You’ve created your customer referral program, included an attractive incentive, and set up all the proper tracking on a recommended referral tool. Now, it’s time to launch and promote your referral program, so you can drive trackable word-of-mouth marketing.

As many as 83% of existing customers are willing to refer products and services to others – but only 29% actually do. It’s not that customers don’t want to send you referrals. They just may not know about your referral program, or what referral rewards they can earn with every share.

To raise these numbers, you need to get the word out there. You need to know how to promote a referral program to your customer base.

Below, you’ll discover the most effective steps for promoting a referral program, from social media posts to specialized referral tools. Read through them and pick the perfect referral promotions for your needs.

Why is referral program promotion so important?

Running a referral program is like hosting a birthday party. You need to send invitations, and sometimes reminders, so your guests know what’s going on. If you don’t tell your guests that the party is happening, they won’t show up. The same goes for your referral program: you’ll need to invite people to participate, through promotions. Otherwise, they won’t know your referral program exists, and won’t get excited to join the referral “party.”

Brands with the most successful referral programs know a referral program doesn’t run itself. Rather, they’re promoting their programs consistently, on multiple marketing channels.

This is because optimizing the “referral funnel” is key to referral program success.

referral funnel

The funnel essentially works like this: The more customers who join your referral program and share their referral links, the more traffic you’ll drive to your website. And the more referrals that visit your website, the higher the chance that you’ll bring in new customers (and more revenue).

Getting members to join your program is the biggest factor for increasing your referral rate and achieving referral program success. Without customers consistently referring their friends, it’s difficult for your program to gain traction.

Many customers are willing to refer you — but won’t actually share if they aren’t aware of your referral campaign and its rewards. People need to know about your program to start participating, and repeated promotion helps you keep up your momentum and re-engage existing members. So, continued promotion is key.

How to promote a referral program: Create a promotion strategy

Referral promotions should hit all your key customer touchpoints. Where, and how, are you already communicating with customers? Use these methods to promote your referral program.

  • For instance, if you already share about product launches and sales through text messaging, promote your program through text.
  • And if you send out email newsletters, place program promotions in your email newsletters.

In addition to this, divide your promotion strategy into two types of referral promotions: direct and indirect.

  • Direct promotions are focused solely on promoting your referral program, and involve a clear ask for a referral. Emails, social media posts, and text messages dedicated to asking for referrals are some examples.
  • Meanwhile, indirect (passive) promotions take place within communications not fully dedicated to your program – through methods like email signatures, transactional emails, and newsletters.

How to promote your program with both direct and passive methods? Let’s dive into our best practices.

Direct promotion methods

We recommend the following ways to directly ask for referrals. You don’t have to use all of these, but use as many as make sense. Match the methods you choose with the channels you use to communicate with customers most often.

In all the direct promotion methods you choose, clearly highlight what you want the customer to do (share) and what’s in it for them (the rewards).

Send well-crafted promotional emails

Email marketing is one of the best ways to keep in touch with your customers. It’s direct, personal, and easily customized to send any message – including referral program promotions.

Use a well-designed email campaign to introduce a new referral program or remind customers of an existing one. Make sure this email:

  • Includes a compelling headline
  • Clearly introduces the rewards for referring
  • Has a personalized element (like the customer’s name in the subject line)
  • Explains the program in a simple and concise way (we’ve found that emails perform best when they contain under 10 words or under 40 characters).
  • Keeps customers’ attention with a strategically placed image
  • Uses an eye-catching CTA to get customers to your sharing page
  • Avoids excessive capitalization and punctuation (save all caps for the CTA)

Little Spoon referral email

Referral Rock’s One Click Access links make it as easy as possible for customers to join your program via an email promotion. When customers click these direct links, they’re signed up for your program right away, with no password needed. So, the referral process is much easier.

We recommend including One Click Access links in all the emails you use to promote your refer-a-friend program, whether they’re direct or indirect. Use our Program Link Builder to instantly embed One Click Access links in emails, sent with your platform(s) of choice.

Build one click access links

How often should you promote via email marketing campaigns?

