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Think of the last email you opened sent by a business – did you make it all the way through before hitting delete? How about a message from a friend? Odds are, you took the time to read it from beginning to end. This is the exact reaction you want when communicating with customers – and you can achieve it with a well-timed referral email.

Rather than coming from a business, a referral email (also called a refer a friend email) is sent from an existing customer to their friend or family member. It’s personal, welcome, and best of all, highly effective in growing your customer base. 

Referral emails are a fixture in any complete referral program. Learn about all the parts that make up a compelling referral email – from the referral email subject line to overall design – and see them all in practice in our roundup of the 36 best referral emails being used today. 

3 parts of a referral email

Referral emails come with the advantage of having a ready recipient – your existing customer. But, they also pose a few extra challenges. 

Unlike most business emails, which are mostly sent to inform, a referral email requires three key steps to work:

  1. A referral email subject line enticing enough for customers to open the email
  2. An incentive or offer too good to pass on
  3. A clear call to action (CTA) that directs them to join the referral program

Do away with one, and your entire referral email may fall short. But cover all three parts, and you have the workings of a great referral marketing program. We offer more details below:

A referral email subject line that gets clicks

When it comes to being clever vs. being clear, the latter is proven to get 541% more clicks. People don’t look at emails to be entertained – they want to know exactly what they’re opening and why they’re opening it. 

For example, would you click on an email with the subject “It’s Fri-yay!” or one with “$50 for you, 50% off for your friends”? 

While there will definitely be a time to show off your humor and wit, referral emails are intended to get customer sign ups – quickly. Do so with a clear call-to-action.

Here are a few more best practices when writing referral email subject lines:

  • Keep it short: between 6–10 words, or 28–38 characters, to be specific (especially if you’re focusing on a mobile referral program)
  • Personalize it: Adding the recipient’s name into the referral email subject line can increase open rates – even better if it ties into a personal event, like post purchase or after their first year of membership 
  • Add a number: Digits get our attention. They help break up text and are easy to take in at a glance
  • Also add an emoji: Emojis can increase email open rates by 29%. They also add personality, save space, and fit well with a lot of modern brand identities. Use wisely.
  • Avoid all caps and excessive punctuation: It looks spammy.  

An incentive customers can’t resist 

After a strong referral email subject line, it’s best to stick to the point. Include the basics of your referral program – what you’re inviting them to do (refer others), what you’re offering (a strong incentive), and how long the offer stands (one use, one month, ongoing?).  

If there are distinct details, list them briefly as well. 

  • Are there also rewards for the referred friend? (called a double-sided or two-sided referral incentive)
  • Do the incentives accumulate? (i.e., a customer earns more rewards with each referral)
  • Are there certain conditions needed to receive the reward? (i.e., does the friend need to make a purchase?)

Remember, this is only your introductory email. Start simply. Remove any friction that may cause readers not to refer. You can always create a separate referral program FAQ or landing page to cover all other points.

A clear call to action 

Your referral email is read and your customer is interested. Now what? Take them to the next step with a clear call to action (CTA). CTAs are typically a referral link or button leading to more details about the referral program. Or, you can cut straight to the chase and include a referral code for instant sharing. 

Robust referral platforms, like Referral Rock or other email marketing tools, can even automate and track all these touchpoints. Seeing the direct results of your referral program – every unique click and code – can help lead to greater sharing success. 

No matter which form you choose, a CTA should invite interaction and continue the conversation with your customer. To get readers to click a CTA, apply the following:

  • Smart placement: Place a CTA “above the fold” (the space seen immediately when opening the email) if customers can see what your referral is about. Move the CTA to the end of the email if you need more space to explain your referral details.
  • Visual cues: Draw eyes to your CTA by making the button large and in a contrasting color. Use images that subtly “point” to the CTA (i.e., a person looking in the direction of the button).
  • Strong, actionable text: Rather than the overused “Enter” or “Click here,” use more descriptive verbs, like “Reserve your spot” or “Get my 25% discount.”
  • Create a sense of urgency: Adding a time sensitive phrase, like “before the weekend” or “now” to the end of your CTA will encourage customers to act fast. 

