Referral programs are a great way to organically spread the word about products and services, but you have to let happy customers know that they can benefit from your program.

Whether you show off the program on your website’s homepage, send out an email to tell your customers, or find an influencer to spread the word, you have to promote your referral program in order to see success.

“It’s important to promote your referral program,” says Rob Edell, founder of Servy, an app that helps restaurants increase customer satisfaction. “Too many companies hide the refer feature in a sub-menu when referrals are one of the most important growth drivers.”  

Don’t be left wondering how to get people to use your referral link.  You may think that the referral program incentive is the most important part of a referral program. That’s only partially right. Think about it… If happy customers don’t know about your referral program, then how can they take advantage of it?  Here are some ways to effectively promote a new or existing referral program.

1. Targeted emails2. Social sharing3. Your homepage4. Make callouts5. Create a page
6. Add a reminder7. Email signatures8. Social media bios9. Call-to-actions10. Find an influencer
11. Paid campaigns12. Landing pages13. Keep promoting14. Automation15. All campaigns
16. Early release17. Use NPS surveys18. Past customers19. Try out SMS20. Use your videos

Tip: Think of what your current marketing strategies are. Does it make sense to bake your referral program into them at any point? Probably so.

1. Use targeted email marketing

Email is one of the best ways to get in touch with your customers. When you introduce a new referral program or want to get fresh eyes on an existing one, send a well-designed email to your customer base that focuses on the deal.

promote referral program by email

If you want to be especially successful with this method, target those who’ve actually bought your products and services, as opposed to those who simply email subscribers. For example, if you buy a Kindle Paperwhite from Amazon, the eCommerce giant will soon encourage you to buy a case for your new device. This highly-targeted tactic can do wonders when you’re selling products or promoting a referral program.

2. Build social sharing into the referral program (aka create social proof)

It’s a lot of work to promote a referral program, so ideally you want to create a program that encourages customers to promote the program for you. You want to build social sharing into the referral program. This is another way to build up your social proof.

Stitch Fix, a clothing subscription service, does a great job of this in their customer portal. They encourage customers to share a referral link on whatever social media site works best for them.

use social sharing to promote referral program

The result is that Stitch Fix customers share their referral link on social media, acting as promoters for the program. Note: you can also use your social media bios! Add a link to your program in your bio – it’s quite effective (see #8 below).

3. Strategically place it on your homepage

Many brands have referral programs in place, but they’re so hidden on the website that customers don’t know about it. In order to effectively promote a referral program, you should strategically place it on your homepage. That way, when a customer visits your website, they’ll see the program front and center.

For example, Premier Estates Wine, a U.K.-based wine retailer, has a rotating carousel on its homepage, and one of the images promotes the referral program.

Make Your Referral Program Visable

When customers come to the site, they see the referral program immediately, ensuring that it’s top of mind. If you don’t want it permanently on your homepage, add it as a homepage pop-up.

4. Make call outs for the referral program on product or sign up pages

When someone is checking out a particular product, they’re more interested in that product than anything else on your site. Most likely, they care more about the product itself than your brand. Because of this, you should make call outs for your referral program on product and sign up pages.

According to Friend Buy, product page sharing usually represents about 51% of referral revenue for companies who have social sharing buttons on those pages. Even if you don’t promote your referral program directly on your product page, you must have social sharing buttons to make it easy for customers to share particular products with their friends.

5. Create a special and unique referral program page

If you have a robust referral program, it’s worth creating a special and unique referral program page. This page not only serves to promote the program but can also help explain the terms and additions to your current customers, as well as those they refer. Use this opportunity to explain the benefit of joining the program too as they will be able to see their potential earnings.

HubSpot’s referral program page is a great example. The page explains the referral program and encourages customers to share their happiness on social media sites.

Referral Program Page

If customers don’t want to share HubSpot’s products on their own social media pages, HubSpot steps in and offers to “do the talking,” providing a referral form for customers to fill out.

6. Add a reminder into user accounts

Your current customers may spend a lot of time in their user account on your site, making it a perfect place to promote your referral program. Every time they log in, they’ll see they have the option to recommend your products and services. If they are already a referral program member, that’s even better. You can simply remind the customer of their referral codes and ask them to do a referral link share.