  • Right after you launch your program, send out a launch email campaign to your target audience, to encourage customers to sign up for the program.
  • After this, we recommend sending emails dedicated to promoting your program monthly over the first year of your program.
  • Then, after the first year, send these emails at least quarterly (along with using other promotional channels).

In addition to the emails you send to all customers, we recommend sending a dedicated invite email to each new customer or user, directly after they make a purchase.

Feature your referral program on your homepage

Referral programs aren’t meant to be a well-kept secret – they’re meant to be shared. And one of the highest-viewed places to promote your referral program is on your homepage.


A feature banner or image ensures all your visitors are able to find the referral program front and center. Merrell, a company known for its high-performance hiking boots, keeps a constant banner promoting its referral program on the site bar and footer of its home page.


Place a referral program option in your nav menus

We highly recommend promoting your referral program in your top nav bar, with a simple CTA like “refer friends” or “Get $20.” This advertises your program in an easy-to-spot place, across all of your webpages (not just your homepage).

The bottom nav menu (or footer) is a great place to link to your referral program as well. But since the top menu is more visible, we recommend putting a link in both nav menus if you have both.

For best results, make the referral CTA visible without extra clicks. Customers shouldn’t have to go though other navigation options first to find it.

hanna andersson referral menu

Ask directly when customers are happiest

One of the best ways of promoting your referral program is asking for referrals outright, especially if you’re in an industry where you regularly talk with your customers.

Timing is crucial when asking for referrals, though. Take advantage of moments when clients are happiest, and you are top of their minds. For example, you might ask when they:

  • Post a positive review or social media comment
  • Give you positive comments on a survey
  • Made a repeat purchase
  • Renewed their subscription
  • Provide excellent in-person feedback, especially after you’ve completed a project or helped them achieve a goal
  • Recommended you to friends outside of the referral program

If a customer meets at least one of these criteria, bring up the referral program in your conversation, or reach out with a personalized email asking for a referral. Using online chat for your conversation? Bring up the program, and drop a link to the program directly in chat!

Promote through sales reps and servicepeople

Your sales reps and servicepeople connect with your customers on a regular basis. They can identify moments of customer happiness in direct conversations, such as when they’ve helped a customer meet a goal, or when the customer raves about their service. Your reps should take advantage of these moments and ask customers if they know someone else who could benefit from your services.

Conduct an NPS survey to find your best promoters

Why not first check which customers would be most willing to join a referral program? The Net Promoter Score (NPS) is the industry standard measurement for how likely a customer is to recommend a brand to others.

An NPS survey can even have follow-up questions about the referral incentives that would best motivate customers.

By sending out an initial NPS survey, you can determine who are your prime candidates for referring, and then reach out to them via a personalized email (or video call) and ask if they’d like to refer any of their friends to you.
nps survey monkey

Promote your program on social media channels

Social media posts are a quick way to tell your whole audience about your referral program, and possibly reach some new eyes as well. How to promote a referral program on social media platforms? Choose the ones your audience uses most.

Keep the copy short, tease the reward on offer, and lead with a compelling image to draw in the eye. Then, invite the share and drop a link to your referral program page. (If you can’t drop the link directly into a post, place it in your social media bio.)

Post often enough to keep your program top of mind, but stagger the posts so you don’t overwhelm your followers. And be sure to vary your images and copy from post to post.

social media referral announcement

Send promotions through text messages

If your customers opt-in to receive text messages, it can be a more effective means of promoting your referral program. For one, people are rarely without their phones. And while it’s common for messages to get buried in email inboxes and social media feeds, most text messages are opened and read.

But don’t send text messages too frequently. Daily texts from brands can be a bit much, and lead to people opting out or blocking you.

messente referral sms


Use your thank-you page

A thank you page, displayed right after a purchase, is a great opportunity to invite customers to share the love. Thank you pages have a 100% open rate. So, if you’re promoting your referral program there, it’s bound to be seen.

Use the thank you page to build an ongoing relationship, and generate more business, while your brand is top of mind. Plus, offering a referral reward increases the odds that the existing customer will come back and purchase again!

