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Here are the best Referral Program Ideas to absolutely grow your business

Absolutely, Positively the Best Referral Program Ideas

Think of the best referral programs out there. What do they all have in common? Well, the best referral programs typically include these three qualities:

  • they have a targeted promotion
  • they use incentives that fit their customers
  • they have strong advocates.

Let’s see how these qualities make up the best referral program ideas.

Your business is unique, which means you need to build your own unique referral program. There’s no sense in applying a one-size-fits-all approach, you must build your program targeted specifically to your audience.  Whether you’re running a refer a friend program, influencer program, ambassador or partner program, designing the right program includes looking at referral marketing as a whole. Luckily there are a ton of referral program ideas out there, here are our top tips.

Key Referral Marketing Strategies

Your product and services are great, and customers love working with you. But are they telling their friends, family, and colleagues about the value you provide? Incentives help encourage your customers to share whether you’re a B2B business or B2C business. And when you use incentives specific to your customers it entices them to share even more.

Word of mouth marketing is one of the biggest drivers of revenue growth, but it’s elusive and hard to measure. Although it may seem like you can’t control who sells on your behalf… You can encourage your happy customers to refer friends to your referral programs. After all, a happy customer or client is a strong advocate. When you support customers, you are creating trust. Which means effective referral programs ahead.

What referral program ideas will work for your business?

Best Referral Program Ideas for Promotion

Let’s first look at some ideas for promotion. Your program must get in front of your customers for them to share it. Luckily there are a few things you can do to promote the program and make sure it is being seen.

Examples of Catchy Headlines

  1. A Simple but great Headline

Use a catchy headline. If you can gain attention with one short sentence and explain the benefit of joining at the same time, your customers are going to be intrigued. When your customers are intrigued, they share.  Here are some examples of great headlines. Notice how they use numbers, they get to the point, and they explain the benefit of joining.

We will start you off slow. Here are a few example headlines that you can spruce up and make your own.

  • Share with your friends and get $10
  • Refer and You Shall Receive
  • Let’s Help Each Other Out
  • Give $100, get $100 for yourself
  • It’s How We Say… Thanks!
  • Share the Love
  • Spread the love, and get $25 when your friends sign up
  • Help us Help You
  • Invite your friends and earn a free ride
  • Call on your friends to help, you both can earn $10

Here are some headlines in action:

  • Trendy Butler – “Friends and Family Program, $10 for every sign up” They gave us who (friends and family), what (program), why ($10).
  • Greats – “Tell your friends about GREATS and you both get 20%” They mentioned the who, what and why in a ‘great’ way.
  • Red Coach – “Invite your friends, get up to $50 off, give a free trip!” Okay, wow. They mentioned who, what, and why and they made it exciting.
  1. Find a reason

The calendar is smattered with holidays. Thanksgiving, Christmas, the 4th of July… the list goes on and on. Why not use these holidays as a reason to run a promotion for your referral program? For instance, on Valentine’s Day, you could have a “Spread the Love” campaign, where you give 20% off to customers and the friends they refer during the entire month of February.

But don’t feel confined by the Roman calendar. You can create your own holiday or special customer appreciation campaign. Maybe you are celebrating a business milestone, such as an anniversary. Can you tie a referral program promotion into your celebration?

  1. Landing Page with a FAQ

You want your landing page design to be professional looking which means it shouldn’t be too overcrowded. You need to avoid bombarding your customers with blocks and blocks of text. Chances are they won’t read it all anyway. So how do you get all your program facts covered? Well, that’s easy.  You can add in a FAQs section. This will allow you to be more descriptive to help explain your program further. Plus, it will help cover all the common questions your customers are sure to ask. Like when and how rewards are given.

Examples of Landing Pages With FAQs

See how sleek the landing page is when there is a FAQ section to take away some of the bulk of the content?

  1. Great imagery

Imagery can help you create excitement. One of the best parts of an image is that it can do the talking for you. So, whether you using images to explain the referral process or you just want to show off what reward the customer can earn, chances are it will help create a more intriguing program. Images also break up the text so that your customers can stay engaged. You can also consider a hero shot – an image that sells the purpose of the program. Just make sure your imagery stays relevant to you, your program and customers, it also helps if the image is gripping!