I use FreshBooks as my small business accounting solution, and when I log in, I’m presented with a tab that says “Recommend FreshBooks.” When I click the tab, I’m given information about the referral program, as well as some social sharing options to help me share it.

Referral Program Reminder

7. Promote the program in email signatures

Most brands have email signatures attached to each email a team member sends, so why not include a link to your referral program in your email signature? This tactic works especially well for those that interact with customers over email, such as support staff. It’s not too in your face, but customers will know exactly how to find the program when they are ready to sign up. If you think about it, this is probably the easiest way to get word of mouth going. It’s a set and forget it type of tactic.

8. Remind in your social media bios

If you’re trying to promote a referral program, you want to get it in as many places as possible. One of the easiest best practices for promoting your referral program is to add information about your campaign into your social media bios. Honestly, if it’s not included in your social media bio, you’re missing out on a lot of opportunities.

Your customers are already flooding social media channels, use that to your advantage. A program that is promoted on your social sites, is a referral program well-seen.Tweet: Your customers are already flooding social media channels, use that to your advantage. A program that is promoted on your social sites, is a referral program well-seen. https://referralrock.com/blog/15-ways-to-promote-a-referral-program/ @ReferralRock

For example, if we added information about Referral Rock’s referral program onto our Twitter bio, it would be visible every time someone visited our Twitter account, reminding them that they can refer Referral Rock at any time.

9. Create call-to-actions on your blog posts

If you have an active blog and content marketing strategy, then it’s a good idea to add calls-to-actions (CTAs) for your referral program into your blog posts.

For example, Last Pass, a password database software, uses this CTA on some of their customer-oriented blog posts. Each time customers read a blog post, they’re reminded to refer their friends.

Use CTAs to promote a referral program

10. Find an influencer or happy customer to spread the word

The best people to promote your referral program are those who already love what you do. They’re not just happy customers– they’re ambassadors. Finding out how to promote a referral link on Facebook is key. Newsflash, influencers will spread the word, for you.

ClassPass, a nationwide fitness service, offers an Ambassador program, which is basically an advanced referral program. It’s the ClassPass Ambassadors‘ job to promote ClassPass, as well as the referral program they’re a part of.

Use an influencer to promote

Referral program promotion done by an influencer

11. Run a paid social media campaign to target loyal customers

Paid social media, such as Facebook Ads or Promoted Tweets, are a great way to promote content, products, and even referral campaigns. The best part of these networks is that they’re highly targeted, so you can promote the program exclusively to existing customers by uploading a list of email addresses.

referral promoted tweet

Surprisingly, advertising on social media is inexpensive. You can test out a promotion for as little as $100 to see if you get results. Even small businesses can benefit from these paid promotions on social media.

12. Add it to your thank you or confirmation page

After someone makes a purchase, they’re usually super excited about what they’ve bought. This makes thank you or confirmation pages the perfect place to pitch your referral program. After someone buys a product or service, encourage them to let their friends know.

13. Continue to promote referral programs well after the launch

When you launch a new referral program, you’ll dedicate a ton of time and energy into making sure your customers know about it. You might come up with an email marketing campaign to promote the program immediately, for example.

However, if you want your referral program to be successful, you need to promote it well after the program launches. Whether this means sending out periodic emails, finding new places to promote the program on your web page, or coming up with an automated system, you need to promote your referral program long after you launch.

14. Automate promotion of the referral program

Automation is one of the best ways to guarantee that your referral program gets in front of customers who are most likely to share with their friends. Rather than manually emailing everyone in your system, set up an automated referral program.

For example, after someone buys signs up for your service, they might get an automated email thirty days later that encourages them to share with their friends.

By having an automated program you are boosting your referral campaign in a variety of ways. Automation can automatically promote your program, sync with your sales process, and even send rewards and incentives based off of specific triggers. Meaning you don’t have to worry about doing all of those processes yourself.

15. Promote the referral campaign in other marketing campaigns

If you launch a marketing campaign, such as a funny video, use the opportunity to remind existing customers that you have a referral program. Simply adding the words “Refer a Friend for $20 Off” can make a huge difference in encouraging customers to promote your products and services.