Keep things simple and attractive: Thank the customer, invite the share, advertise the reward, and make it easy for the customer to start referring.

australian ethical thank you two

Create a referral landing page

Every referral program should have its own referral program landing page. Aside from being the dedicated page you link to when you’re promoting the referral program, the page also organizes all the important program information in one place. This is the hub of your program, where customers ultimately decide whether they share you with friends. It should explain the program rewards and benefits, referral mechanics, and any other details.

Morning Brew, for example, has a clear referral program page. A link to the program (in every newsletter) brings subscribers to a page with more information, images of the rewards, and ways to refer others.

morning brew current referral hub

Follow up after members sign up

What if a customer signs up for your program, but doesn’t get around to sharing? A follow-up email, or share reminder email, is a great way to retarget people who have shown interest in your program. Refresh their memory about the rewards, and show them other benefits of sharing.

You can set up an automated reminder email with Referral Rock, and choose how many days after registration that it will send. We recommend sending it 3-5 days after someone registers.

Reach out to past participants

Loyal customers who have referred others in the past are likely to refer again. Sometimes, all it takes is a gentle reminder. Referral software programs usually have the option to set an email or notification reminder.

Note that reaching out to previous referrers can have a more personal touch – consider writing them a personalized email, or showing higher-value incentives that they can earn (if your program is tiered).

Indirect promotion methods

Don’t underestimate indirect referral program promotions. These subtle ways to promote your program take advantage of moments you’re already connecting with customers, unrelated to your program. Use these moments to bring the referral program up so it stays top of mind.

Pro tip: You’ll notice that a lot of these tips involve using email promotions. That’s because we recommend including referral program promotions in all the emails you send customers, even if it’s just a few words at a time. Passive asking in other emails is less work for your marketing team and an easy way to keep your program top of mind without overflooding your customer’s inbox, as it lets your emails do double duty.

Promote in post-purchase email messaging

Your customers are usually at their happiest and most engaged with your brand immediately after making a purchase. Make the most of this post-purchase high by promoting your referral program in the emails you’re already sending.

For example, if you’re already sending a thank you email, invoice, confirmation email or review request, these are perfect places to include a referral program invitation. Casper, the popular bed-in-a-box brand, sends an email a few days after purchase to ask for a review, and offers a “Give $50, Get $50” referral promotion below the main copy.

Casper referral email



Include the program in portal and app experiences (behind a login)

If you’re a SaaS, digital platform, web app, or moble app, your customers probably spend a lot of time in their account.

This makes your user account pages, customer portal pages, or app windows perfect places to promote your referral program. If customers see an enticing referral program promotion every time they log in, they’ll be more inclined to join.

Include an option in your nav menu, and make sure users can start sharing right away. After all, they’re already logged in, so they shouldn’t have to enter their info again. (Referral Rock makes this process easy!)

If they are already a referral program member, all you need to add is a friendly reminder, with their referral link or social share buttons already displayed. After all, they’re already logged in.

Evernote User Dashboard

You might even use strategic referral program invites, or pop-ups, at key moments of customer satisfaction. When do customers see a clear value of using your product? Promote your program. For instance, if you offer an email marketing platform, you might promote the program when users have sent a certain number of emails.

Include the program in newsletter campaigns

By taking the opportunity to promote your program in regular customer communication, you may see a huge uptick in customer referrals.

Promoting a referral program in a newsletter doesn’t require a lot of space. If you already have a landing page and referral program FAQ, all you need is to include a snappy, short blurb, plus a call to action that takes customers to the next step.

Morning Brew uses this method to full advantage. Check out one of their example newsletter referral promotions below.

How to Promote a Referral Program: 22 Easy Ways 1

Place a referral message in your email signature

Most company emails already include a custom signature at the bottom of each message. Why not add a referral promotion, as well?

A link to your referral program is especially useful for those who frequently communicate with customers via email, such as customer support or sales. Email signatures aren’t too aggressive, bring customers straight to your referral program details, and are an easy set-it-and-forget-it tactic.

mailerlite referral email signature


Add calls to action in blog posts

If you maintain an active blog, it’s a good idea to add calls to action (CTAs) and promote your referral program in top posts. So whenever someone browses your company blog, they’re reminded of the opportunity to refer their friends.

