24 Ways to Effectively Promote Referral Programs

You've created a referral program. Now it's time to launch and promote. We give you 24 different ways to promote your referral program to ensure its success.

Updated October 12, 2020




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.

As many as 83% of 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 how to promote referral programs, or what reward incentives they can earn with every referral.

To raise these numbers and increase your referral rate, you need to get the word out there. You need to promote your referral program. In fact, 85% of business owners credit word-of-mouth referrals as the best way to increase customers.

Below, we give you 24 of the most effective steps for how to promote referral programs, from social media posts to specialized referral tools. Read through them and pick the perfect referral promotion for your needs.

1. Use email marketing to promote your program

Email 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-crafted email to introduce a new referral program or remind customers of an existing one. For example, Casper, the popular bed-in-a-box brand, sends an email a few days after purchase and offers a “Give $50, Get $50” referral promotion.

Casper Referral Promotion Email


2. Share customer reviews as social proof

Rather than writing copy to promote a referral program, why not share a real customer’s experience? Customer reviews and testimonials help build your brand’s social proof.

Social proof works especially well when someone is close to joining a referral program, but may need a little nudge. For example, they may be on your referral landing page or reading your referral flyer. Seeing so many others raving about your brand could be just the encouragement they need to sign up.

promote referral programs through social sharing


3. Add social share buttons to make sharing easy

Social share buttons make referring others process much easier and quicker for your customers. Instead of having to copy and paste a referral link from one page to another, customers can simply choose their preferred platform and initiate the referral process at the click of a button.

Allset Referral Promotion


Your customers already love your business – help them tell more friends, more often.

4. Feature the 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 best places to promote your referral program is on your homepage.

A feature banner or image makes sure all your visitors are able to find the referral program front and center.

For example, Premier Estates Wine places a banner promoting its referral program using a rotating carousel. But if you don’t want to promote your referral program permanently on the page, consider including it as a website pop-up.

Premier Estates Referral Promotion


5. Create a dedicated referral landing page

Every referral program should have its own referral program page. Aside from promoting the referral program, the page also organizes all the important program information in one place. It should explain the program rewards and benefits, referral mechanics, and any other details.

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

Morning Brew Referral Promotion


6. Add promotions in your current post-purchase 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. For example, if you’re already sending a thank you or confirmation email, these are perfect places to include a referral program invitation. So instead of just ending the conversation, they have the option to enter a rewarding relationship with your brand.

7. Promote the program on customer account pages

In some cases, your customers may spend a lot of time on their user account pages (i.e., SaaS companies, platforms).

This makes it a perfect place 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. If they are already a referral program member, all you need to add is friendly reminder with a referral code or social share buttons.

Evernote User Dashboard


8. Add referral promotions on your most high-traffic web pages

Although every website differs, they generally include a few key pages that attract the most clicks – the homepage, about page, contact page, blog page, and checkout or conversion page.

Make the most of these views by promoting your referral program. It doesn’t have to take up a lot of space or even be above the fold. A strong headline and call to action can be enough to grab a visitor’s interest.

9. Include a promotion 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.

gilt group referral message


10. Mention the referral program in your social media bio

While most companies have only one website, they usually have more than one social media account. And one of the best practices in referral promotions is to include it in your social media bios.

Not only is everyone on social media (97% of digital consumers have used social media in the past month), almost everyone checks an account’s social media bio before they click to follow.

11. Add referral calls to action in your 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.

Uber Referral Promotion

12. Find a brand ambassador to promote the program

Oftentimes, you already have customers who share your brand with others – even without incentives. Perhaps it’s time to make them your brand ambassadors.

Ambassadors, advocates, and influencers are all types of customers who can successfully promote your referral program.

Lululemon offers a popular ambassador program (a type of referral program), where ambassadors represent and promote the brand, both online and offline. In exchange, they get free merchandise, training, and of course, the prestige of being linked to a global brand.

Lululemon Ambassador Program Promotion

13. Try running a social media advertising campaign

Paid social media ads, such as Facebook Ads or Promoted Tweets, guarantee your referral campaigns reach the screens of your target audience.

The best part of social media ads is they can be highly targeted, with a different ad for each audience. Depending on the platform, you can select an audience based on location, device, interests, and more.

Social media advertising doesn’t have to be that expensive, either. For as little as $100, you can promote your referral program and see results.

Promoted Tweets Demographic

14. Reach out to past participants

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 personal email or offering a more enticing incentive as a way to win them back into the program.

15. Use software to automate your promotion efforts

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. Not only does the right referral software tool save time and effort, it can also track key data to better refine your referral program.

16. Don’t forget to 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. This can be done by adding referral promotions to your social media queue, sending periodic emails, or promoting the referral program on a new web page.

leesa referral program promotion


17. Include the program in other marketing campaigns

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

Say, you’re launching a marketing campaign or new product. A simple “Refer a friend for $20 off” is all that’s needed to remind customers about your referral program. By taking the opportunity to promote your program in regular customer communication, you may see a huge uptick in customers referrals.

18. Host an exclusive early-launch program

Think of your referral program launch like any other marketing launch. One of the best ways to generate hype before a campaign even launches is with an exclusive pre-release.

Pick a few of your top advocates and ambassadors, and invite them to test drive your new referral program. Not only will this build excitement and a connection with participants, it also serves as a trial run before your referral program goes public.

19. Conduct an NPS survey to find your best promoters

Why not first check how willing your customers would be 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 be written with key questions about customer rewards and incentives.

By sending out an initial NPS survey, you can determine who are your prime candidates, and build a program that best attracts these customers.
nps survey monkey

20. Promote the program to your previous customers

Previous customers are one of the best resources for a growing business. They’ve had personal experience with your brand, and – if the experience was good – are the ones most likely to refer new customers to your business.

In fact, referrals that come from previous happy customers are the most valuable form of marketing. In addition to being genuine and trusted, it’s likely that past customers are friends with others in your target market.

21. 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. Plus, text messaging is a two-way platform that allows regular communication with customers.

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. Start with 4–5 SMS messages a month and see from there.

22. Make use of videos in your promotions

Videos are a necessary tool in marketing today, with 54% of people preferring video to other forms of content.

But how do you promote referral programs in a video? The easiest way would be to use any existing videos. Say, you already have a product explainer video – simply add a line about your referral program at the beginning or end of the video. This way, the referral promotion will be seen by everyone who watches that video.

You can also make a new video dedicated to promoting your referral program. There are many video editing apps to help get your video ready for posting.


23. Consider promoting 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, links to more information, or even a QR code they can scan to get started.

24. Conduct an A/B test to check for the best copy

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 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


The bottom line

Fortunately, when it comes to referral promotion, a little goes a long way. Whether it’s emailing your current customers or finding a brand ambassador to spread the word, a referral program has network effects naturally baked in. The more customers who participate in your referral program, the more your referrals will multiply. Choose one or more of the promotion tactics above, and see how they work for you.


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