16. Try an exclusive early release

Perhaps you can create a hype for your program before it’s even released to the public. Take a few of your top advocates and let them test drive the referral program. You can start getting the feel for how the program will work, and you can create a smooth running program all thanks to your top advocates. Plus, these early release people will feel like they are on an exclusive VIP list, and they will truly feel like they are part of the team.

17. Use NPS surveys

Why not ask your customers how willing they’d be to refer a friend? Using a Net Promotor Score (NPS) which measures how willing a customer is to recommend your product or service could be a great way for you to not only promote your referral campaign but to also get people participating. Perhaps you send the survey before you officially invite your customers to join. You can sift through and invite the ones who mentioned that they are highly willing. You can also ask and score customers on other aspects of the referral program like incentives. This way you can build a program that truly fits your business and customers.

use NPS to see who will use your referral campaign

18. Talk to past customers

It’s imperative to keep open communication with your past customers. Whether you sell a one-time type of service or if you’re an eCommerce store who has a lot of repeat shoppers. Because whether you want to admit it or not, past customers are the ones who will refer you new business. Simply talking to customers and keeping them in the loop can not only turn a shopper into a loyal advocate, but it can make it incredibly easy when it comes to asking for referrals.

Past customers are the best because they know you, and your product. So fill them in with the details of your referral program too. Becuase even if they decide not join your referral campaign, they will know it exists. Plus, it helps you stay top of their mind. And, at the very least, this can help keep those past customers coming back.

19. Try out SMS

If your customers opt-in to receive text message alerts form you, use that to promote your referral program. People always have their phones on hand, so it makes sense to use that to your advantage. Many businesses use SMS to connect with customers because it works.

With that being said, there are a few things you need to consider.

  1. Even if you have a customers phone number, it doesn’t mean they have consented to receive text messages from you. You need to get their permission, no if, and’s, or buts.
  2. Don’t send too frequently. Daily texts from brands can be really annoying… and people can end up blocking you. So find a frequency that works, without being too pushy. If you’re using SMS for other marketing strategies, you may have to work out a schedule to promote your referral program at a different time… But remember too many texts can have the opposite effect – so don’t send marketing campaigns back to back.
  3. Be sure to send your disclaimer! You know the whole “message & data rates may apply” thing? Well, be sure to show this message first before you begin your SMS campaign.
  4. Offer a way out. Obvious you don’t want people to unsubscribe, but if you keep sending them the same message to sign up for your referral program… even after they have already signed up and started referring, you again make yourself seem annoying. At least change the messaging from ‘sign up’ to ‘don’t forget’, that way it looks like you are keeping track and in the know about what people are doing in your program. You can even text them a ‘thank you’ after certain events, to further fuel referring to occur.

20. Use your videos

It’s no secret that video content can catch the eye, and we can all agree it helps get the point or message across. This is exactly why you should consider utilizing all of your resources, including video content. The thing is, we live in a content-filled world, and video content is striving. Which is exactly why most businesses nowadays choose to utilize video in some shape or form. Whether it be an explainer video, educational video, or simply a product promotion video.

IBM runs an employee referral program and has a dedicated video explained how to refer. Notice the ending is a simple link to the referral program. You can use this last bit in any of your existing videos, as an easy way to promote your program.

But how do promote referral programs in a video? Well, the easiest way would be to use your existing videos. For example, let’s say you already have a product explainer video on your homepage. Go ahead and add a line about your referral program at the end. Whether you incorporate it into the scenes or simply add an ending slide with a little bit of the program information. Either way, you have just successfully promoted your program to whoever watches that video.

Additionally, you can make yourself a fresh video. One that is specific to your program. Then you can add that video to all your existing marketing campaigns, share on your social sites, and even embed it at the end of your emails or newsletters. This video can really be shared anywhere that we have mentioned you promote your referral program!

The bottom line… you need to promote referral programs

Referral programs can bring huge wins for businesses large and small, but you must make sure your customers know they can benefit by telling their friends about your brand. Try out these tactics, and let us know which ones work best for your brand.

Posted by Megan Mosley

Megan Mosley is a writer for Referral Rock. You can find her poking around online or tweeting about marketing, small businesses, SEO, or even sharing funny memes. She is addicted to coffee and uses it as a fuel to keep her going through the day.