The perfect time to send a referral email

When would your customer be the happiest to hear from you? Most probably, right after they’ve made a purchase. 

At this point, they’ve already spent some time with your brand and liked it enough to place an order. Engagement is high as their latest purchase – your product – is at the top of their mind. 

Make the most of this time by reaching out with a timely refer a friend email, offering even more incentives and value. You could even combine your referral email with an after sales message thanking them for their order or notifying them about a delivery update. 

Your customers want to refer you, you just haven’t asked. We can help by automatically asking them at the right time to get word of mouth to spread.

36 brilliant referral email examples that work

We’ve all likely received a referral email before – some good, some bad. The best referral emails are ones with an attractive referral email subject line, exciting incentive, and a clear CTA that leads readers to start referring others right away. 

Below are 36 of the top refer a friend email examples being sent to customers today:  

 

Filter by type of industry



Outdoor Voices

Outdoor Voices referral email

Outdoor Voices makes activewear for women and men “Doing Things” daily.

Why this referral email example rocks:

  • Outdoor Voices reinforces their focus on community, with words like “sweating it out together,” “bringing them on the Team,” and an invite to “Pay it forward.”  
  • An inviting hero image featuring friends having fun together outdoors, which ties in well to the mutual benefit of $20 for both the customer and the referred friend
  • Clean and uncluttered design that gets right to the point
  • Includes the brand’s #DoingThings hashtag to promote user-generated content and drive even more word-of-mouth referrals


MeUndies

MeUndies referral email

MeUndies sells feel good underwear, loungewear, and apparel to make the world a comfier place.

Why this referral email example rocks:

  • Strong hero image highlighting the products 
  • Referral email is optimized for mobile, and displays beautifully across all devices
  • Positions referrals as a surefire way to be “Undie-buddies 4 lyfe,” giving 20% off to friends and earning $20 credit for yourself 
  • MeUndies is a master of creative copy, as shown throughout their other referral program emails


Bombas

Bombas referral email

Source: Bombas/Really Good Emails

Bombas is a comfort-focused sock and apparel brand that donates an item to match every purchase.

Why this referral email example rocks:  

  • A “Refer a friend” headline that’s as clear as it gets
  • Incentive is easy to spot and simple (Who doesn’t love free stuff?)
  • Step-by-step instructions makes the referral program easy to understand
  • Two enticing call-to-action buttons: one to “get free socks” and one to “refer a friend here” 
  • On-brand friendly copy: “Just people helping people discover the most comfortable socks in the history of feet.”


Jack Rogers

Jack Rogers referral email

Jack Rogers is a retail women’s footwear company founded in Palm Beach, Florida and known for its signature sandals. 

Why this referral email example rocks:

  • Although not seen here, the referral email subject line follows best practices: “Refer a friend, get $10.” Clear, concise, and won’t get cut off on mobile.
  • The large hero image shows off some of Jack Rogers’ latest shoes
  • Easy-to-understand description of the referral program is placed right below the hero image
  • The brand’s #lovemyjacks hashtag promotes user-generated content, driving even more word-of-mouth


Boohoo

Boohoo referral email

Source: Boohoo/Milled

Boohoo originated in the UK, selling a range of trendy, affordable womens and mens clothing.

Why this referral email example rocks: 

  • The entire referral email is a colorful collage that keeps customers scrolling down for more. 
  • A big, bold call to action (“Refer your friends”) fills the first screen
  • Never-ending incentives (£5 credit for every “bae you bring” their way) and an added larger incentive (entry to win a £1,000 beach vacation) to really motivate customers to join the referral program
  • Two CTA buttons conveniently placed at the top and bottom of the referral email, increasing the chances of click through 


rocksbox

rocksbox referral email

rocksbox is a jewelry rental membership service with the mission of transforming the way people buy accessories.

