webpage and not publish it. Luckily, for referral programs, once you set it up and start promoting it, it should feed itself.

P.S. If you enjoyed reading this, subscribe to our newsletter where we share our latest articles and helpful resources.

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.

1 comment

  • Nice thought Si Quan!! Referral marketing is one of the most effective ways to earn more business among today’s consumers. Referral marketing can allow help turn your loyal customers into your most powerful advocates.

    However, before customers can promote your company to their friends, you must first be successful in promoting your referral marketing program.

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