Essential Tips to Automate a Referral Program

Automating your referral program can be one of the best choices you make. It will help you save time, and put a million other tasks into motion.

Updated October 30, 2020

9 minute read




Because of our recent launch on Zapier, we thought we’d cover why you should automate your referral program.

Many referral platforms offer easy integration points, so referrals easily become part of your process. Whether that means automatically adding them to your CRM, mailing list, scheduling software, or more.

Why you should automate

Automation is awesome. It saves time, energy, and makes life easy. You probably have a few apps that automate certain processes for you. Email automation is one of the most common.

The rise of Zapier and IFTTT have made it so much easier to automate across platforms. There are many touch points in a business and these are just a few common apps that can be automated into a referral program.

acuity scheduling logoHubspot logoSlack logo
constant contact logowoo commerce logomailchimp logo
wufoo logoshopify logoIntuit quickbooks logo

Automation allows you to save time, and free yourself of doing redundant processes. So, why wouldn’t you want to automate?

Key points of automation

Truthfully, there are many ways to automate your referral program. Some businesses have a very complex system which requires a ton of integration. Others, may not need any sort of extra automation. With that being said, there are three key automation points that are worth exploring; for any business.

1. Program promotion

If happy customers don’t know your program is available, how will they know to participate? This is exactly why it’s important to effectively promote your referral program. The best part is it doesn’t take much effort to promote your program.

Mixing your promotion strategy with automation is a piece of cake, and can yield great results and promote extra word of mouth marketing to occur. And by using such tools, you provide constant program promotion while only doing the setup once.

Here are some ideas on how to promote your referral program. Again, remember that actions create certain triggers. So depending on what actions and triggers you have in place, promotion tactics can be minimal effort.

How to: You can promote your referral program via newsletters, within your email signature, on confirmation emails, thank you emails, etc.

Integrating with your ESP: Your ESP can make program promotion very easy to accomplish.  For example, you may already have a triggered payment confirmation email to send to someone after they make a purchase.

You probably have a specific template set up for this type of email. Within that template, add a referral program banner. This can serve as a reminder to customers, as well as shine light on the program to newer customers.

Use social media: Using social media to promote your referral program makes a ton of sense since most of your customers use social media too. You can automate social media promotion to happen on a timely basis or at specific times, like once a month or once a week with the help of tools like Buffer.

Other ways to use social media include adding a link to your referral program in your bio or about section.

Don’t forget about member accounts: You can promote your referral program right in your member’s accounts. This way they can see it every time they log in. Additionally, you can promote the program when you send invoices, or create a popup reminder when they do certain actions like click on their cart.

2. Syncing with the sales process

A very important reason businesses want to automate their referral program is to be able to keep leads in sync across platforms. This helps for numerous reasons, and a big one relating to referral programs is that it helps with appropriately distributing rewards based on appropriate actions.

Being able to track participants in your program is a pretty important factor when deciding on a referral system. Fortunately, there are a few ways to sync your referrals and add them to your Rolodex. You may simply choose to use a conversion pixel, or want to go further by linking your referral program to your CRM.

By tracking this information you are simply increasing your customer base, which makes it easier for you to contact and target specific customers down the road.

How to: To take it up a notch, you can connect your favorite apps so that you can push information to and from your referral platform and your other systems to keep everything in line. You can then decide when to reward the behaviors you find most important. That is how you create a completely automated sequence, saving you time and effort.

Some ideas for syncing with your sales process:

  • Log new referrals to docs or Google Sheets
  • Create new contacts in your CRM for new referrals added
  • Update referrals based on events in your scheduling software
  • Update referrals when a new Quickbooks order is made

3. Reminding participants

You may find that customers need to be reminded of your program every once in a while. People get busy, and unfortunately, that means they put your referral program on the back burner. If a customer hasn’t been active for a long period of time, it may be in your interest to send them a reminder email or notification. This is another great way to utilize and automate a workflow with your ESP.

Perhaps they log into their account on your website after a couple of months of being inactive. This action can trigger a popup or email that simply reminds them of the referral program. If you highlight your program incentive, it may persuade them to refer right then and there to receive the incentive for their next purchase.

How to:

  • Schedule a reminder notification to be sent to inactive users after a certain period of time.
  • Blast out a reminder every quarter to all users.
  • If you see someone has clicked a link to your referral program but did not complete an action – send them a reminder to come back.

Even though you may have promotion strategies in place, sending reminders by themselves (occasionally), can prove to be beneficial.

4. Reward fulfillment

Most referral programs issue rewards. For a business that means they have to do more than just track rewards on a data sheet. They actually have to fulfill them also. Though running a referral program isn’t necessarily difficult, keeping up with reward fulfillment can become time-consuming. By automating this step, you cut your time, all while being more efficient.

There are a lot of ways you can automate a reward to fit exactly what you need. Having the right tools can allow you handle rewards however you want.

How to:

  • Issue an earned reward automatically after a successful referral
  • Use a tool sends digital rewards for you (Tango Card is a good option)
  • Send rewards after a set waiting period
  • Batch earned rewards to send in bulk on a specific date
  • When giving out store coupon codes, use software to track codes automatically
  • Send a catalog reward link to your program users so they can choose their reward

The best part about using a reward fulfillment tool is that they will provide customer service to your users if an issue should arise. Therefore, alleviating another task from your hands.

5. Feeding the program

Feeding your referral program or ‘adding members’, is an obvious intention of any referral program. Because without members, there wouldn’t be a program. By using automation to feed your referral program it enables you to grow your referral network without members having the cumbersome additional process of signing up.

How to: Want to make participating in your program simple? Setting up automation triggers within tools can make participating in your referral program simple.

Action-based: In Zapier, members can be added to your referral program based on a specific action like a purchase made. Then you can choose the subsequent action to be creating a member within your referral program.

Integrating with your ESP: Tie your program growth into your existing process is to integrate with your email service provider(ESP). For instance, whenever a customer signs up or opts into a certain list within MailChimp, create the following action to have them be added as a member of your referral program.

Form completion: Another way to add members to your referral program is to do so upon completion of the form (Wufoo, etc.). So if you have some sort of form, let’s say a contact form, the action of hitting ‘submit’ can also be used to add that person as a member of your referral program.

What tools to use

What if you could automate your referral program to work with other apps based on certain events you want to happen? Well, you can. And by automating these processes into one big workflow, you provide yourself with a hands-free way of saving yourself time by relieving yourself from doing redundant (but necessary) tasks. Talk about winning!

Automation workflow tools

Here are a few automation tools on the market that can help you connect your favorite apps, including your referral program. Check with what your your referral platform provides to see what options you have for automating your referral program.

  1. Zapier (Referral Rock friendly! Check out the Referral Rock Zap)
  3. OneSaaS
  4. Piesync

Referral platforms

There are many referral program solutions out there that can help you track and manage your referrals, as well as help with distributing rewards. The key point is, automating your referral program starts by using a referral platform. This will not only help make it easy for you, but it helps make it easy for people to refer you as well.

Then, you can blend that software process into your other processes, to create an entirely automated workflow.


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