Why this referral email example rocks: 

  • The refer a friend email gets right to it and declares that “Sharing pays!”
  • Copy clearly narrates the referral process 
  • Three easy ways to start referring friends: A personal referral code and two bright pink CTA buttons at the top and bottom of the referral email 
  • Bold text (“It’s a win-win”) and an arrow pointing to the final CTA button


Tradesy

Tradesy referral email

Source: Tradesy/Really Good Emails

Tradesy is an online peer-to-peer resale marketplace for women’s luxury and designer fashion.  

Why this referral email example rocks:

  • Does a nice job of tucking a referral offer into an order shipping update (at a time when customers are most excited about your products)
  • While most of the email is minimal, the referral information is highlighted with an image, large text, and bright colored CTA button
  • Offering a cash incentive, but not revealing all the details compels customers to click for more


Stitch Fix

Stitch Fix referral email

Stitch Fix is a personal style service that delivers curated clothing boxes straight to customer doors. 

Why this referral email example rocks:

  • Tells you exactly what you’re getting from the start (“Free clothes!”) and what you need to do (“Share with friends”)
  • A hero image that frames the referral message with well-placed products 
  • Smart copy below the image (“Now that we’ve got your attention…”) leads to more details about how the referral program works
  • Includes a personal referral link customers can easily copy and paste right from the email
  • “The Fine Print” at the end of the referral email further clarifies the terms without taking away from the main message


Indochino

Indochino referral email

Source: Referral Marketing School

Indochino is a menswear retailer offering made-to-measure suits, shirts, and accessories at ready-to-wear prices. 

Why this referral email example rocks:

  • This referral email is what a referred friend actually receives, and does a good job by writing from the point of your existing customer.
  • A decent double-sided incentive of $25 for each party
  • The CTA button takes referred friends straight to the store so they can start shopping and avail of the referral program (more about Indochino’s referral program here)


Goby

Goby referral email

Source: Goby/Really Good Emails

Goby offers premium oral care products at a fair price, with an electric toothbrush designed to improve oral health.

Why this referral email example rocks:

  • Simple, uncluttered layout with one color and all text in the center
  • Clear referral details right at the start
  • Incentive of free brush heads is targeted toward customers who use Goby regularly 
  • On-brand copy that works well with a referral program: “It’s time to use that big mouth of yours.”


Harry’s

Harry's referral email

Source: Harry’s/ Really Good Emails

Harry’s sells men’s shaving and personal care products through subscription and online. 

Why this referral email example rocks:

  • Starts with strong line of copy (“You mean a lot to us”) and speaks to customers in a relatable tone (“Just give us their name”) 
  • Rather than giving the incentive to the existing customer, the company offers a more altruistic approach and sends two free razors to the referred friend.
  • Elevates the products with subtle copy (“Give them the feeling of shaving with Harry’s”)
  • A catchy, action-oriented CTA in bright orange (“Choose your friends”)


Brooklinen

Brooklinen referral email

Source: Brooklinen/Really Good Emails

Brooklinen is a direct-to-consumer brand that delivers quality beddings at a reasonable price.

Why this referral email example rocks:

  • A multipurpose email celebrating National Relaxation Day, a new collection, and a compelling referral program
  • Straightforward “Refer friends, get paid” line to introduce the offer
  • The actual referral area is basically all text, with an enticing double-sided offer ($15 for your friend, and $15 for you)


Equal Parts

Equal Parts referral email

Source: Equal Parts/Really Good Emails

Equal Parts is a new cookware brand that also helps you cook with a text-based cooking coach service.

Why this referral email example rocks:

  • From a starting homeware brand, the prelaunch referral email sticks to a simple letter-type layout 
  • Effective, heartfelt copy (“our mission to help our generation enjoy home cooking” and “a small gesture before launch”) 
  • Three ways to share: a personal referral link, an “Invite friends” button, and “Invite friends” link
  • A simple, colorful graphic that breaks down your potential rewards 


Casper

Casper referral email

Source: Casper/Really Good Emails

Casper is an e-commerce company known for selling a bed-in-a-box straight to customers. 