  1. Launch the refer a friend program as a “Thank you”

How can you give back to your customers for being great and supportive to you? A refer a friend program, that’s how.

Thank you Refer a Friend Program

When you launch a program as a means of appreciation your customers will feel good. They will know that you are looking out for their best interest and that you care about their happiness. You have probably seen a referral program that mentions ‘Customer Appreciation’ in the headline of the program. The reason? It works. When customers know they are appreciated, they become more engaged in your brand.

  1. Make it discoverable (links, emails)

Along with having a dedicated referral program area on your website, you need to make the program discoverable to any customer. So, what are some ways you can do this? Think about strategy. What do your customers have access to? Are there certain assets or emails that get sent to your customers? If you have an eCommerce store, do you provide a thank you page to your customers after a purchase? Do you have a blog? Marketing blogs are a great way to spread the word.  Use all your channels of communication as an opportunity to share your program.

Make Referral Programs Discoverable

Here are other great places to mention or add a link to your referral program.

  • Email
  • Email Signature
  • Newsletter
  • Thank You Page
  • Purchase Confirmation Page
  • Invoices
  • Flyers (or other items that you physically send to your customers)
  • Side Menus (or ad space on your website)
  • Blog
  1. *BONUS* Retargeting

This is a great opportunity to get back those people who couldn’t commit right away. By retargeting these customers, you may give them the nudge they need to go forward and sign up. Perhaps these people wanted to join but just couldn’t sign up right away. You would be doing them a favor by reminding them. Don’t be scared to advertise directly to people who have shown interest in your program already.

Best Referral Program Ideas for Advocates

Strong advocates are built on trust. If your advocates can stand behind your business proudly, then sharing your business is bound to happen. Advocates can come in all shapes and sizes, and if you team up with the right people, a successful referral program is a piece of cake.

  1. Customers… Ask them… High-value ones

You will be setting yourself up for major success if you invite your best customers. A client referral program seems to be the most popular type of referral program. Why? Well, most people, after they get to know your brand will root for you to do well.  They support you, and they will happily help you promote your referral program. Customers or clients turn into some of your biggest fans. Typically, loyal and happy customers are more inclined to get involved with your products and services including your referral program. Which is exactly why a client referral program being one of the most popular ways to grow a business. Here are a few ideas on how to ask for a referral.

  1. Fundraisers as partners

Pizza restaurants can offer local organizations charity opportunities. If people come to the restaurant on a given night, the school will get 20% of the proceeds. Why not set up a referral program that sends donations to nonprofits and schools?

Fundraiser Referral Programs

Set up a referral program specifically for schools, where the students and parents can promote it, so proceeds of referred purchases will get donated to the school.

  1. Employees

Your employees have the potential to be some of your brand’s biggest brand ambassadors. So, why not create a referral program specifically for them?

You can run it like a monthly contest where each employee can get an entry into a drawing for every customer they enroll, or you can create some sort of leaderboard to celebrate all the referrals and direct sales that come from employees.  Gamification can help bring you to referral success.

  1. Partners

What’s the difference between a referral program and an affiliate program? While a referral program encourages customers to refer their friends, an affiliate program incentivizes other businesses and resellers to sell their stuff.

For example, Amazon has an affiliate program called Amazon Associates, which encourages anyone who refers people to Amazon’s product to make money off of those they refer. For example, an author might suggest people buy their books from Amazon and give them a special link so that they earn a percentage of the purchase.

Amazon Associates Referral Program

There are probably many other businesses who serve your industry. For example, FreshBooks and Referral Rock both cater to small businesses, so they might partner together to offer incentives to anyone who refers one to the other.

  1. Instill Confidence

Okay, this isn’t a person, but it’s good to know. Perhaps this is a no-brainer, but if your customers do not have confidence in your brand, they will not be confident in sharing you with their friends. If you build this confidence, by providing all customers, employees or whoever with a great product and great customer service, you may be surprised by how many people are willing to refer you. A lot of customers are willing to refer, so make sure you give them a reason. Confidence in your brand is a great start.