In fact, ridesharing company Uber devotes an entire blog category to promotions, including all updates for its referral marketing program.


Promote offline and during events

While much of marketing is focused online these days, offline efforts still have a good place in promotions. If your business participates in events, include some information about the referral program in your collateral (i.e., business cards, brochures, flyers). Consider adding a few lines about the program, and links to more information.

Offline promotions should always directly tie to your referral program’s online presence, so sharing is as easy as possible. Include a QR code on the cards and flyers that directs your audience right to your referral program landing page. You can even place these QR codes in shipments, for another high-touch promotion method!

Managing your referral program promotions

Use these tips to make managing your referral promotions much easier.

Promote your program regularly

When you first launch a referral program, you dedicate a lot of time and energy to make sure customers know about it. But it doesn’t end there. What about your new customers, or those who didn’t catch the first referral program promotion?

To see the most success, it’s important to regularly promote your referral program, at least a few times a quarter. This can be done by adding referral promotions to your social media queue, sending periodic emails, or promoting the referral program in blogs aimed at current customers.

In  other words, your promotional strategy should include both launch and post-launch promotion tactics.

  • Launch promotion is what gets people informed about the program when it first comes out, such as emails to all subscribers.
  • Post-launch promotion could involve nav menu options, recurring email and social campaigns, transactional emails, newsletters, sales rep email signatures, and direct conversations with happy customers.

referral promotion from pinto chiropractic

Automate promotions with software

Get your referral program running like a well-oiled machine by automating some routine steps.

For example, instead of manually emailing every customer in your database, you can schedule emails to be sent automatically. You can even set an action to take place only after a condition or trigger event.

Referral Rock makes it easy to set up:

  • Recurring invites (promote the program to all customers at certain intervals)
  • Event-based triggers (send promotions to customers who purchase, renew a subscription, or take another action that shows they’re satisfied)
  • Monthly Summaries (these personalized emails show each customer’s referral activity every month, and keep the program top of mind)

Thanks to our integrations with 50+ other tools, it’s super easy to trigger event-based workflows with HubSpot and Zapier. Plus, embed referral program promotions into emails sent with your platform(s) of choice. Build easy One Click Access links into your emails, so your customers don’t need a password to start sharing.

Not only does Referral Rock save you time and effort, it can also track key data to better refine your referral program. Here’s how Referral Rock can help you optimize your referral experience >

Conduct A/B testing

It’s important to send the most compelling message when promoting your referral program. However, it’s difficult to guess what the most compelling message will be. For example, would your audience be more interested in getting 20% off or $10 off their next purchase? Would a power word (i.e., “new,” “free,” “instantly”) increase your success rate?

Many referral software tools (including Referral Rock) offer concurrent A/B testing, which allows you to try different referral copy variations and see which resonates best with your audience.

Below are two example referral messages sent by Groupon with different headlines and copy.

groupon message 1 groupon message 2

Change up promotions based on holidays or seasons

Tying in your promotional messages to holidays is a great way to catch your customers’ eyes. For instance, you might use “share the love” messaging around Valentine’s Day, or tie in a message of gratitude for friends (and holiday imagery) around Thanksgiving and the winter holidays. These seasonal promotions are even more compelling if you offer added, limited-time rewards.

Depending on your industry, you might also run strategic promotions based on key sales seasons. For instance, if you’re in accounting or tax services, you might offer added bonuses in your promotions during tax season. Or, if you’re in the travel industry, a winter referral promotion could focus on planning summer trips with friends.

The bottom line

Whether you’re an ecommerce business, B2B, SaaS, service business, or somewhere in between, promotion is an essential part of your referral marketing strategy.

How to promote a referral program? Be sure to mesh with the ways you already connect with customers, and use both direct and indirect promotions to reach the most customer touchpoints.

The more customers who participate in your referral program, the more your referrals will multiply. Choose the promotion tactics above that work best for your business, and watch more referrals roll in.

Make promotions easier: automate many of them with Referral Rock. Check out how our software can help you create a referral program your customers will love >