Why this referral email example rocks:

  • A post-purchase email that engages customers with a casual, yet caring, question (“So, how did you sleep?”)
  • Offers a simple, high-value referral incentive to “Give $50, Get $50”
  • Only the basics of the referral program are shared in the email, but it offers a good value and is sent at a time customers are highly invested in the brand 


Saje Natural Wellness

Saje referral email

Saje Natural Wellness is a Canadian retailer of private-label essential oils and all natural skin care products.

Why this referral email example rocks:

  • Hard-to-resist copy that invites customers to “Spread wellness to their friends,” specifically “a friend who could use some Saje in their life”
  • Double-sided offer for 10% off the next online purchase for both the customer and the referred friend  
  • Simple hero image with a strong reference to the intent of the email (to share)
  • Catchy CTA button, inviting customers to “Plant the seed”
  • Includes a branded #spreadwellness inviting users to tag any posts and drive even more engagement


Maude

Maude referral email

Maude is a modern personal wellness company that sells intimacy essentials for everybody. 

Why this referral email example rocks:

  • Large hero image and straightforward copy to “give some, get some.” 
  • Offers a double-sided $5 referral incentive and reinforces the “win-win” offer in the copy
  • Allows customers to share the referral straight on social media (Facebook, Messenger, and Whatsapp) and even see a preview before posting 
  • Offers a three point list of how the referral program works


Misfits Market

Misfits Market referral email

Source: Misfits Market

Misfits Market delivers ugly, but still delicious and even more affordable fruits and vegetables right to your door.

Why this referral email example rocks:

  • This thank you email comes after a successful referral, acknowledging and rewarding the customer’s efforts with 25% off 
  • Customers can redeem their coupon with a simple link 
  • With the customer’s captured attention, the email includes a CTA to refer even more friends and “track their rewards” (where they can see their progress and savings)


Little Spoon

Little Spoon referral email

Little Spoon delivers homemade, organic baby food that’s pediatrician-recommended and personalized to your baby’s nutritional needs.

Why this referral email example rocks:

  • Grabs your attention by featuring an exuberant baby holding the brand products a hero image 
  • Copy that aligns perfectly with the brand and referral program (“Share the love, baby!”)
  • Breaks down the referral process in three easy steps
  • Two CTA buttons: One to “Refer a friend” and a second to “Get my $20!”


Uber Eats

Uber Eats referral email

Source: Uber Eats/Really Good Emails

Uber Eats is an online food ordering and delivery platform launched by ride-hailing company Uber.

Why this referral email example rocks:

  • The refer a friend email opens with the image of a nice juicy burger. 
  • A referral incentive of “$20 off for you and your friends” offers significant savings on the average food bill
  • Offering the incentive only until the weekend (after which the incentive halves to only $10) prompts users to act now
  • Two ways to share the referral, including a button to “Share Uber Eats” and a unique referral code 


Doordash

Doordash referral email

Source: Referral Marketing School

DoorDash is an on-demand prepared food delivery service that operates primarily as a logistics company between restaurants and customers.

Why this referral email example rocks:

  • Although not technically an email (the referral message is shown in-app), the message is actually more effective as most users interact with DoorDash through its app.
  • Convenient referral sharing methods: email (it auto-connects to existing users), a referral link, or text message
  • A referral incentive of $7 for every order over $15 placed by the referred friend (the friend also gets $5 off each of their first three orders)


Pay with GasBuddy

Pay with Gasbuddy referral email

Source: GasBuddy/Really Good Emails

Pay with GasBuddy is a gasoline savings program giving U.S. drivers a discount on every gallon of gas.

Why this referral email example rocks:

  • Valentine’s Day theme integrated into the referral program 
  • Neon heart GIF captures attention and frames the refer a friend email offer (“Share the love & the savings”) 
  • A feel-good referral email inviting customers to share their love for GasBuddy – and earn savings for both themselves and their friend
  • “Special Offer” at the top of email prompts urgency and hints at exclusivity
  • Very little text: Just enough for customers to know what the referral program is about 
  • Clear incentive to “save 15 cents/gal”


Square Cash (now Cash App)

Square Cash referral email

Source: Square Cash/Really Good Emails

Square Cash (now known as Cash App) allows users to send, save, and invest money using their phone.