Best Referral Program Ideas for Incentives

Incentives must “fit” your customers and your businesses. An incentive should make sense and be appealing. If you sell items that are not everyday purchases, don’t use a return coupon as your incentive. Think of mattresses, cars, sofas, roofs. How often does one person buy these items? It’s not a daily, weekly or monthly sale. Chances are, a customer will not need a second roof or sofa, at least for a while. Customers won’t feel inclined to join a referral program if the incentive does not make sense.

It’s easy, just consider what incentive makes sense for you. You also must keep in mind what your customers want. On top of that, you should consider how you can provide value to them and future customers.

Let’s look at some ideas that make sense. If what you are giving as an incentive makes sense, you are golden.

  1. Do it for a cause

In some fields, you can’t offer customers a monetary reward for referring your services. Instead, you might be able to donate on their behalf. If a customer refers a friend, you can offer to donate $50 to a charity, tying your referral program to social good.

  1. Encourage social gifting / 2-sided incentive

People love to shower their friends and families with gifts, so make sure your referral program has a two-way incentive. That means that both parties– the person who makes the referral AND their friend who signs up– should benefit.

For example, ClassPass, a subscription service that allows users to try out different fitness studios in their region, offers a $20 off referral incentive to existing customers who refer new users. When these existing customers share a special referral program link with a friend, and the friend uses this link to sign up, both parties get $20 off their monthly membership.

Social Gifting Referral Program

Part of the reason Classpass’s program works so well is that friends can participate in fitness classes together. If an existing customer gets their best friend to sign up, they’ll suddenly have a workout buddy in their next Pilates class.

  1. Tiers… scale up

Your customers may refer more if the incentive gets better each time they send a referral. Therefore, tier rewards work well. You can set up a program so that a member must pass through different tiers before being rewarded.  You can set criteria for each tier so that the process seems like a ‘challenge’ or ‘game’. This can result in your customers being more involved in the referral process.

Tiered Referral Program

For example, you can create a program so the reward is dependent on how many approved referrals your customer sends. Your customer could earn $25 for their first 5 Referrals. Then they would hit the next tier where they would earn $50 for every approved Referral after that.

  1. Give the referrer higher % for first referral

Many customer referral programs offer a consistent referral reward. Uber, for example, offers customers and the new customers they refer 15$ off through their referral program.

However, many companies are encouraging existing customers to make referrals with a very large bonus for the first referral they make. Rather than offering $15 off for each referral, the company will offer $50 off for the first referral and $5 off for all subsequent referrals. This high incentive for the first referral encourages users to get sharing in the first place.

The large incentive will make them take advantage of the referral program. Once they’ve done that, they’ll be more likely to use the customer referral program in the future.

  1. Incentives for leads, not just customers

This is a great opportunity to help your customers convert their referrals. Sometimes referrals also need to see the benefit of making a purchase. In fact, most effective referral programs used dual sided incentives as a way to engage both parties. Therefore, a referral incentive could be the answer.

Incentives for Leads not Just Customers

This gives them an excuse to try your product. This could also lead to a higher conversion rate since the referred customer is more motivated to engage in the referral program. Let’s face it, everyone likes being rewarded.

Bonus… Double Down… Show your appreciation!

Reward best referrers

If someone refers you more than once– or goes out of their way to refer you every chance they get– you should find a special way to show your appreciation. Many companies send out handwritten thank you notes. A care package is another great idea.

Sometimes, companies offer substantial discounts to those who refer others more than 5 times. If someone refers 5 customers to you, they’ve brought in a substantial amount of new revenue, so find a way to give them a piece of the pie.

Unique benefits

Many referral programs offer financial and monetary benefits. For example, dollars or percentage-off of future sales. But a great referral program idea is to offer unique benefits. For instance, an entry into an exclusive VIP club, special gifts, or handwritten notes.

If you can’t afford to give discounts, or it’s simply not in your company’s ethos, then send t-shirts or other company swag. You’ll be surprised by how many people will refer your business to get a cool t-shirt.

Referral Marketing is about Execution

Referral programs are a great way to encourage customers to spread the word about your business, and we hope these unconventional customer referral program ideas inspire you to start a referral program or take an existing one to the next level. Check out these other referral program examples, they could perhaps help you create the perfect client referral program template. Remember, referral software can make all of this happen. Start your B2C or B2B referral program today! If you need ideas on referral marketing software, check out our list of plug and play referral marketing software.

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