Why this referral email example rocks:

  • A minimal two color layout goes well with clean copy
  • Green dollars falling from the sky (free money!) is a guaranteed way to grab attention 
  • Appropriate header (“Make it rain.”): Ideally, a referral would be more specific, but this works because it connotes cash, draws the eye, and invites the reader to learn more.
  • Extremely concise refer a friend email copy: Square only needs one sentence to tell users about its referral program.


Betterment

Betterment referral email

Source: Betterment/Really Good Emails

Betterment is a robo investing platform for everyday cash management, online retirement advice, and personal investing.

Why this referral email example rocks:

  • Talks about finance through a fun and common experience – awkward holiday banter 
  • Strong hero image featuring mobile messaging (relevant for a tech platform) and a pie emoji (to symbolize Thanksgiving)
  • Smart way to tie in financials and the platform’s benefits into common Thanksgiving convo (“pushing politics” and “questionable casserole”)
  • Invites users to refer a friend using great copy (“Refer a family member or friend, despite the weird recipe they tried this year”)


ibotta

ibotta referral email

Source: ibotta/Really Good Emails

Ibotta enables users to earn cash back on a number of purchases made in-store, in-app, or online.

Why this referral email example rocks:

  • It rides on the Thanksgiving holiday – giving thanks for its users – but adds its own spin with a “Friendsgiving” referral program 
  • Offers an appealing $50 to refer five friends (similar to Ibotta’s other refe ra friend programs)
  • A very limited time offer (only until the next day), motivating users to act now
  • Two immediate ways to refer friends, though a unique referral code and a CTA button to “Get $50”


Digit

Digit refer a friend email

Source: Digit/Really Good Emails

Digit is a mobile app that analyzes your spending and automatically sets aside a certain amount each day to make saving as passive as possible.

Why this referral email example rocks:

  • Details of the refer a friend program is neatly tucked into an account update, where users are likely the most open to hear more about the company (especially after seeing how it saves them money)
  • Clear-cut referral details (“Refer your friends, boost your savings”) that speak straight to budget-conscious users
  • A flat $5 for every friend referred, which they can invite through a personal referral link, email, Facebook, or Twitter


Postable

Postable refer a friend email

Source: Postable/Really Good Emails

Postable makes addressing and mailing real designer greeting cards and invitations as easy as sending an email.

Why this referral email example rocks:

  • Yellow palette that catches the eye, but doesn’t overwhelm
  • Clean and concise: displays very little text (22 words total, including the brand name), but readers still easily understand what they can get.
  • A fun and happy GIF showcasing the incentive
  • “Above the fold” CTA button for more details 


Remote.com

remote.com refer a friend email

Source: Remote.com/Really Good Emails

Remote.com is a platform that helps people and organizations work together anywhere in the world.

Why this referral email example rocks:

  • As the referral email sent out to friends, it starts with a personal greeting from the existing customer
  • Compelling invitation to join “over 2 million people in the fastest growing community for remote and freelance work”
  • While there’s no explicit referral incentive, an invitation to “join the evolution” can be enough, especially if the friend is freelancer interested in open work 
  • Quick CTA to “Accept the invitation” 


The Skimm

Skimm refer a friend email

Source: The Skimm/Really Good Emails

The Skimm is a subscription-only newsletter delivering a digest of the latest news stories in a simple, easy-to-read format.

Why this referral email example rocks:

  • After marking its fifth anniversary, the email highlights personal subscriber details (i.e., the date you signed up, number of emails sent, and number of referred readers)
  • Invites subscribers to “give that share button another go” in exchange for the chance for $1,000
  •  and $15,000 at the end of the week 
  • CTA button is at the end of the long email, and pointed out by two distinct arrows 


Intercom

Intercom refer a friend email

Source: Intercom/Really Good Emails

Intercom offers a messaging platform enabling businesses to communicate with customers through their app, website, social media, or email.

Why this referral email example rocks:

  • Immediately grabs attention with a fun design and personal invitation from their friend
  • Puts the product (an ebook) in context, by mentioning a friend just downloaded a copy and is sharing one with them 
  • A direct download to the ebook serves as the referral incentive baked right in 
  • Strong CTA to “Check it out”


Morning Brew

Morning Brew refer a friend email

Source: Referral Marketing School

Morning Brew is a daily email newsletter delivering the latest news from Wall St. to Silicon Valley straight to your inbox. 

Why this referral email example rocks:

  • Existing primarily through email, the company uses every opportunity (daily or weekly) to promote its referral program.
  • The referral details (at the bottom of each email) count how many more referrals are needed to receive the incentive, which range from stickers, mugs, or premium newsletters
  • Two available CTA: A “Click to Share” button and a referral link you can send to others directly


Airbnb

Airbnb refer a friend email

Source: Airbnb/ Really Good Emails

Airbnb is an online marketplace offering shared accommodations, homestays, and tourism experiences.

Why this referral email example rocks:

  • Three sentences of clear copy are enough to explain the referral offer.
  • Starts with intrinsic value (sharing love of travel with friends), and offers extrinsic reward ($30 for each party).
  • CTA button uses brand color to easily stand out from the rest of the email


Coinbase

Coinbase refer a friend email

Source: Coinbase/Really Good Emails

Coinbase is a secure platform that makes it easy to buy, sell, and store cryptocurrency.

Why this referral email example rocks:

  • Starts straight with the referral offer of free Bitcoin
  • Draws users with the news of Bitcoin “having a big month” and inviting then to “share the excitement”
  • Breaks down the referral process into three simple steps, with attractive icons and easy-to-read copy
  • Two CTA buttons with the same “Refer friends” message


HotelTonight

Hotel Tonight refer a friend email

Source: HotelTonight/Really Good Emails

HotelTonight is an online travel app that allows users to find discounted hotel accommodations. 

Why this referral email example rocks:

  • The entire refer a friend email is focused on sharing, inviting users to share their hotel pics
  • Catchy hashtag (#picsoritdidnthappen) and a step-by-step guide to get your pics published
  • Ends with the “Friends with benefits” referral offer that awards $35 you and your friend
  • Has a link to learn more and a referral code right in the email 


Treehouse

Treehouse refer a friend email

Source: Treehouse/Really Good Emails

Treehouse is an online technology school that provides accessible education and apprenticeship in web design, web development, mobile development and game development.

Why this referral email example rocks:

  • Personalized greeting to address each customer
  • Enticing “Did you know…” intro and offer of a free account
  • “Share the Love” copy appeals to the intrinsic value of sharing something with friends, which is especially useful for an education platform
  • Offers an attractive cumulative reward to motivate multiple referrals: Customers get 20% off per referral, which means a free account after five successful referrals (plus a 50% discount for their friends)


Digital Ocean

Digital Ocean refer a friend email

Source: DigitalOcean/Really Good Emails

DigitalOcean is a cloud infrastructure provider that helps developers easily build, test, scale, and manage applications of any size.

Why this referral email example rocks:

  • Grabs the reader’s attention right away with an on-brand, ocean-centric GIF, which further highlights the referral offer
  • Attractive double-sided incentive (“Give $10, Get $25”) 
  • Offers two easy referral options: a unique referral link and a CTA button to learn more
  • Referral email gets right to the point with a clear, uncluttered offer


Webflow

Webflow refer a friend email

Source: Webflow/Really Good Emails

Webflow builds tools enabling everyone to create for the web, without the need to write code.

Why this referral email example rocks:  

  • This referral email was actually sent prelaunch, with the intention to ramp up an excited customer base before the service even goes live. It offers early access to Webflow’s beta for every referral, which adds a sense of exclusivity to the program. 
  • Copy that gets right to the point
  • The referral link is right in the email and easy to copy, enabling customers to share without any added steps

 

 

Jessica Huhn

Posted by Jessica Huhn

Jessica Huhn is a content writer and strategist at Referral Rock. When she is not writing, there is a good chance that Jessica is singing, arranging songs, sharing and enjoying content on social media, or hanging out with her mini Goldendoodle. She believes that it's always important to cultivate gentle strength.